Fdd's overnight brief

October 20, 2022

In The News


Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi returned home to Tehran Wednesday to crowds of cheering fans, after her performance without the country’s mandatory headscarf at an international competition turned her into a symbol of protests against the Islamic Republic and highlighted the risks to prominent Iranians who support the movement. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union is preparing to sanction Iran for supplying Russia with drones used to strike targets in Ukraine, according to two E.U. diplomats, in yet another sign of deteriorating ties between Brussels and Tehran. – Washington Post

Street protests are not a good strategy for opposing Iran’s government, an Iranian female boxer in exile said after climber Elnaz Rekabi – who caused controversy by competing in an international contest without a headscarf – returned home to cheering supporters. – Reuters

Iran designated several British people and institutions on Wednesday for their “deliberate actions in support of terrorism, incitement of violence, and human rights violations,” Iran’s foreign ministry said. – Reuters

Iranian security forces have arrested 14 foreigners, including American, British and French citizens, for their involvement in anti-government protests, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The US, along with France and the UK has called for a special United Nations Security Council briefing regarding evidence that Russia has procured Iranian drones for its war on Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lauded the reputation of military drones produced in his country and acknowledged concerns about their export. – Bloomberg

The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East boarded a U.S. ballistic missile submarine in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, a rare move that highlighted U.S. nuclear undersea capabilities during tense times with Iran and Russia. – Associated Press

Jon B. Alterman writes: There is a persistent desire in the United States to “fix” Iran. That desire is just as likely to remain unfulfilled in the next decade as it has for the last four. Not having a solution does not mean there is nothing to do, though. But current conditions call for a measured response and measured expectations. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: Even as Iran burns, the Biden administration hopes to entice Iran back into what by any definition was an already deeply flawed nuclear accord. Biden unwound maximum pressure and refuses to enforce other sanctions that remain on the books. What diplomats do not offer Iran in Vienna, the IRGC appears determined to acquire elsewhere. The impulse of the White House and State Department might be humanitarian, but their naivete risks funding more Iranian terror. – Washington Examiner

Bobby Ghosh writes: If the regime can’t suppress the protesters with violence, it won’t placate them with hoary slogans and tales of martyrs for the revolutionary cause. Iran’s Gen Z has its own slogans, its own cause, and in the likes of Amini and Rekabi, its own martyrs. – Bloomberg

Benny Avni writes: Iran’s violation of a UN resolution that enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal in international law is certainly a good opportunity to show that America prefers the rebels to the mullahs. The time has come to cut off all diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. – New York Sun

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short, Iran’s flirtation with Moscow has harmed its reputation more than many of its attacks on countries across the Middle East. Tehran may not have realized that its impunity was being reduced via Moscow; it thought that Russia had helped shield it from sanctions and that it had even helped it in the Iran-deal era. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin implemented a range of tighter security measures across the country and declared martial law in parts of Ukraine recently claimed by Moscow, as the Kremlin grapples with a faltering military campaign abroad and fallout from an unpopular troop mobilization at home. – Wall Street Journal

Russian-backed authorities began moving Ukrainian civilians out of the captured city of Kherson on Wednesday and Moscow declared martial law in occupied regions of Ukraine, as the Kremlin tries to strengthen its hold on territories where Kyiv has regained ground. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. government has examined the wreckage of Iranian-made drones shot down in Ukraine, deepening its insight into the unmanned craft that Russia has launched in a spate of kamikaze attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure, according to two U.S. officials. – Washington Post

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday charged five Russian nationals in an alleged global sanctions evasion scheme that involved millions of barrels of smuggled oil from Venezuela and U.S. military technology that was traced to the battlefield in Ukraine. – Washington Post

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday pushed back against Republicans who have called for rolling back U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. – The Hill

Republican Rep. Michael Waltz (Fla.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the majority of the Republican caucus supports U.S. assistance to Ukraine amid concerns that a GOP-controlled House following the November elections may push back on billions of dollars of military and economic aid provided to Kyiv. – The Hill

A record two-thirds of Ukrainians approve of U.S. leadership as the Biden administration and Congress continue to funnel military and humanitarian support to Kyiv in its war with Russia, according to a new Gallup poll. – The Hill

President Biden on Wednesday said that Vladimir Putin’s only available tool right now in his war against Ukraine is the brutalization of its citizens, in the wake of the Russian president declaring martial law in the four Ukrainian regions he recently annexed. – The Hill

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called Russian attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure war crimes and echoed concerns about the impending winter season. – The Hill

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said withdrawing funding from Ukraine would be a mistake following comments from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that appeared to suggest a GOP House majority would restrict funding to the country. – The Hill

WNBA star Brittney Griner thanked fans and supporters for the support she has received as the athlete celebrated her 32nd birthday on Tuesday while detained in Russia. – The Hill

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday morning defended his comment that House Republicans would put more scrutiny on aid to Ukraine if they have a majority next year. – The Hill

This is what the latest phase of Russia’s nearly 8-month-old war in Ukraine looks like. Moscow has openly declared its intention to increasingly strike power stations, waterworks and other key infrastructure. One Ukrainian energy official said Wednesday that 40% of the country’s electric power system had been severely damaged, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian forces have destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power stations since Oct. 10. – Associated Press

Ukraine has urged residents to drastically restrict their electricity consumption starting Thursday to cope with the destruction of power stations by the Russian army as winter approaches. – Agence France-Presse

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said Wednesday that “several Russian rockets” had been downed over the Ukrainian capital after AFP reporters heard loud explosions in the centre of the city. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: President Joe Biden and European leaders should warn the Kremlin that hybrid attacks intended to harm civilians will be treated as acts of military aggression — while still maintaining the necessary ambiguity about exactly how NATO would respond. Russia’s threats against critical infrastructure represent a dangerous escalation. Swift and coordinated action to strengthen the West’s defenses is the best response. – Bloomberg

William Courtney writes: In the 1990s, the West adapted to and helpfully influenced the birth of 15 new republics. If liberalizing change comes anew, the West may seek to help Russia heal itself for the long term. – The Hill

Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth write: Putin apparently is willing to fill 300,000+ coffins for a Kievan Rus’ empire. Timber, after all, is plentiful in Russia. Ukraine, NATO and the European Union must take decisive action to ensure that Russian lumberjacks stay busy this winter. It is the surest and fastest way to end this war — and to put Putin and his coffin makers out of business. – The Hill

Igor Cherkaskyi writes: By uniting to further close Russia out of the global economic and financial system, we send a clear message that actions that threaten global security will not be tolerated — and that violators, no matter their size or importance, will be held accountable. – Bloomberg

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Having battered the economy by bringing on crippling sanctions and inadvertently strengthened NATO, Putin finds himself tested now even by his most reliable, least democratic allies. The list of self-inflicted wounds is only growing longer. – Bloomberg

Leonid Bershidsky writes: Russia tried to eliminate the consequences of Stalinism on its own in the 1990s — and it failed. We Russians failed, as I must keep reminding myself. But that doesn’t mean we cannot and should not try again. That is the world’s best hope in the face of total war. – Bloomberg

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Ukraine is now the latest victim of Iran-Russia collaboration in Syria, which is anchored in the IRGC and Soleimani’s legacy. The US killed Soleimani in 2020 in Iraq, but the consequence of his work to bring Russia into the war in Syria, and the scorched-earth policy there, may now be reproducing the same Iran-Russia strategy against Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post

Katherine Lawlor, Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Riley Bailey, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Russian authorities are likely setting information conditions to justify planned Russian retreats and significant territorial losses in Kherson Oblast. […]Russian forces are also setting information conditions to conduct a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). The Russian military may believe that breaching the dam could cover their retreat from the right bank of the Dnipro River and prevent or delay Ukrainian advances across the river. – Institute for the Study of War


Israel offered on Wednesday to help Ukrainians develop air attack alerts for civilians, signalling a softening of a policy of non-military intervention in the war after Kyiv appealed for ways to counteract Iranian-made drones being used by Russia. – Reuters

A Palestinian gunman wanted by Israel for a lethal Oct. 8 attack at a Jerusalem checkpoint was killed on Wednesday while carrying out another shooting outside a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Israeli authorities said. – Reuters

As part of Operation Break the Wave, Israeli forces arrested seven terrorism suspects on Wednesday night throughout the West Bank. Israeli forces also confiscated 14 stolen vehicles. Overnight, shots were fired by terrorists towards a military post near Nablus. IDF soldiers returned fire and conducted searches for the shooters. No injuries were reported. – Jerusalem Post

Alon Pinkas writes: That the Israeli security, intelligence and political ecosystem was heavily invested in Putin, and in the flawed assumption that Russia is both powerful and an ally, is a given. What is inexplicable is the insistence on ignoring reality and developments in the war, arrogantly ignoring allies and allowing false predispositions to determine policy. This is not Realpolitik; this is Dumbpolitik. – Haaretz

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s supply of drones to Russia illustrates how the threat to Israel is now a threat that is expanding to the borders of Europe. Jerusalem has extensive experience dealing with the kind of conflict Russia has unleashed on Ukraine. This means it is well placed to aid Kyiv, either on the information front, on the sanctions front or in detection and early warning. All of this can be done without sending expensive, complex, advanced military hardware – the kind of hardware that Western countries are often careful about exporting. – Jerusalem Post

Salem Alketbi writes: But its impact on Iran’s strategic planning often depends on an analysis of the US position, requiring Israel to focus on examining possible post-strike scenarios more than on calculating the strike itself. Iran thinks more about what it will do in a second strike than about the consequences and losses of a first strike. – Jerusalem Post


Before the Taliban demolished the Great Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, the figures were the world’s largest standing depictions of the deity. The destruction of the statues, which had stood for 1,500 years, remains one of the most tragic attacks on Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. – New York Times

This is a story about how one U.S. Marine became fiercely determined to bring home an Afghan war orphan, and praised it as an act of Christian faith to save her. Letters, emails and documents submitted in federal filings show that he used his status in the U.S. Armed Forces, appealed to high-ranking Trump administration officials and turned to small-town courts to adopt the baby, unbeknownst to the Afghan couple raising her 7,000 miles away. – Associated Press

Lynne O’Donnell writes: Treatment of evacuees has varied widely. In sharp contrast to the alleged conditions in the UAE, Albania’s open-door policy enabled thousands of refugees from Afghanistan and other countries, including Pakistan, to live in comfortable seaside resorts while their applications for resettlement were processed, said aid worker Gonxhe Kandri. However, she said, costs—including flights, food, and medical care—were largely covered by American nongovernment organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy. – Foreign Policy


Russia recently redeployed critical military hardware and troops from Syria, according to three senior officials based in the Middle East, underscoring how its faltering invasion of Ukraine has eroded Moscow’s influence elsewhere and removing one of several obstacles to Israeli support for Ukraine. – New York Times

Staffers at the World Health Organization’s Syrian office have alleged that their boss mismanaged millions of dollars, plied government officials with gifts — including computers, gold coins and cars — and acted frivolously as COVID-19 swept the country. – Associated Press

France said on Thursday it carried out a new operation to return French nationals – 40 children and 15 women – from Kurdish-run camps in northeastern Syria. – Reuters

The lack of airstrikes in Syria comes as tensions continue to rise between Israel and Russia, which remains in the war-torn country. The IDF has said from the beginning of the war in Ukraine that it studying both players, in order to learn lessons that could pertain to its own operations and manpower. – Jerusalem Post

Rena Netjes writes: Now, the residents of Afrin are once again facing major upheaval. With HTS in control of Afrin City, making good on HTS leader Jolani’s desire to expand the group’s area of control, the Shamiya are now preparing for a potential HTS incursion into Azaz. For the area’s residents, this new development marks the latest threat to communities that have already faced so much over the past decade of the Syrian war. – Washington Institute

Yossi Yehushua writes: There could be a dramatic reduction in Iranian smuggling of weapons through Syria, after several airports had been targeted and damaged. Also, perhaps the security threats surrounding the Karish natural gas field, prompted the military to slow down. Or, maybe the pending November 1 elections are in the back of the mind of decision makers who are approving such attacks. Security officials said Israel would act if and when a significant transfer of weapons is detected. Will these threats come to fruition? Time will tell. – Ynet


Turkish security forces have prevented a group of hundreds of Syrian migrants from crossing Turkey’s northwestern border into Greece, a representative of the migrant group organising a convoy dubbed “Caravan of Light” said on Wednesday. – Reuters

US officials have held talks with their Turkish counterparts regarding compliance with financial sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the latest move by the West to pressure Ankara into taking a harder line against Moscow. – Bloomberg

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that he had agreed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to form a natural gas hub in Turkey. – Bloomberg

In the four weeks since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled what he called “the biggest social housing project in the history of the Turkish republic”, more than 7mn people have flocked to sign up. Work on the first of the promised 500,000-strong raft of new homes is set to begin later this month, with the first foundations put in place just as Erdoğan begins gearing up for critical elections. – Financial Times

A delay by Turkey in ratifying Nato membership bids from Finland and Sweden would harm security in the Baltic region at a time of heightened Russian aggression, the Finnish foreign minister has said. – Financial Times

Editorial: We recently met with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, who objected to Mr. Erdogan’s practice of jailing those who speak out against him. “We cannot talk about democracy if the country puts their journalists in jail,” he told us. “Nobody should be in prison because of what they think.” Nor can you build a thriving nation by locking up its most outspoken voices. The new law marks another backward step for Turkey. – Washington Post


U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein will be in Beirut next week carrying a copy of the maritime agreement with Israel for Lebanese officials to sign, Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

The agreement on a maritime border with Lebanon satisfies Israel’s security requirements and leaves the military with room to operate, the army’s representative to the negotiations told the Knesset on Wednesday. – Haaretz

Omer Dostri writes: In the bottom line, Israel did not achieve any political or diplomatic breakthrough in the agreement, nor economic achievements or improvement in its security situation. On the contrary, it further worsened its geo-strategic, political and security situation in the region. – Jerusalem Post

Saudi Arabia

President Biden expanded his efforts on Wednesday to blunt the pain of rising gas prices and reduce America’s exposure to global energy markets, which have become more volatile because of provocative actions by Russia and Saudi Arabia. – New York Times

Iran and Saudi Arabia must reopen their embassies to facilitate a rapprochement between the two regional rivals, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said on Wednesday, amid moves by Tehran and Riyadh to revive ties. – Reuters

Saudi-owned MBC Group, the Middle East’s largest broadcaster, said on Wednesday it had signed a five-year partnership with two Turkish production houses, signalling an end to an unofficial boycott imposed on Turkey by Saudi Arabia as the two countries work to improve ties. – Reuters

Karen Elliott House writes: With the world already on the verge of recession, a big price spike caused by disruption of Saudi oil could precipitate a prolonged and deep global turndown. And the crown prince, whose ambitious and expensive Vision 2030 reforms are driving him to keep oil revenue high, could face his own economic depression with all the disappointment that would heap on his restless and demanding young citizens. History would seem to teach both President Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed to reflect on the consequences of their policies way beyond November’s election. – Wall Street Journal

Brent Budowsky writes: The smart business move for Saudi leaders is to act like allies and friends of the U.S. and oil consumers around the world, not as economic enemies. The best future for Saudi Arabia, its royal family and people, is to tap the unparalleled expertise of the U.S. and other nations. – The Hill

Jacob Olidort and Sam Buchan write: This Biden First approach explains why Saudi Arabia and Israel, which now face escalating threats from Iran-backed Hamas, are expendable as the Biden administration seeks its nuclear deal. It is also why confronting China is a worthwhile sacrifice in the name of achieving the Biden administration’s green energy priorities. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

Qatar is in advanced talks to buy around $2.5 billion of state-held stakes in Egypt’s biggest mobile network operator and other companies, as the North African nation lines up funding to cope with the economic fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg

OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production will hurt the global economy and add to inflationary pressures, a senior US official said during a visit to the Middle East. – Bloomberg

On Wednesday during the International Summit on Food Technologies from the Sea and the Desert taking place in Eilat, the agriculture ministers of Israel and Bahrain signed a first-of-its-kind agreement of cooperation in the field of agriculture. – Jerusalem Post

A version of the Israeli-made Barak air defense system has been deployed to the United Arab Emirates, defense sources here told Breaking Defense, the first of what they expect to be a substantial contract for more systems. – Breaking Defense

Michael Knights writes: The answer for U.S. policymakers is to reactivate a strengthened version of the 2018-2019 “rules of the road,” whereby Iraq was on probation and watched very closely by Washington and other powerful members of the Global Coalition to defeat the Islamic State—a grouping that still functions as a kind of “friends of Iraq” framework. These nations must recognize that their relationship with Baghdad may soon change fundamentally for the worse unless the Sudani government meets a set of measurable markers for reducing militia influence and state-destroying corruption. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Washington and Seoul said the weapons system was crucial in their defense against North Korean aggression. China argued that the United States was using North Korea as an excuse to expand its military presence in the region and make implicit threats toward its most formidable competitor. – New York Times

An investigation by the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is raising fresh questions about the death of a South Korean official in 2020, which the previous administration wrote off as a failed defection attempt. – Reuters

South Korean and American troops practiced building floating bridges to ferry tanks and other armoured vehicles across rivers on Wednesday, part of a larger joint military exercise that has angered North Korea. – Reuters

Poland signed an agreement on Wednesday to buy 288 artillery rocket launchers in its latest arms deal with South Korea, following shipments of tanks and howitzers, as it ramps up weapons imports after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

Donald Trump acknowledged in 2019 that letters he wrote to Kim Jong-un and later took with him upon leaving the White House were secret, according to recordings of an interview he gave to journalist Bob Woodward that call into question the credibility of one of Trump’s main defenses in the investigation into his unauthorized retention of government files. – The Guardian

Sung-Yoon Lee writes: The U.S. has options. It can cut its losses and, through arms control talks with Pyongyang, sign a peace treaty and abandon South Korea the way it did South Vietnam in 1973. It can also turn a blind eye if South Korea, nearing abandonment, opts to cross the nuclear Rubicon. The worst of the worst may be to believe it is ready to fight a nuclear war, only to change its mind at the last minute as North Korea prepares to nuke a major U.S. city. Of these options, bringing tactical nukes back to South Korea is for the best in the worst of all possible alternative worlds. – The Hill


China’s People’s Liberation Army must “prepare for war” in order to ensure the communist regime’s various interests, a top military official emphasized, as Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping charts the next five years of Beijing’s policies. – Washington Examiner

China’s top technology overseer convened a series of emergency meetings over the past week with leading semiconductor companies, seeking to assess the damage from the Biden administration’s sweeping chip restrictions and pledging support for the critical sector. – Bloomberg

President Xi Jinping has accumulated so many titles he’s been called the Chairman of Everything. But one gaining traction among Communist Party elites is raising concerns of a Mao Zedong-style personality cult. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Beijing typically blames the U.S. for orchestrating a bloc against China, but Pacific nations that favor stability and democracy don’t need convincing. Mr. Xi’s actions are building the coalition to deter China. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The U.S. military is underfunded, underequipped, and underprepared to fight and win a war against China. The Pentagon needs more money and bolder leadership. The Defense Department, President Joe Biden, and Congress need a far greater sense of urgency. If they don’t acquire that, and fast, the U.S. may soon lose a war that defines the future of freedom and prosperity in the 21st century. – Washington Examiner

Katherine Wilhelm writes: When we insist on using Xi’s state title while ignoring his party title, we participate in a charade that pretends important decisions in China are made by the apparatus of the state, instead of by the party. In China’s own media, Xi is almost always identified as the party general secretary. Let’s follow their example and ditch the word “president.” – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: Taiwan is the issue that most concerns many Western analysts. They will hardly be reassured that Xi got loud applause when, after saying he wanted peaceful reunification, that “we will never promise to renounce the use of force, and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.” He blamed “interference by outside forces” (meaning the United States) and a “few separatists seeking ‘Taiwan independence,’ ” for any troubles. – Washington Post

Jessica Chen Weiss writes: It is critical to resist fatalism and maintain a healthy dose of skepticism against dire assessments that could become self-fulfilling. If a peaceful — if competitive — coexistence is the ultimate objective, Washington and Beijing do not need to knock each other out to win. – New York Times

Glenn Nye writes: We clearly have the “pacing threat” in China — a country that is rapidly advancing its position in space and seeking to supplant American leadership at every turn. With this urgent challenge upon us, the environment demands that we get it right, and right now. – The Hill

Shuli Ren writes: What this means is that while in office, mid-level bureaucrats are prone to quiet quitting. Xi’s signature decade-long anti-graft campaign, which increasingly punishes cadres for laxity, will have to rage on. At 69, Xi may feel he is still young and can stay in office for longer. He should do the same for others. It’s too early to retire at 60. – Bloomberg

Edward Luce writes: The US has endorsed a zero-sum metric in which China’s rise is seen as being at America’s expense. You could say that Biden is belatedly reacting to what China has been talking about for years — with increasing unsubtlety by Xi. But that is hardly reassuring. It means that the world’s hegemon and its only serious rival now see each other through the same lens. As is usually the case in history, nobody else gets much of a say. – Financial Times

Bonny Lin, Brian Hart, Matthew P. Funaiole and Samantha Lu write: The report does not give any indication that Xi intends to alter course in the face of considerable pushback from abroad. Instead, it blames China’s woes on external efforts to contain and undermine China. The report’s dire warnings and prioritization of national security suggest that Xi is trying to prepare the party and the people to batten down the hatches and trust in his leadership as he steers China through what he describes as “high winds, choppy waters, and dangerous storms.” – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

After Sri Lankan protesters booted out former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this year, his allies are now looking to water down their demands to curb the powers of the island nation’s presidency. – Bloomberg

India’s Congress party elected its first leader from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family in over two decades, but the move is unlikely to help the already decimated party pose a challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 general election. – Bloomberg

India on Wednesday issued an advisory asking all its citizens to avoid travelling to Ukraine, citing the ‘deteriorating security situation’ in the country. – Reuters

India plans to pitch for a global alliance on biofuels among members of the group of 20 major economies, oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday, as the world’s third biggest oil consumer bids to boost use of cleaner fuels. – Reuters

India said on Wednesday it will examine a proposal by Western nations to impose a price cap on Russian oil purchases, even as some local refiners have lined up Russian cargoes for delivery post Dec. 5, when the cap is set to take effect. – Reuters

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terrorism financing watchdog, starts a two-day meeting in Paris on Thursday and is expected to take up removal of Pakistan from a list of countries under “increased monitoring”. – 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


China is an “important trading partner” for Australia and will remain so in the face of headwinds ranging from Covid lockdowns to supply-chain disruptions, a senior government official said Wednesday. – Bloomberg

The U.S. government is considering a plan to jointly produce weapons with Taiwan, a business lobby said on Wednesday, an initiative intended to speed up arms transfers to bolster Taipei’s deterrence against China. – Reuters

Kyrgyzstan has asked a Russia-led security bloc to deploy peacekeeping troops at its disputed border with Tajikistan to ensure a ceasefire holds between the two ex-Soviet Central Asian countries, a senior Kyrgyz official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Malaysia deported 150 Myanmar nationals this month, including former navy officers seeking asylum, and plans to send back more despite the risk of arrest they face at home, four sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

Australia and Fiji have signed an agreement to allow the operation of each nation’s militaries in the other country, with ministers describing it as a significant step for security cooperation. – Reuters

The U.S. Navy has adopted a “fight tonight” mentality as both China and Russia grow more aggressive, the chief of naval operations said, meaning the service must become more ready and more lethal for a near-term conflict. – Defense News

Charles J. Sullivan writes: But perhaps most importantly, Central Asia’s leaders must worry that if Putin’s hold on power begins to waver or Russia’s economy sinks into a deeper recession, then an unparalleled wave of instability — rooted in Moscow’s inability to manage regional security challenges and fueled by enhanced hegemonic rivalries — could wash across the wider region. In this sense, the Central Asian republics have reason to be worried about a future, weakened Russia. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Germany and France on Wednesday postponed a meeting planned for next week between their governments as Berlin said that “more time” was necessary to find common ground on a slew of issues. – Agence France-Presse

The EU’s proposals to rein in soaring energy prices are too “timid” and could lead to a “breakdown in confidence” in European institutions, Spain’s Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said Wednesday during an interview with AFP on the eve of an EU leaders summit. – Agence France-Presse

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi told lawmakers that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin into an endless war, according to audio obtained by an Italian newswire, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. – Bloomberg

The face of Vladimir Putin daubed onto a building on the corner of a street in Belgrade has the eyes and mouth covered in red paint, perhaps a surprising sight in a country that’s pro-Moscow. But the friendship between Serbia and Russia is an increasingly awkward one. – Bloomberg

Giorgia Meloni has vowed Italy will never be “the weak link” in the western alliance against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, after her prospective government coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi was recorded blaming Kyiv for the war. – Financial Times

Moldova’s Defence Minister Anatolie Nosatîi has said that the country aims to buy new air defense systems following recent airspace violations by the Russian military. – Defense News

Editorial: Truss should’ve seen the need for such judicious steps from the start. Instead, she has crippled herself as prime minister, perhaps irreversibly. In these circumstances, she needs to help her new finance minister — not just by backing his proposals, but by letting him take charge. – Bloomberg

Editorial: A new front is opening up in the conflict between Brussels and the EU’s awkward squad over the rule of law and democratic governance. Future payments to Poland from the bloc’s “cohesion fund” — worth up to €76.5bn in the current seven-year EU budget period — have been put at risk by its government’s relentless undermining of its court system. – Financial Times

Tom Rogan writes: Still, the primary architect of this malaise appears to be Truss herself. Although popular with party members for her unapologetic right-wing credentials, Truss lacks easy charisma in television interviews and behind-the-scenes parliamentary dealings. This weighs Truss with a negative contrast to the rambunctious charisma of her predecessor Boris Johnson and the stoic appeal of his predecessor Theresa May. – Washington Examiner


Madagascar’s president has fired his foreign affairs minister for voting at the United Nations to condemn Russian-organised referendums to annex four partially-occupied regions in Ukraine, two sources at the president’s office said. – Reuters

The World Health Organization chief said Wednesday time was running out to avoid “genocide” in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray, as Human Rights Watch called for sanctions against Addis Ababa to avert civilian deaths. – Agence France-Presse

A U.N. official is urging tech companies to do everything possible to stop the onslaught of hate speech fueling the war in Ethiopia’s north, where a violent war pits federal troops and their allies against Tigray’s rebellious leaders. – Associated Press

The United Nations (UN) announced on Tuesday that it needed $2 billion to fully address the growing humanitarian crisis in Somalia, which it claimed faced its most significant famine in fifty years amid crop failures and rising global grain prices. – The National Interest

The Americas

The United Nations is expected to vote this week on sanctions against a powerful gang leader in Haiti who has blocked supplies of food, fuel and drinking water as the impoverished Caribbean country struggles with a cholera outbreak. – Wall Street Journal

The special master appointed to review the documents former President Trump stored at his Florida home expressed hesitation during a Tuesday conference that they should be shielded from Justice Department investigators. – The Hill

Canada imposed sanctions on six individuals and four entities on Wednesday that it said were among the worst offenders that have participated in or enabled “gross human rights violations” in Iran. – Reuters

Editorial: As long as the Durham proceedings persisted, Trump allies could predict that an anti-Trump deep-state conspiracy would soon be revealed, no matter how unfounded the accusations. The only good news is that, however many others have proved Mr. Trump wrong, now so has the very man he said would prove him right. – Washington Post

Latin America

Less than two weeks ahead of Brazil’s presidential election, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and his leftist rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are battling to portray themselves as closest to one particularly influential figure: God. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged five Russian nationals and two traders for Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela for sanctions evasion and other charges over a scheme to ship Venezuelan oil to Russian and Chinese buyers. – Reuters

The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday sanctioned individuals linked to Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, days after bilateral security talks aimed at cracking down on trafficking of fentanyl and other contraband. – Reuters

United States senators said on Wednesday they are skeptical of a potential easing of sanctions on Venezuela, amid meetings in Washington between the Biden administration and Venezuelan opposition leaders. – Reuters

Venezuela’s top court has ruled to give the U.S. government 60 days to request the extradition of fugitive Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, also known by his alias “Fat Leonard,” who is implicated in a U.S. Navy bribery case. – Reuters

The U.S. government is likely to increase the number of Venezuelans to which it grants humanitarian access under a recent migrant accord, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Cuba on Wednesday said the decades-old U.S. trade embargo has been causing record financial losses and untold human suffering in recent months, at a time when Cuba was also battling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ian. – Reuters


A Russian lawmaker on Wednesday urged state institutions to stop using WhatsApp messenger and the industry ministry sought to promote domestically produced software as Russia tries to wean itself off Western technology. – Reuters

Australia’s biggest health insurer said on Thursday a criminal had apparently stolen customers’ medical information as part of a massive breach of data, fuelling concern about a wave of high-profile cyber attacks. – Reuters

UK internet regulator Ofcom has criticized how platforms including Snap Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch deal with protecting users. – Bloomberg

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the US has observed growing cybersecurity threats both at home and throughout Asia, and is warning against activity coming from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. – Bloomberg

Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried has outlined a framework for limiting the impact of the hacks and exploits plaguing the industry, including capping the maximum bounty for attackers at $5 million. – Bloomberg

Rapidly and proactively sharing intelligence on cyberthreats with industry and critical infrastructure providers “can really make a big and decisive difference,” Rob Joyce, director of the NSA Cybersecurity Directorate, said Wednesday. – CyberScoop

Daniel Lyons writes: Three conservative justices have suggested that lower courts may be interpreting Section 230 more broadly than the text may bear—a sentiment with which I agree, at least in part . And the Facebook whistleblower’s allegations cast an unfavorable light on algorithmic recommendations, as evidenced by the numerous pending bills to regulate the practice. […]Section 230 has generated a lot of heat and light over the past few years. But I fear the court’s Gonzalez v. Google decision may spark a full-blown conflagration in internet law. – Washington Examiner


An Air Force F-35 crashed at the end of a runway near Salt Lake City, Utah, officials said on Wednesday. The F-35 crashed at Hill Air Force Base at the north end of the runway, the 388th Fighter Wing said in a tweet. – Fox News

The United States Marine Corps has recently completed a series of interception tests on an air defense system using Israel’s Tamir Interceptor as they consider adopting the Israeli military tech, according to Israel’s Ministry of Defense. – Jerusalem Post

Following an extraordinary NATO summit on February 24, the alliance decided to set up four new battlegroups in southeastern Europe. The four battlegroups, which are still being assembled, will be based in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. – Business Insider

The U.S. Space Force may seek to deepen partnerships with private companies by establishing a fleet of commercial spacecraft that could be on standby for military use, much like the Civil Reserve Air Fleet. – Defense News

Maiya Clark writes: Competition in the defense industry can lead to better products delivered faster and at lower prices. However, promoting or artificially creating competition—whether through blocking mergers, imposing small business requirements, or competing contracts—costs time and money. Policies regulating competition in defense contracting should be evaluated on the degree to which they make the defense industrial base stronger. – Heritage Foundation

Long War

Saudi authorities released a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas after over three years in detention, an official of the Islamist faction said. – Reuters

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad met a delegation from Hamas on Wednesday, with the Sunni Palestinian Islamist faction saying the meeting could help “turn the page” after shunning Damascus for a decade. – Reuters

Benedetta Argentieri, the director of the documentary The Matchmaker, about a young European woman who joined ISIS in Syria and recruited dozens of other women, which just had its Israeli premiere at the 38th Haifa International Film Festival, is slender and softspoken, but she is one of the toughest women you are ever likely to meet. – Jerusalem Post

Haiyun Ma writes: Notably, Beijing has not responded directly to this threat and its previous terrorist acts against the Chinese in Central and South Asia or Africa through military means […]Going forward, the China dream seems to be challenged not only by Western powers but also by the Islamic State in Afghanistan and elsewhere. – Foreign Policy