Fdd's overnight brief

October 22, 2021

In The News


The next few weeks will be “decisive” in determining whether the United States and Iran can return to indirect negotiations and resume efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between them, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday. – Washington Post

Iran on Thursday awarded a prestigious prize in the study of science and technology to two physicists based in the United States. – Associated Press

But seven months after the launch of the first clinical trials of Fakhra, the production of the vaccine is being discontinued due to what an official this week said was a lack of demand. The move is the latest setback to Iran’s domestic vaccine program, which has been met with widespread mistrust and marred by delays and allegations of corruption. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Mohammed Alsulami writes: Given Iran’s motives for pursuing talks and the reality of the Saudi-Iranian dialogue, is Tehran willing to take true measures, rather than empty steps, to rebuild confidence with Riyadh? […]To make real progress, Iran must first renounce its support for non-state actors operating from under its cloak and choose to genuinely work to reduce the tensions it is contributing toward across the region. – Middle East Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has agreed to more cooperation with Russia, according to Iranian media reports. This is important because there has already been one joint naval drill with Russia and China; now, there could be more. […] It remains to be seen if the recent discussions in Moscow will lead to major deals. Iran doesn’t have a lot of cash, and Russia, which is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, is busy trying to integrate a new defense plan with Belarus and also confront NATO. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Knights writes: In Militia Spotlight’s view, the muqawama remains more likely to threaten anti-air attacks than undertake them, in order to deter or complicate coalition assistance to Iraq. This was our assessment in July, when previous anti-air threats were aired by the Saraya Awliya al-Dam (SAD) facade group. The muqawama still seems hesitant to maximize the lethality of its attacks, and an anti-air attack on a manned platform would be exceedingly provocative. – Washington Institute

Michael Knights, Crispin Smith and Hamdi Malik write: This article lays out the project’s first eight months of findings, drawn from an open-source intelligence effort that fuses intense scrutiny of militia messaging applications with in-depth interviews of relevant officials. The key finding is that while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force still runs Iran’s covert operations inside Iraq, they face growing difficulties in controlling local militant cells. – Washington Institute

Eli Lake writes: These defenses apparently worked this week in Tanf. No U.S. personnel were killed or injured in the attack. For now, the U.S. can defend against Iran’s drones. But at the same time, the attack shows how U.S. efforts to restrict the proliferation of drone technology have failed. In the Middle East, both sides are using the same kind of drone technology the U.S. had once hoped to keep for itself. – Bloomberg


The Taliban imposed further restrictions on female city government employees in Afghanistan’s capital on Thursday, barring many from returning to work next week in a sign that the group will continue to restrict women’s rights despite two decades of freedoms under the previous government. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden had been right to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a move that allowed the Taliban to seize power in a lightning offensive in August. – Reuters

The United Nations launched a large-scale coronavirus vaccination effort in Afghanistan last week after receiving approval from the Taliban. UNICEF spokesperson Sabrina Sidhu confirmed to The Washington Post that COVID-19 vaccinations had begun in southern Afghanistan across 14 provinces. – The Hill

A group of Afghan women urged the United Nations to block the Taliban from gaining a seat at the world body, calling for better representation for their country during a visit to the organisation’s New York headquarters on Thursday. – Reuters

Two months after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, one of the country’s once-prominent female leaders — a former parliament member, candidate for president and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize — is visiting the United Nations, not as a representative of her government but as a woman in exile. – Associated Press


The Syrian government has executed 24 people and sentenced 11 others to life in prison with hard labor for lighting wildfires that burned across the country’s northwest last year, the Syrian justice ministry announced in a statement on Facebook on Thursday. – New York Times

The Syrian government is siphoning off millions of dollars of foreign aid by forcing UN agencies to use a lower exchange rate, according to new research. – The Guardian

Over the years, and especially in the current year, there have been increasing hostilities by pro-Assad militias, both Syrian and foreign, against the U.S. troops in Syria and against the forces allied with them. Sporadic confrontations between Syrian villagers and U.S. patrols soon escalated into rocket and mortar fire, and later to drone attacks, on bases housing American troops. – Middle East Media Research Institute


A global anti-money laundering body added Turkey to its so-called “gray” monitoring list of jurisdictions deemed incapable of tackling money laundering, a designation that could potentially deter investors. – Bloomberg

Turkey’s central bank shocked markets again by slashing its policy rate by 200 basis points to 16% on Thursday, sending the lira to a new all-time low and delivering the easing demanded by President Tayyip Erdogan despite rising inflation. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Erdoğan and the state media he controls might downplay the FATF ruling, but there is no hiding the fact that not only will Turkey fall short of its investment expectations, but that it is also one step closer to being held accountable by other international and diplomatic groupings for its behavior. Perhaps it is time for Erdoğan to realize the world is no longer frightened of his outbursts; they instead pity the Turks who must put up with him. – 19fortyfive


Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a seizure order against a Lebanon-based company after it allegedly provided Hezbollah with equipment for the group’s precision-guided missile project. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived Friday for a lightning visit to Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks expected to focus on Iran and Syria. – Times of Israel

Israel is considering the construction of a new onshore pipeline to Egypt in order to quickly boost natural gas exports to its neighbour in the wake of the recent tightening of global supplies, the Israeli energy ministry said. – Reuters

Israel will next week advance the construction of more than 3,000 settlement homes and some 1,300 Palestinian homes in the West Bank’s Area C, according to a weekly schedule published by the Civil Administration’s planning committee. – Times of Isreal

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata reportedly visited France in recent days in an attempt to defuse a crisis involving the suspected use of Israeli spyware developed by NSO Group to hack the phones of French President Emmanuel Macron and other senior French officials. – Times of Israel


The leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces party denied on Thursday his group has fighters, dismissing accusations by Hezbollah that it has a militia and seeks civil war as the fallout of deadly violence in Beirut continues to roil Lebanon. – Reuters

The U.S. mediator for indirect talks on border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel said on Thursday that the negotiations he was hoping to revive should be concluded in a short period if they were to succeed. – Reuters

Adeel Malik and Jamal Ibrahim Haidar write: But despite international funding, Lebanon’s governing elites fail to deliver the promised reform. […]But foreign countries favor particular Lebanese politicians and factions, and don’t want to cut off their allies and reduce their own influence. As a result, when Lebanon’s foreign stakeholders promise to support reform, they have no more credibility than Lebanese politicians do. – Washington Post

Danielle Pletka writes: Beirut is dominated by a rotating coalition of crooks and terrorists, with the government of Iran ultimately calling the shots. Each time you think it’s hit rock bottom, there’s another disaster to plumb the depths. And no, it’s not the port explosion of August 2020—one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history—that destroyed a large chunk of Beirut and killed more than 200, mostly Christian, Lebanese. It’s the search for justice in that apocalyptic event that appears to be Lebanon’s final straw, the road to yet another civil war. And worse. – The Dispatch

Gulf States

Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud discussed the Iran nuclear talks with the European Union envoy coordinating talks on reviving the Iran nuclear deal, Enrique Mora, the Saudi Foreign ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

Economies in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council will grow faster next year than previously thought, according to a Reuters poll of economists who warned a decline in oil and gas prices was the biggest risk to their outlook. – Reuters

The top American climate negotiator is visiting Saudi Arabia as the kingdom spotlights its renewable energy plans and the U.S. tries to coax more nations to put greater curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A robot artist made it to an exhibit at Egypt’s pyramids after its British maker said airport security held his creation for 10 days on suspicion it could be part of an espionage plot. The release came in time for the android, which goes by the name Ai-Da, to showcase its work alongside that of human artists at a show opening Thursday at the pyramids of Giza. – Washington Post

Libya’s prime minister and several foreign powers on Thursday endorsed the holding of a national election on Dec. 24 as envisaged in a U.N.-backed peace plan aimed at resolving years of turmoil and division. – Reuters

In an article titled “When Rached Ghannouchi Called For War Against The U.S.,” published October 17, 2021 in the Tunisian media outlet Kapitalis, Tunisian journalist Imed Bahri called Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Islamist party Ennahdha, a “champion of doublespeak.” He wrote that while with his followers Ghannouchi calls for the destruction of the U.S., he then speaks of the importance of “democracy” with U.S. officials. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Tunisia’s foreign minister told the United States on Wednesday that President Kais Saied would take more steps to reassure its international partners after he seized near total control of the country in July. – Reuters

In an interview with Yuri Sokolov for Gazeta.Ru, Leonid Slutsky, a member of the Duma International Affairs Committee pushed back on commentary that was rife following the hurried US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then there were predictions that Afghanistan would be followed by a US withdrawal from Iraq and Syria. Not so fast argues Slutsky, the US will remain in the Middle East, and American actions count more than statements. – Middle East Media Research Institute

In a September 17, 2021 article on the Moroccan online daily Hespress.com, Dr. Zouhair Louassini, a Moroccan political analyst who resides in Italy, wrote that Morocco’s August 9 parliamentary elections, in which the MB-affiliated Justice and Development party was ousted from power, exposed the true and permanent rules of the political game in the kingdom. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Omar Christidis writes: Governments should also harmonize regulations to allow companies to scale rapidly across the region. In doing so, they will enable the growth of regional champions, especially in fast-moving technology sectors, and the creation of high-value tech jobs. Otherwise building and growing a billion-dollar tech enterprise will entail setting up a new company in every MENA market, a daunting task that would make regional players uncompetitive on a global scale. – Middle East Institute

Nir Netzer writes: Despite all the advancements, the FinTech ecosystem in the Middle East still faces obstacles limiting its growth. While the ecosystem is developing rapidly in terms of tech-focused solutions, it needs additional financing from overseas to boost its impact. In addition, while many banks in the Middle East are engaging with FinTechs in exploratory projects and intense discussions, so far there have been few strategic partnerships. – Middle East Institute

Sherif Kamel writes: MENA countries have an opportune moment to leverage the power and reach of digitalization and positively impact their economic development while expanding access to basic needs, including several sustainable development goals such as efficient government services, financial inclusion, and job creation. Digital transformation can make a significant difference in MENA. However, it should be supported by digital infrastructure, skilled human capital, and the proper legal, regulatory, investment, governance, educational, security, and other enabling environments. – Middle East Institute

Mohammad Abo-Hilal writes: For people in the Middle East, war is the norm. No one in the region has witnessed a life without war. Maybe it is the curse of the Middle East’s geopolitical importance. Yet, there is still always something new. Years ago, there were somewhat clear lines between which parties were involved in a war or conflict, and people tended to have a clear vision around which group they belonged to, who their opponent was, and where the neutral zone lay. More recently, however, we no longer even have that simple privilege of clear vision. – Middle East Institute

Lina AbiRafeh writes: To ensure meaningful progress in the Arab region, we must all focus on fully funding frontline women’s groups and providing them with the tools and resources they need to do the work they have always been doing. The region must move toward feminist leadership at all levels as it is time to challenge and change existing power structures if we want the region to succeed. There’s evidence for this: When women lead, we all benefit. It is the only hope the Arab region has. – Middle East Institute

Noha El-Mikawy writes: No one should deny the primacy of security concerns in the Middle East given the number of conflicts, of displaced people and refugees, and of implicated regional and international powers. What should inform future strategies and action plans, however, is the equal importance of maximization of well-being, liberty, and dignity for all. […]They are fundamentals for trust and — ultimately — stability in the region. The shift toward more focus on those fundamentals will be hindered in the next five years by a growth-centered international consensus and a persistent governance decline in most national institutions. – Middle East Institute

Filippo Grandi writes: Of these displaced, some 12 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and over 3 million refugees and asylum seekers, in addition to some 365,000 stateless persons, are living in the Middle East. In addition, next door in Turkey, over 3.6 million refugees from Syria, Iraq, and other nationalities make up the largest refugee population hosted by any one country in the world. They have been dealt the misfortune to be caught up in large-scale conflict, often treated merely as pawns in domestic, regional, and global quests for control. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korea launched its first homegrown rocket into space, harnessing a technology few countries possess and which can be used to expand Seoul’s military satellite surveillance of North Korea. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Victor Cha write: A pressing question on the minds of many North Korea analysts and watchers is why North Korea has not yet launched its much anticipated first true SSB. As noted in our previous assessment, North Korea maintains the capability to undertake this launch, as well as future SLBM tests, on short notice should Kim Jong-un decide to do so. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Mark Episkopos writes: The North’s ongoing weapons tests are accompanied by a steady stream of bellicose rhetoric. In remarks delivered at the country’s Self-Defense 2021 exhibition earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un decried Seoul’s “illogical” and “gangster-like” attitudes, insisting that the DPRK will respond forcefully to the South’s intent to “harm” North-Korea’s right to self-defense. – The National Interest


Chinese President Xi Jinping sealed himself behind some of the world’s tightest border controls when Covid-19 hit, and even as his international image sags he isn’t expected to resume his globe-trotting diplomacy soon. As many other heads of state have stepped out of their protective bubbles and begun hitting the road, China’s president has limited his interaction with foreign counterparts to videolink and telephone. – Wall Street Journal

The National Basketball Association is facing a new eruption of anger in China over a tweet. Two years after the NBA saw one of its teams wiped off China’s official broadcast channels after its general manager voiced support for Hong Kong protesters, the U.S. basketball league is now facing nationalist umbrage in China over a player’s comments on Tibet. – Wall Street Journal

The world’s most indebted real estate developer, China Evergrande Group, has avoided default — at least for now — after making a key interest payment at the 11th hour. The Chinese property developer’s cash crisis has sparked fears about global financial fallout from its imminent collapse. – Washington Post

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has sent an implicit warning to Beijing by claiming to recruit ethnic minorities for recent attacks in neighboring Afghanistan at a time when separatists are increasingly looking to a more influential China as a target in the region. – Newsweek

China’s top financial regulator said he expects to achieve significant progress in the ongoing crackdown on fintech firms before the year-end, reinforcing speculation that Beijing’s campaign to rein in its tech giants may be receding. – Bloomberg

Although the pipelines, roads, and grand infrastructure projects of China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have garnered the most attention as part of Beijing’s efforts to expand its economic and political influence around the world, a new book focuses on the growing digital side of that venture that could shape the economies of the future. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Dozens of countries kept up pressure on China at the United Nations on Thursday over accusations of rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the country’s Xinjiang region, sparking an angry response from China’s U.N. envoy. – Reuters

Leaders of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) say China is “ready to fight any time” over the question of Taiwan, making familiar yet increasingly aggressive comments in response to escalating tension and stepped-up military exercises and combat drills in the area. – The National Interest

White House officials are gearing up for a virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping they hope will show the world Washington can responsibly manage relations between the rival superpowers, people familiar with the matter say. – Reuters

Desmond Lachman writes: Past experience in many countries that have had smaller housing and credit market bubbles than that of today’s China suggests that those bubbles generally end in tears. They either lead to acute banking and financial market crises as occurred in the United States in 2008 and in Spain in 2010. Alternately, they usher in a prolonged period of sub-par economic growth as occurred in Japan in the 1990s. – 19fortyfive

Stephanie Segal, Matthew Reynolds and Brooke Roberts write: This final report presents a framework for assessing specific economic activities as candidates for targeted decoupling, along with findings from three illustrative case studies designed to test it: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and financial flows. The hope is that such a framework, which forces the identification of risks as well as U.S. objectives, can boost transparency and predictability, lessen regulatory uncertainty, and support engagement between the United States and China in areas that do not unacceptably compromise U.S. national security. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Two groups of Rohingya refugees clashed Friday in a camp in southern Bangladesh, leaving at least six refugees dead and 10 others injured, police said. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s foreign minister on Thursday said his country will keep its border with Afghanistan open around the clock to support bilateral trade and the new Taliban-led government. – Associated Press

India has been grappling with shortages of coal, used to produce about 70% of the nation’s electricity, since at least August, leading to curbs on power supply to some energy-hungry industries. A decision to enter the seaborne coal market, particularly at a time when global prices are surging, illustrates NTPC’s caution over the supply outlook. – Bloomberg

The U.K. and India will discuss trade, investments and climate change during foreign secretary Elizabeth Truss’ two-day visit to meet her Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. – Bloomberg


President Joe Biden said the U.S. was committed to defending Taiwan from a Chinese attack, in some of his strongest comments yet as the administration faces calls to clarify its stance on the democratically ruled island. Biden answered “yes” when asked during a CNN town hall Thursday whether he could pledge to protect Taiwan. – Bloomberg

Taiwan’s position remains the same, which is it will neither give in to pressure nor “rashly advance” when it gets support, the presidential office said on Friday, after U.S. President Joe Biden said the country would come to Taiwan’s defense if needed. – Reuters

Azerbaijan has released two Iranian truck drivers whose arrest last month on charges of illegally entering the country strained ties between the two neighbors. The release of the Iranian citizens on October 21 comes a week after Azerbaijan and Iran’s foreign ministers agreed to dial back heated rhetoric and engage in dialogue to defuse diplomatic crises. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Hu Xijin, the Editor-in-Chief of the state-owned Chinese newspaper The Global Times, said in a video that was uploaded to The Global Times Youtube channel on October 12, 2021 that although tensions between China and the United States around the issue of Taiwan are at an all-time high, the inevitability of war is an illusion. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Lee Edwards writes: These are the times that test a nation’s will. Taiwan President Tsai has often observed that there is no reason to declare Taiwan’s independence because it is already independent. Defending its prerogative to determine its own future free of Chinese coercion is in America’s national interest. And it is in keeping with our ideals as well. What we do will be noted closely by friends and allies as well as adversaries around the world. – Washington Times


Russia will seek sanctions relief on green investment projects for state-run energy giants such as Gazprom at next month’s COP26 climate summit, as it comes under growing pressure to join a commitment to slash methane emissions. – Bloomberg

Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has called his Sakharov Prize — the European Union’s top human rights honor — a “great responsibility” that sends a signal of support to anti-corruption crusaders around the globe. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Five Russian jets flew too close to Alaska, without entering U.S. or Canadian airspace, American military officials have said. The incident comes just after Russian warplanes escorted U.S. bombers over the Black Sea and amid continuing tensions between Moscow and NATO. – Newsweek

Imprisoned RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko has appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers to do more to free the more than 100 political prisoners detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over their activities in Crimea. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s trip to the Black Sea in support of allied cooperation and Russian deterrence came amid increasing Russian naval activity in the region. The United States has longstanding concerns about the security of key NATO partners bordering the Black Sea. – The National Interest

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Ukraine’s military development with Western support represents a genuine threat to Moscow. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

During his years in power, Russian President Vladimir Putin has long shown a vivid interest in history and history education. In particular, his concern about “the falsification of historical truth” resulted in the July 30, 2021 creation of the Interdepartmental Commission on History Education, a special body whose purpose is “ensuring a systematic and proactive approach to the issue of upholding the national interests of the Russian Federation in connection with the preservation of historical memory and the development of educational activity in the field of history. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Editorial: Mr. Putin has already suffocated much of the press and many of the nongovernmental organizations that blossomed during the Soviet twilight and the first years of a new Russia. It was widely hoped that Memorial and other groups, in concert with an emerging democracy and civil society, would prevent a return to Russia’s dark history, but today Mr. Putin celebrates the dark days and emulates their methods. – Washington Post

George Barros writes: The Kremlin advanced two key lines of effort to increase Russian influence globally at the 2021 Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) ministerial summit—leveraging international organizations and expanding Russian cyber capabilities and influence. The CICA is an inter-governmental forum of 27 Asian and Eurasian member states founded in 1992 to enhance cooperation and promote security and stability in Asia. – Institute for the Study of War


U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin headed into the first in-person meeting of NATO’s defense ministers since the start of the pandemic — and since the end of the Afghanistan war — with China on his mind. – Washington Post

A high-stakes legal battle between Poland and the European Union has escalated into a political crisis, with E.U. leaders threatening to withhold billions of euros from Warsaw, while debating how a bloc built on liberal values should confront democratic backsliding. – Washington Post

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described relations with Russia as hitting a new low following a fresh spat that saw Kremlin envoys to the alliance stripped of accreditation and NATO’s office in Moscow due to close. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Moldova is on track to unlock more European Union financing after securing preliminary approval for a $564 million loan from the International Monetary Fund as its recovering economy faces threats from surging energy prices and a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic. – Bloomberg

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said on Friday all European Union countries must act in solidarity to be able to handle the rising migratory pressure and help those in need. – Reuters

Belarus has been accused of taking revenge for EU sanctions by offering migrants tourist visas, and helping them across its border. The BBC has tracked one group trying to reach Germany. – BBC

Spain is set to stop receiving natural gas shipments through its main pipeline from November, accelerating the start of a potential energy supply crisis. Shippers have placed zero orders for capacity, a practice known as “nominations,” for November for the Maghreb-Europe pipeline, which delivers Algerian gas via Morocco, according to data published by gas network operator Enagas SA. – Bloomberg

NATO’s forthcoming plans to deter Russia includes “significant improvements to our air and missile defenses” as well as fifth-generation jets, alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday. – Defense News

Christine McDaniel writes: In other words, the EU is going to try to put a price on carbon, and exports from countries that are not doing the same thing will be subject to a purportedly equalizing tariff. What does this mean for U.S. exporters? Overall, not as much as you might think. – The Hill

John Authers writes: The last five years have brought their share of black swans for markets. In particular, there were the twin populist breakthroughs of 2016, with the victories for Brexit in the U.K. and President Donald Trump in the U.S., and then the pandemic of 2020. A repetition of these events would no longer count as a black swan. We have an idea what they would be like. But they would test markets. – Bloomberg

Dominik Istrate writes: Hungary’s first national primary elections have a winner. Péter Márki-Zay, 49, a small-town mayor and Catholic conservative will represent seven opposition parties. He has a real chance of removing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. […]Once their euphoria has subsided, the opposition (even assuming no last-minute changes to the country’s election law) face the formidable prospect of battling a deeply entrenched ruling party and a mostly avid pro-government media. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Thousands of people rallied in the streets of Sudan’s capital city Thursday, demanding a fully civilian government as the relationship between military generals and pro-democracy groups deteriorated over the country’s future. – Associated Press

A lack of access to vaccines is dampening economic recovery in sub-Saharan Africa and the region will lag behind developed nations for years, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo on Thursday emphasised the need for civil debate and tolerance as parliament works towards a vote on a controversial bill that would make it a crime to be gay, bisexual or transgender. – Reuters

Ethiopia carried out an air strike on the city of Mekelle for the third day this week, a government spokesperson said, in a campaign to weaken rebellious Tigrayan forces they have been fighting for nearly a year. – Reuters

Nigerian separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu pleaded not guilty to charges including terrorism in an Abuja court on Thursday, three months after his trial was delayed when authorities failed to produce him in court. – Reuters

Guled Ahmed writes: Erdoğan has exploited Somalia’s fragility to pursue his ambition of making Turkey an international power and furthering his “neo-Ottoman” aspirations. Erdoğan’s new empire is a thinly veiled feudal system that depends on militarism and economic exploitation for its survival. It is a threat to Somalia’s stability and prosperity, and if replicated elsewhere, it could destabilize other countries too. – Middle East Institute

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: And China’s struggles with technology transfer — it has dragged its feet even in publishing clinical trial data for vaccines — do not make it an ideal partner for manufacturing capacity. But as Eric Olander of the China Africa Project points out, China may still become a core provider of vaccines for the continent once it develops mRNA alternatives to Western shots, or easier-to-distribute nasal spray vaccines, both in progress. That’s a significant win, given China’s pharmaceutical ambitions. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The head of a Haitian gang holding 17 American and Canadian missionaries captive has threatened to kill them if a ransom isn’t paid, according to a video. “I swear that if I don’t get what I want, I prefer to kill the Americans. I’ll put a bullet in each of their heads,” said Wilson Joseph, believed by Haitian officials to be the head of the 400 Mawozo gang that carried out the brazen mass kidnapping of 16 Americans and one Canadian. – Wall Street Journal

Haiti was already struggling with weak governance before the killing. During the last two years of Mr. Moïse’s term, gangs were growing in power in much of the country, establishing de facto control of as much as one third of the country. […]The gangs are shaping up as the equivalent of Somali warlords, threatening to turn Haiti into a failed state that would affect neighboring countries and likely spur a wave of migration to the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

The gruesome massacre three years ago, considered the worst in Haiti in decades, was more than the work of rival gangs fighting over territory. It was organized by senior Haitian officials, who provided weapons and vehicles to gang members to punish people in a poor area protesting government corruption, the U.S. Treasury Department announced last year. – New York Times

A U.S. grand jury charged five people with money laundering in connection with an alleged graft scheme for $1.6 billion worth of contracts to provide food and medicine to Venezuela, the Justice Department said. – Bloomberg

A police superintendent in Jamaica told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities have arrested a Colombian man they believe is a suspect in the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. Officials were still making calls to different embassies and ministers of foreign affairs to confirm details, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay said. – Associated Press

Ben Cahill writes: Looking ahead, the United States and Canada are partnering on efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector as both countries pursue net-zero targets. […]Canadian hydroelectricity could help state governments meet their clean energy targets and could play an important role in helping to offset variable supply from wind and solar. But expanding electricity trade depends on building more transmission lines, and this has been challenging in recent years due to local opposition in New England. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Suppliers to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and China’s top chipmaker SMIC got billions of dollars worth of licenses from November through April to sell them goods and technology despite their being on a U.S. trade blacklist, documents released by Congress showed on Thursday. – Reuters

Huawei, the Chinese tech giant that is on a U.S. trade blacklist, paid veteran Democratic lobbyist and donor Tony Podesta $500,000 to lobby the White House during the third quarter. – CNBC

Tencent Holdings Ltd. has opened up content on its enclosed WeChat ecosystem to some search engines, taking another step to heed Beijing’s call for a more open internet. – Bloomberg

Following the release of the U.S. Army’s digital transformation strategy, the service’s chief information officer said one of his top priorities is to outline the budgeting process for the next two years to execute the new plan. – C4ISRNET


Rising global temperatures pose a growing risk to U.S. national security, as nations battle over who will pay for climate change’s costs, maneuver for advantage in a melting Arctic and grapple with effects such as drought and migration, a new U.S. intelligence report concluded. – Wall Street Journal

The US Army insists it needs a human-piloted Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopter to perform the armed reconnaissance mission despite experts telling Janes the service could perform the mission with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). – Jane’s 360

After losing an amphibious warship to a fire, the Navy will elevate the head of service safety to a two-star billet and create a new oversight board meant to improve fire safety throughout the fleet. – USNI News

Nadia Schadlow writes: Militaries exist primarily to defeat strategic actors. As the Biden administration develops its National Security Strategy, it must distinguish between thinking, adaptive adversaries and the problems posed by Covid-19 and climate change. Improving the Pentagon’s ability to deter or win wars against pacing threats will keep it busy enough. – Wall Street Journal

Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. writes: Current circumstances strongly support triad modernization. Likely shifts in the character of the strategic competition—both geopolitical and military technical—serve only to increase the value of proceeding. Indeed, given current trends it would, at the least, seem prudent to hedge against the prospect that some will quite likely play out. If so, the United States’ options for addressing such shifts in the threat environment would be greatly enhanced by maintaining a modern nuclear deterrent sustained by a healthy industrial base. – Hudson Institute

Long War

British prosecutors told a court in Westminster that a man charged with the killing of a member of Parliament had been planning similar attacks for years and that he had considered himself affiliated with the Islamic State. – Washington Post

The prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Rusesabagina, 67, a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame. A Rwandan court found him guilty of terrorism charges on Sept 20 after a trial that his supporters branded a sham, and proof of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents. – Reuters

Suspected Islamist militants killed 16 people and burned down houses late on Wednesday in a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a witness and a civil society leader said. – Reuters

Eric R. Mandel writes: An emergent and unpredictable Hamas military presence in Lebanon could destabilize the whole region. This is because Hamas may not feel as restrained to act in Lebanon as in Gaza, where it fills the role of being the de facto power. Palestinian Hamas knows it would not primarily bear the consequence of Israeli retaliation for its actions emanating from Lebanon. It does not take much imagination to understand that this could spiral out of control into a regional war — and possibly throw a wrench into America’s pivot toward China. – The Hill