Fdd's overnight brief

October 2, 2023

In The News


Order has been restored at a prison in southwest Iran, the state news agency IRNA reported on Friday, after prisoners reportedly started a fire to protest against a fellow inmate’s death sentence and shots were heard. – Reuters

Switzerland adopted further sanctions in connection with Iran’s drone deliveries to Russia, in line with European Union measures, the government said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

Protesters faced off with security forces in Iran’s restive southeast on Friday to mark the anniversary of a Sept. 30, 2022, crackdown by security forces known as “Bloody Friday”, according to rights groups and social media videos. – Reuters

The United States has quietly acknowledged that Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard successfully put an imaging satellite into orbit this week in a launch that resembled others previously criticized by Washington as helping Tehran’s ballistic missile program. – Associated Press

Iran can produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in less than two weeks, the United States warned as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday held a security assessment with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that focused on threats from the Islamic Republic. – Jerusalem Post

Iran is seeking to put more cruise missiles on its Sabalan frigate, an aging ship that dates from the 1960s. The Sabalan is one of three Alvand-class frigates that Iran owns, built in the UK for Iran’s regime before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In an “exclusive” statement to Iran’s Tasnim News, the Iranian navy claims to outfit the frigate with more firepower, increasing to 12 cruise missiles installed on it. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Overall the context is clear, Iran believes it can benefit from internal problems in Israel. As such, this also means Tehran boasts less about its missile, drone, and nuclear programs. It focuses on other strategies such as working with Russia and China and attempting to get around US sanctions. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The real story, from Iran’s perspective, is that the “BRICS group is seeking to create new economic and political capacities for itself in contrast to the global unipolar system centered and led by the United States.” This matters to Tehran. It may matter less to the other states that joined; they may merely want to expand their membership and integration with various global blocs. They may be hedging their bets. Iran is not hedging, it wants to go all-in. – Jerusalem Post

Greg Priddy writes: A second-term Biden would arguably reduce Tehran’s concerns about Washington again abrogating an agreement. Still, it is unlikely that the Biden administration can induce Iran to roll back its nuclear program to anywhere near the constrained levels imposed by the JCPOA, let alone the extension of some of those provisions that the United States had hoped for—a “longer and stronger” deal. […] A reasonable agenda for a follow-up agreement in a second Biden term would center on restoring transparency and lengthening Iran’s breakout time to allow the world more certainty that Iran remains a threshold state and does not become a nuclear power. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Russian forces have destroyed about half the battlefield equipment that Ukrainian company Metinvest has produced for the country’s military. Managers want Russian troops to target more of it. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. political fights and presidential-election campaign rhetoric are casting a shadow over battlefields in Ukraine. Kyiv’s fight to beat back invading Russian troops depends on American equipment, training and intelligence. President Biden has led a global campaign to rally support for Ukraine and to impose sanctions on Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian officials are insisting that aid to their country is not in jeopardy, despite concerns over a new U.S. spending bill that excluded some $20 billion in assistance for Kyiv. – Washington Post

Satellite imagery and aviation data suggest that Russia may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile  — or may have recently tested one — with a theoretical range of thousands of miles. – New York Times

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to continue fighting the Russian invasion “for as long as it takes,” amid the wavering commitment among some U.S. Republicans to fund the ongoing war effort. There is no “expiration date” or “end date” short of victory, he said in a defiant veterans day speech. – Washington Post


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s big bet on sealing a landmark rapprochement with Saudi Arabia is running into a familiar problem: The Palestinians want land for giving their blessing to a deal, but Netanyahu’s coalition partners are adamantly against the idea. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli soldiers on Friday killed a member of the Hamas Islamist group who the army said was among assailants who threw fire bombs at a military post in the occupied West Bank. – Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attacked the proposed “reactionary” Israeli-Saudi normalization deal, as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is to head to Washington to meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and discuss security issues relating to that agreement and Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Israel is considering various steps to prevent an escalation in the Gaza Strip, including increasing the number of Gazans allowed to work in Israel and making it easier to bring goods into Gaza. – Haaretz

Martin Indyk and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein write: Biden and MBS are intending to use the peace deal with Israel to extract significant and tangible commitments from each other: a U.S.-Saudi defense treaty, the curtailment of Saudi engagement with China, and full normalization with Israel. Netanyahu should also pay a commensurate price. If he chooses normalization with Saudi Arabia—making the necessary concessions when it comes to Israeli activity in the West Bank—over his illicit deal with Smotrich, the whole region will benefit even if Israel’s extremists lose. But if Netanyahu chooses Smotrich over peace, then Israel will be the biggest loser. – Foreign Affairs


Turkish warplanes on Sunday struck targets affiliated with a Kurdish rebel organization in northern Iraq, the Turkish Ministry of Defense said in a statement, hours after the separatist group took responsibility for a suicide bombing that wounded two police officers in Ankara, the Turkish capital. – New York Times

Sweden must take further “concrete steps” against terrorism to clinch Ankara’s support for its Nato bid, Turkey’s vice-president said as the Turkish parliament prepares to take up the Nordic country’s accession request. – Financial Times 

Ryan Gingeras writes: This most recent episode of fighting in the south Caucasus constitutes, for many in Turkey, further proof of Turkey’s newfound status as 21st-century Goliath. If Erdogan is to be believed, technology has unlocked or amplified Turkey’s potential to resolve its national security concerns swiftly and decisively if it so chooses. In some cases, such as against Athens last year, Erdogan has only implied that he was willing to unleash his country’s arsenal. Should regional conditions change, or if Ankara’s rebranded foreign policy strategy fail to deliver, the militarist culture that Erdogan has helped to foment may convince him that war is the answer. – War on the Rocks

Saudi Arabia

A fourth Bahraini serviceman died on Friday following a Houthi drone attack on Monday against forces of the Saudi-led coalition in Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen, the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) said on Friday. – Reuters

Israel and Saudi Arabia are moving toward the outline of a historic US-brokered deal to normalize relations, the White House said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

As a sign of warming Israeli-Saudi ties Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi is set to become the second Israeli minister ever to visit Riyadh when he heads there on Monday to attend a Universal Postal Union conference. – Jerusalem Post

David Ignatius writes: Khashoggi didn’t pose any real threat to the kingdom as he made his way toward the consulate in Istanbul five years ago. But on this anniversary of his murder, his martyrdom for free expression still haunts the ruler who sent the “tiger team” that dismembered his body. If Khashoggi returned, he would surely write a column saying: Keep pushing for a free and truly modern Saudi Arabia. – Washington Post

Douglas MacKinnon writes: The world is changing. Power is shifting. Alliances are being created or reinvented, and Saudi Arabia and the crown prince are behind much of the change. It’s time to focus on the flash. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

The Israeli Air Force allegedly carried out an attack early Sunday morning on an Iranian arms shipment in Syria, west of the capital Damascus, according to several Syrian media reports in the country. – Jerusalem Post

U.S. Central Command forces conducted a helicopter raid in northern Syria on Sept. 28 capturing Mamduh Ibrahim al-Haji Shaykh, an Islamic State facilitator, Central Command said on Saturday. – Reuters

The Netherlands will deploy around another 120 soldiers and three Chinook transport helicopters to the ongoing NATO alliance mission in Iraq, the Dutch government said on Friday. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Monday denounced the U.N. atomic watchdog for joining a U.S.-led pressure campaign and “cooking up” a resolution over its nuclear programmes, calling the agency a “paid trumpeter” for Washington. – Reuters

North Korea accused the United States on Sunday of letting a “terrorist” act against Cuba take place on U.S. soil, saying a recent attack against the Cuban embassy in Washington was the result of “despicable anti-Cuban” U.S. intentions. – Reuters

Andrei Lankov writes: So, why the martial theatre? Most likely, to send a signal to Seoul. There has been talk of South Korea shipping lethal aid to Ukraine. Seoul officially says it will not send weapons, but some conservatives in South Korea want to do so. Pressure is mounting from Washington, too. Such a decision by Seoul would have consequences. South Korea is an industrial giant and the world’s seventh largest arms exporter. Its ammunition would make a real difference. Now Seoul — and Washington — is being given a warning: if it sends ammunition, Russia can impose a cost. – Financial Times


A former activist blogger once jailed in China for documenting social unrest says he has fled his home country and relocated to Canada, as more dissidents seek new lives outside the tightening political strictures set by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. – Wall Street Journal

Tensions between the West and China are rising, from tit-for-tat trade tariffs to tech rivalry and spying allegations. The ramifications for global markets are significant, with Washington and Beijing’s determination to loosen dependence on each other fraying long-established supply chains. – Reuters

The United States is the true “empire of lies”, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Saturday, lashing out at a U.S. State Department report that accused Beijing of ploughing billions of dollars annually into information manipulation efforts. – Reuters

The United States on Friday condemned a reported life sentence handed down in China to a high-profile Uyghur academic Rahile Dawut. This week, a U.S.-based rights group said Dawut, 57, had lost her appeal against her original conviction from December 2018 on charges of “endangering state security.” – Reuters

The Biden administration on Friday named veteran diplomat Mark Lambert as its top China policy official at the State Department at a time when ties between the two strategic rivals remain fraught over issues including Taiwan, trade and U.S. curbs on Beijing’s access to U.S. technology. – Reuters

China said that it will hold a naval training with Saudi Arabia in October. China’s Defense Ministry made the announcement Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The United States now has two laws responding to the Uyghur cultural genocide: the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, passed in 2020 and signed by President Donald Trump, and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021, signed by President Biden. […] For the sake of Ms. Rahile and millions of others who have suffered, these laws should be executed robustly, including imposing sanctions on Chinese officials carrying out the genocide and closing persistent loopholes in the imports from Xinjiang, such as in retail apparel. – Washington Post

South Asia

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of a religious procession in western Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 51, as the country’s security situation continued to deteriorate. – Wall Street Journal

An opposition candidate widely seen as pro-China won a runoff election to be the next president of the Maldives, marking a significant loss for Indian influence in the archipelagic nation. – Washington Post

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Indian counterpart discussed the murder in Canada of a Sikh separatist leader as tensions between two of Washington’s key allies — Ottawa and New Delhi — increase over the killing. – Bloomberg


The lightning military operation by Azerbaijan to seize back the disputed mountainous region made a mockery of President Vladimir Putin’s 2020 guarantee that Russian peacekeepers would protect the region’s population, maintain a cease-fire, and assure access on the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, through the Lachin Corridor. – Washington Post

A United Nations mission arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, Azerbaijani media reported, as a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region began drawing to a close following a Azerbaijani military offensive last month. – Reuters

Seth Cropsey writes: The Biden administration has made diplomatic strides toward improving America’s position in the Indo-Pacific but has largely neglected military questions. It has a rare opportunity to shore up the military balance with diplomatic means. – Wall Street Journal


U.S. officials sought to defuse rising tensions in the Balkans, as a surge in violence there pushed NATO to boost its presence in the area and threatened to trigger a broader conflict between Serbia and Kosovo. – Wall Street Journal

NATO said on Friday it is increasing its peacekeeping presence in northern Kosovo as a result of escalating tensions with neighboring Serbia, as the U.S. called on Serbia to withdraw a military buildup on the border with Kosovo. – Politico

Seven EU countries have ordered ammunition under a landmark European Union procurement scheme to get urgently needed artillery shells to Ukraine and replenish depleted Western stocks, according to the EU agency in charge. – Reuters


Under the guise of saving refugees, the United Arab Emirates is running an elaborate covert operation to back one side in Sudan’s spiraling war — supplying powerful weapons and drones, treating injured fighters and airlifting the most serious cases to one of its military hospitals, according to a dozen current and former officials from the United States, Europe and several African countries. – New York Times

A suicide bomber set off an explosion at a shop selling tea in Somalia’s capital on Friday, killing at least seven people, a witness and medical personnel. Police put the number of dead at five. Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its Arabic media unit Shahada News Agency, the SITE Intelligence Group reported on Friday. It put the number of dead at 11 and wounded at 18; its numbers on casualties in attacks often differ from government figures. – Reuters

Gracelin Baskaran writes: As is the case with any new relationship, there will be things that need to be ironed out. The United States will need to provide technical assistance to governments on regulations and oversight for good environment, social, and governance practices in the critical minerals value chain. Africa is perhaps the last frontier of mineral development, and the United States has a powerful opportunity to be a part of it. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Elfadil Ibrahim writes: For Washington, its continued inaction vis-à-vis the UAE’s hawkishness in Sudan will only result in yet another collapsed state in an already fragile neighborhood. Empowering the UAE to fill the void after the U.S. withdrawal from the region has actually undermined Washington’s own goals of promoting stable and democratic regimes in the region. Instead, the chaos that enveloped Yemen, Libya, and Syria will play out again in Africa’s third-largest country in a more magnified form as long as the UAE’s support for the RSF continues. – The National Interest

The Americas

The U.S. State Department said on Sunday it is “gravely concerned” that Guatemala’s Public Ministry is trying to undermine the transfer of power to President-elect Bernardo Arevalo, who recorded a landslide victory in August. – Reuters

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on Monday to approve the deployment of foreign police to Haiti and authorize the use of force to help the Caribbean country fight violent gangs that have largely overrun the capital Port-au-Prince. – Reuters

The United States is imposing visa restrictions on dozens of Nicaraguan municipal officials for their role in alleged attacks on human rights, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. – Reuters

Efran Fard writes: It is imperative to acknowledge and address this critical security issue promptly. The United States must prioritize identifying and neutralizing these covert networks to safeguard its national interests and ensure the security and well-being of its citizens. The gravity of this infiltration necessitates a comprehensive and coordinated response, with all relevant stakeholders collaborating to mitigate this growing threat effectively. – Jerusalem Post


Global energy supply changes will likely increase Chinese and Russian hackers’ targeting of critical energy infrastructure, according to an FBI notification sent to the energy industry and obtained by Recorded Future News. – The Record

A North Korean cyberespionage operation targeted employees of an aerospace company in Spain using a previously unreported backdoor and a creative phishing campaign featuring a phony Silicon Valley recruiter, demonstrating a “significant advancement in malicious capabilities,” researchers with the cybersecurity firm ESET said Friday. – CyberScoop

The number of countries to which the Defense Ministry has authorized exports of weapons and security-related cyber systems has skyrocketed in recent years, according to its own official data. The figures coincide with the export records of Israel’s defense industries, which broke their own records two years in a row. – Haaretz



Army Gen. Mark Milley formally slid the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmanship job over to Air Force Gen. CQ Brown today, and with it, a series of headaches he may well be glad to be done with. – Breaking Defense

A series of delayed simulated combat trials for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have been completed, a key step toward wrapping up the fighter’s initial operational testing phase and approving it for full-rate production (FRP).  – Breaking Defense

In comments given to the National Interest, former Trump National Security Advisor Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien explained that the U.S. Air Force needs 300-400 B-21 Raider stealth bombers considering the growing threat from China’s rising military might. – The National Interest