Fdd's overnight brief

October 19, 2022

In The News


As protests in Iran enter a second month, authorities are using plainclothes security officers, digital surveillance and drones to target the demonstrations that are now characterizing the movement, marking a new phase in the harsh government response. – Wall Street Journal

Iran has sent trainers to occupied Ukraine to help Russians overcome problems with the fleet of drones that they purchased from Tehran, according to current and former U.S. officials briefed on the classified intelligence, a further signal of the growing closeness between Iran and Russia since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. – New York Times 

The United States, Britain and France plan to raise the issue of Iranian weapons transfers to Russia during a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, diplomats said without providing details. – Reuters

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that it did not have information at this time to corroborate reports that Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface-to-surface missiles, along with more drones. – Reuters

Iran has promised to provide Russia with surface to surface missiles, in addition to more drones, two senior Iranian officials and two Iranian diplomats told Reuters, a move that is likely to infuriate the United States and other Western powers. – Reuters

Ukraine’s foreign minister said on Tuesday he was submitting a proposal to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to formally cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after a wave of Russian attacks using what Kyiv says are Iranian-made drones. – Reuters

The use by Russia of Iranian drones in its war against Ukraine makes clear the weaknesses of its domestic industry and Tehran’s growing claim on the market for unmanned aircraft, experts say. – Agence France-Presse 

Calling to sever diplomatic relations with Iran, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday that his country will send an official request to the State of Israel asking for air defense systems and the start of high-quality cooperation on providing technology to Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post

A teenage girl was reportedly killed last week after Iranian regime security forces entered her school, demanding students sing a pro-regime song praising Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and violently beating any that refused to do so. – Times of Israel 

Michael Rubin writes: Should Americans appear in the records of the Islamic Republic, the Biden administration should not repeat the mistakes of the Bush administration. Biden’s team should expose those documents. Perhaps such an American offering to act as an agent of influence. […]In any case, if an American whose name they contain claims he or she is included falsely, let them state their denial openly. If the evidence suffices to charge them as unregistered agents, the Biden team should not hesitate if still within the statute of limitations. Regardless, should the regime fall, it is essential to shame the Islamic Republic’s agents in plain sight; not protect them. – 19FortyFive

Scott McCann writes: ​​Finally, the United States must prepare a plan for helping Iranians if a revolution occurs. The long-game approach would be to stimulate the economy for the Iranian middle class by eliminating broad sanctions. Additionally, since there is no guarantee that a JCPOA revival will happen, Congress must create a series of mechanisms to lift sanctions quickly if the regime falls. Any new government would have a low likelihood of success if burdened with the same sanctions Iran now faces. The best way to support protesters is to eliminate the economic restrictions narrowing their chances for future success. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s top military commander in Ukraine signaled Moscow’s hold on the southern city of Kherson was weakening, and Ukraine said Russian strikes since last week had knocked out some 30% of its power-plant infrastructure, raising concerns of countrywide blackouts. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s deepening military support for Russia is creating a new challenge for Ukraine and its Western backers as they try to prevent its drones from giving Moscow a strategic edge. – Wall Street Journal

Seventy percent of Ukrainians are determined to keep fighting until their country wins the war against Russia, according to a Gallup poll conducted in early September, amid counteroffensives that retook swaths of land in the country’s south and east. – Washington Post 

Airstrikes cut power and water supplies to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians on Tuesday, part of what the country’s president called an expanding Russian campaign to drive the nation into the cold and dark and make peace talks impossible. – Associated Press 

A court in Russia on Tuesday rejected imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s second appeal of a nine-year sentence. – Associated Press 

A United Nations (U.N.) commission concluded numerous war crimes took place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with most having been committed by Rusnewssian forces. – The Hill 

Russian strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine will only strengthen the will of the Ukrainian people to resist Vladimir Putin’s forces, according to a Pentagon official. – Newsweek 

Adam Zivo writes: Eastern European nations do not oppose peace deals because they want war. War would affect their lands more than anyone else. They merely oppose peace deals that would set the stage for greater future conflict. The key to a just and sustainable peace is simple. In the words of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, “The way out of the conflict is for Russia to leave Ukraine. That’s the way out of the conflict.” – Washington Examiner

Constanze Stelzenmüller writes: But western governments should calmly, collectively and unequivocally spell out the consequences that would ensue if Putin became the first leader to use nuclear weapons in anger since 1945. Otherwise, they should ignore him — and quietly concentrate on thwarting him. One way of doing that is by helping Ukraine win. – Financial Times 

Andreas Kluth writes: Russians in the era of Putin must ask themselves questions similar to the dilemmas Germans faced during the Third Reich. What is their role in their country’s crimes? How much will they allow themselves to know? Will they stand up when it matters? Will they disobey when they must? Those who do — as Stanislav Petrov once did — may just save the world. – Bloomberg


The Palestinians on Tuesday welcomed Australia’s decision to cancel its recognition of west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

The Israeli decision not to provide weapon systems to Ukraine is meeting growing criticism among Israeli experts and politicians, following the Russian use of Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones to attack civilian targets over the last week — a wave that some here hope will result in a reassessment of Israel’s neutral stance in the seven-month-old war. – Breaking Defense

Following yesterday’s report of a bungled Mossad operation in Malaysia, Kan News has revealed that the military arm of Hamas has been operating in the field of cyber, research, and development in the Muslim state for close to a decade. – Arutz Sheva 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reaffirmed Tuesday evening that Israel does not intend to sell arms to Ukraine to fend off the Russian invasion of the country hours after the Ukrainian foreign minister said Kyiv would appeal for military aid from Jerusalem. – Ynet 

Israel rejected a request from Ukraine Monday to hold a telephone conversation between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his counterpart in Kyiv, Oleksii Reznikov, according to a source who spoke to Haaretz on the condition of anonymity. – Haaretz 

Editorial: First, Jerusalem should prepare for the possibility that Australia might recognize a Palestinian state. […]If the party followed through on one of those pledges, why think they may not do the same on the other? Secondly, Canberra’s flip-flop should lead to a greater appreciation in Jerusalem of US president Joe Biden’s decision to not act like the Australians and reverse his predecessor’s decision to move the embassy, even though Biden himself was opposed to the Jerusalem embassy move. Biden did something that Albanese in Australia was unable to do: Stand up to a minority voice in his party pushing an anti-Israel agenda that can only weaken ties with Israel. – Jerusalem Post 

Benjamin Netanyahu writes: The results have been remarkable. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis now regularly fly over the skies of Saudi Arabia to the U.A.E. and Bahrain. Sudan is no longer a way station for Iranian arms transported through the Nile Valley. Israeli and Gulf entrepreneurs are busy forming joint ventures with multimillion-dollar investments. A joint railway project among Israel, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia will connect the region once the kingdom joins the accords, which I believe will happen within a few years. If the policies of peace through strength persist, we may soon be able to envision an end to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Nadav Eyal writes: Israel continues to pay a price for its policies: the Ukrainians are angry with the lack of military support, Russia continues to benefit from the Iranian weapons, while Tehran charges on with its belligerence against Israel in other spheres. The provision of lethal weapons to Russia should start a strategic discussion on Israel’s policies towards Ukraine. It will likely not take place because of the November 1 elections, but it is necessary. European nations have already called for new sanctions to be imposed on Iran and the stalled nuclear negotiations could falter as a result. Iranian opposition may also persist in the daily demonstrations and clashes with security forces. – Ynet


On October 2, 2022, Shamshad News, the popular Pashtu-language television channel in Afghanistan, published a report quoting Afghan political experts as saying that the U.S. and other Western countries are planning to bring former Afghan warlords back into power in Kabul to serve their interests. Currently, Afghanistan is ruled by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban jihadi organization which seized power in August 2021, but its acting government is yet to be recognized by other countries. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The U.S. government reportedly assured the Taliban during a set of negotiations in early October that it would not attempt to fund resistance to the new government—an announcement made after months of civil protests and escalating anti-Taliban militant activity across the country. – The National Interest

The Afghan Taliban – one of the world’s strictest Islamist regimes – may be mulling its stance toward the State of Israel, i24NEWS has learned. – i24News 


Turkish troops deployed on Tuesday in an area in northwestern Syria to try to halt fighting between rival rebel factions opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, witnesses and rebel forces said. – Reuters

Hamas leaders will visit Syria on Wednesday, in a move by the Palestinian Islamist group to rebuild ties after shunning President Bashar al-Assad for years over his violent crackdown on protests. – Reuters

More than a week of inter-rebel fighting in Syria’s Turkish-held north has killed 58 people, mostly combatants — a flareup that has allowed Al-Qaeda-linked fighters to gain ground, a war monitor said Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse


Before Lebanon’s government approved a U.S.-brokered deal settling a decades-long maritime boundary dispute with Israel, the powerful Hezbollah had scrutinized the final draft line by line and given a crucial nod of acceptance. – Reuters

The Lebanese army said on Tuesday that an Israeli gunboat had violated Lebanese territorial waters on Monday morning, an allegation denied by Israel in the second such dispute this week as the countries work toward a maritime border demarcation. – Reuters 

Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Tuesday urged a French energy company to begin exploring for natural gas in Mediterranean waters, after Lebanon and Israel reached a US-brokered agreement to divide their maritime borders. – Times of Israel 

Moshe Koppel writes: The fact that the Lebanese government is collapsing is not a reason to rush – it is a reason to wait (as is the potentially imminent collapse of Lebanon’s suzerain, the Islamic Republic of Iran). Presumably, the fact that Prime Minister Lapid wishes to appear statesmanlike on the eve of an election is also not a compelling reason to rush into a bad deal. – Jerusalem Post

Bobby Ghosh writes: But if Nasrallah’s restraint is the product of his immediate political circumstances, it will be easy enough for him to change his mind if the wind turns in his favor — or if he receives a fresh missive from Tehran. Nobody should be fooled by his post-facto claim that the Israeli-Lebanese agreement was the result of Hezbollah’s “resistance.” That is not the same thing as taking ownership of the agreement and guaranteeing its terms, regardless of political expedience and ideological imperatives. – Bloomberg

Gulf States

Iraq’s foreign ministry said late on Tuesday that it refuses any threatening or pressuring policy, reiterating its support for OPEC+ and Saudi Arabia after the alliance’s decision to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day caused a rift between Washington and Riyadh. – Reuters

An American citizen has been arrested in Saudi Arabia, tortured and sentenced to 16 years in prison over tweets he sent while in the United States, his son said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

Munqith Dagher writes: Armed conflict remains likely unless religious and political forces such as Ayatollah al-Sistani are able to keep weapons from falling into the hands of non-state actors. The new government, even if it is able to proceed, will certainly face challenges on many fronts, which will render al-Sudani’s task practically insurmountable. Will al-Sudani be the Tom Cruise of Iraq and pull this ‘mission impossible’ off? We don’t have to wait long to find out the answer. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

A U.S. senator blocked $75 million in military funding this year to Egypt, citing insufficient progress on the country’s treatment of political prisoners, despite recent prisoner releases by President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. – Wall Street Journal

Thousands of Tunisians demonstrated and a general strike shut down the coastal city of Zarzis Tuesday, to demand a renewed search for relatives who went missing during a September migration attempt. – Agence France-Presse 

Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region has transferred more than 600 relatives of suspected jihadists detained at the notorious Al-Hol camp to Iraq, a war monitor and a Kurdish security source said Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish authorities announced the arrests of more than 500 people on Tuesday who are suspected of links with a preacher accused of having plotted a failed coup in 2016. – Times of Israel 

Grant Rumley writes: The U.S. competition with China has reached the Middle East, where the longstanding American security infrastructure faces an increasing array of Chinese arms sales, military deployments, and investments in critical infrastructure. Beijing is keen to strengthen its own relationships in the region and views any reliance on the U.S. security umbrella as a “profound strategic vulnerability.” Yet Washington rightly regards these activities with skepticism, since an expanded Chinese security presence threatens to erode traditional partnerships and compromise sensitive information. – Washington Institute

Michael Rubin writes: Albanese and his Labor party must hold the line. Normalization and growing Arab-Israel peace mark a path to the future. Traditional formulas and past conventional wisdom do not. It is time to hold firm on Jerusalem, not only to calibrate policy to reality but also to signal that Palestinians must compromise and that Abbas’ rejectionism will never work. Most importantly, Australia’s voice for moral clarity and its contribution to international diplomacy is too important to squander. – 19FortyFive

Korean Peninsula

To the outside world, North Korea’s recent missile activity is familiar: a flight over Japan, claims of weapons advances and threats to rivals in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. But inside the rogue nation, these events are being portrayed much differently than they were in the past. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea fired artillery shells off its east and west coasts late on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, after Seoul kicked off annual defence drills aimed at boosting its ability to respond to the North’s nuclear and missile threats. – Reuters

South Korean prosecutors requested arrest warrants on Tuesday for the former defense minister and coast guard chief in the country’s previous government as they investigate its handling of North Korea’s killing of a fisheries official in 2020 near the rivals’ tense sea border. – Associated Press


Britain has issued a threat alert warning its former military personnel not to be lured to China with lucrative contracts to train that country’s armed forces, citing concerns that such activity could give Beijing access to Britain’s national-security secrets and capabilities. – Washington Post 

China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday its diplomatic missions abroad have the right to “take necessary measures” to maintain security after British police opened an investigation into the assault of a Hong Kong protester who alleged he was dragged into the Chinese Consulate in Manchester and beaten up during a demonstration. – Associated Press 

Germany must avoid repeating with China the mistakes that it made in its relationship with Russia over recent years, the German foreign minister said Tuesday. – Associated Press 

China will continue to work toward becoming more self-reliant, but don’t expect President Xi Jinping to move on Taiwan by force, analysts said. – CNBC

Emil Avdaliani writes: In its Central Asian push, China also signed $16bn worth of deals with Uzbekistan, dwarfing the $4.6bn agreements it agreed with Russia. Multi-billion deals were reached with Kazakhstan too. Even in the security area, where Russia has been regarded as an uncontested power, cracks are emerging. Tajik-Kyrgyz hostilities undermined the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which both countries are members. To this should be added another slap in Kremlin’s face when the Kyrgyz president canceled his country’s participation on October 10 CSTO exercises. Sentiments in Kyrgyzstan are increasingly anti-Russian, as Tajikistan’s military activism is thought to be endorsed by the Kremlin. Given the declining Central Asian faith in Russia, China can make economic and military inroads. For now, at least, Putin can only sit back and watch. – Center for European Policy Analysis

South Asia

Pakistani security forces shot and killed four insurgents on Tuesday during a raid on their hideout in the country’s volatile southwest, authorities said. – Associated Press 

An India-Russia joint venture that makes nuclear capable supersonic cruise missiles hopes to bag orders worth $5 billion by 2025, its chairman said on Tuesday, having signed its first export deal of $375 million this year with the Philippines. – Reuters

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on Wednesday sought India’s support in mobilising G20 nations to help out developing countries saddled with debt, with three of India’s neighbours already seeking IMF loans as their economies struggle. – Reuters 

Pakistan will ask international lenders for billions of dollars in loans after devastating floods exacerbated the South Asian nation’s economic crisis, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday. – Reuters


Australia’s defence minister said the military was investigating reports its former pilots were accepting training roles in China, as Britain said it could take legal action to stop its pilots being similarly recruited on national security grounds. – Reuters

A court in military-ruled Myanmar ruled Tuesday that the last trial for corruption of the country’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi will go ahead after finding that state prosecutors submitted enough evidence to sustain her indictment. – Associated Press 

Australian and Singaporean leaders announced Tuesday what they described as a world-first agreement to cooperate in transitioning their economies to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. – Associated Press 

At least eight people have been killed in explosions at Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison in Yangon. – BBC 

Malaysia on Tuesday publicly paraded around several suspects who were reportedly arrested for kidnapping a Hamas operative on behalf of the Mossad so that he could be interrogated by Israel. – Times of Israel


More than 100,000 people took to the streets across France on Tuesday to demand higher wages to cope with rising energy bills and broader inflation, a sign of the political turmoil facing President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders as the war in Ukraine rages with no end in sight. – Wall Street Journal

The German government on Tuesday announced that it had removed the country’s cybersecurity chief after allegations emerged of links to Russian intelligence. – Washington Post 

Danish authorities said on Tuesday that “powerful explosions” had caused the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines to rupture three weeks ago, but declined to say who might have caused them. – New York Times 

The European Commission has unveiled a fresh package of emergency measures to curb energy prices, warning of more “exceptional” support to come as the bloc prepares for a “precarious” supply situation next year. – Financial Times 

Janusz Bugajski writes: Lukashenko may also be warning Putin that another popular uprising in Belarus may not be containable, that it could endanger the survival of the Union State, and even encourage the quiescent Russian public to revolt against their own authoritarian regime. – Washington Examiner


Mali’s foreign affairs minister on Tuesday said the military government would exercise its right to self-defence if France continued to undermine the West African country’s sovereignty and national security. – Reuters

The Ethiopian army has captured three towns in the northern region of Tigray, one to the northwest and two to the south of the regional capital Mekelle, the government said on Tuesday as one senior official said the conflict was being “extinguished”. – Reuters

The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has ruled out bringing in Russian “mercenaries” to help quell a raging conflict in the east of the country and vowed to press on with economic development plans despite the insecurity in the region. – Financial Times

The Americas

Argentina released five Iranian and Venezuelan crew members of a cargo jet that was grounded for an investigation into possible terrorism ties, after a judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge them. – Wall Street Journal

The Bahamas would send troops or police to Haiti as part of a peacekeeping force if asked to do so by the United Nations or the Caribbean Community, a Bahamian government minister said on Tuesday, as Haiti’s humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. – Reuters

The United States and Mexico said Monday they are preparing a U.N. resolution that would authorize an international mission to help improve security in Haiti, whose government issued a “distress call” for the people of the crisis-wracked nation. – Associated Press 

As hundreds of Venezuelan migrants were expelled to Mexico from the United States under a new policy over the past week, the United Nations voiced concern that shelters were being overwhelmed, leaving families without places to stay in the dangerous border region. – Reuters

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he discussed migration, security and cooperation on development with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden during an afternoon call. – Reuters

U.S. officials have made clear that allowing oil major Chevron (CVX.N) to expand in Venezuela depends on a grand gesture: the Venezuelan government and opposition returning to election talks in Mexico at least for a first round, three people close to the matter said this week. – Reuters

North America

The U.S. military tracked and intercepted two Russian bomber pilots flying off the Alaskan coast on Monday, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The two Russian Tu-95 Bear-H bomber aircraft were “entering and operating within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ),” the release explained, and “remained in international airspace and did not enter American or Canadian sovereign airspace.” – Washington Examiner

Joseph Bosco writes: Yet, the confrontational nature of the relationship between the U.S. and the West on one side and the two leading autocratic powers seeking to destroy them is unavoidable. “The United States is a global power with global interests. … If one region descends into chaos or is dominated by a hostile power, it will detrimentally impact our interests in the others,” the NSS says. In announcing the new strategy approach, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “The post-Cold War era is definitively over.” The NSS favors, instead, “The era of competition.”  Eventually, if actual conflict does not erupt first, they will have to recognize that, for China and Russia, we have long been in Cold War II. What Mark Twain said of Wagner’s music may now apply to Biden’s foreign policy: It is better than it sounds. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: If Trudeau continues to accommodate the most extreme elements of the Sikh community and, for political reasons, ignore their terror finance, he will not only do Canada a disservice, but he will make it a liability. He should use Canada’s moral authority to call out the ISI and its cynical efforts to do in Punjab what it tried and failed to do in Kashmir. Given Canada’s lack of seriousness in countering Khalistani extremist terror finance, however, it is time for the Financial Action Task Force to gray-list America’s neighbor to the north. –19FortyFive


Pro-Russian hackers were behind a “large-scale” cyberattack on Bulgarian government websites on Saturday, according to Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev. – The Record

Government organizations in Hong Kong were targeted with malware as part of an intelligence-gathering campaign that lasted for more than a year, according to researchers from Symantec. – The Record

There’s widespread concern among U.S. public safety personnel that their organizations aren’t equipped to defend against cyberattacks, according to a new survey of first responders across the U.S. – CyberScoop


The U.S. military has grown increasingly weaker over the years and is considered at risk of not being able to respond to threats to the country’s national interests , according to new rankings of the military’s strength. – Washington Examiner

Lockheed Martin is dialing up production of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System amid the Ukrainian military’s success in using the system to fend off Russian forces over the past few months. – Breaking Defense

The American defense maritime industrial base has atrophied to a point where the United States builds less than 1 percent of the world’s ocean-going fleets and has less than 4 percent of the world’s licensed mariners while China establishes itself as a maritime nation, Military Sealift Command’s top officer said Tuesday. – USNI News

A pairing of a guided-missile destroyer and a supply ship in San Diego Bay last week was the Navy’s latest test to learn how to resupply its warships with missiles during a high-end conflict. – USNI News

Commercial airlines and shipping companies would be essential for moving troops and supplies around the battlefield if the United States is involved in a war in the Pacific, a top general said. To facilitate that and other possible scenarios, U.S. officials are looking for ways to give companies more access to military intelligence and technologies that would allow them to fly and sail in areas where civilian networks and navigation satellites are blocked. – Defense One

Long War

Argentina’s justice department has asked Qatar to arrest a top Iranian official for his alleged participation in a 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. – Reuters

The U.S. government on Monday imposed sanctions on 14 men, including six it said were part of a network that has engaged in weapons procurement, financial facilitation and recruitment for the al Shabaab militant Islamist group. – Reuters

New Zealand’s parliament on Wednesday proposed changes to the country’s counter-terrorism laws to provide more restrictions on people thought likely to be planning an attack. – Reuters

A French cement firm has pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to provide material support to two terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State. – The Hill

A Canadian national who lived in Southern California was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. prison on Monday for helping at least a half-dozen Canadians and Americans join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2013 and 2014 — including the first known American to die fighting for the militant organization. – Associated Press