Fdd's overnight brief

October 25, 2022

In The News


Iranian authorities announced charges against hundreds of people in Tehran in connection with the protests that have swept across the country, the first major legal action by authorities to suppress the unrest. – Wall Street Journal

Iran will not remain indifferent if it is proven that its drones are being used by Russia in the Ukraine war, the Iranian foreign minister said on Monday, amid allegations the Islamic Republic has supplied drones to Moscow to attack Ukraine. – Reuters

Iranian security forces fired tear gas near a girls’ school in Tehran on Monday, according to videos posted on social media, after a dispute between authorities and students over their mobile phones amid ongoing anti-government protests in Iran. – Reuters

Iran has arrested 10 agents working for Israel in west Azerbaijan province, Fars news agency reported. – Reuters

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that Iran was making the world less safe by supplying Russia with drones to be used against targets in Ukraine. – Reuters

Unmanned aerial vehicles are a pillar of the “wars of the future,” Iran’s Fars News Agency reported Monday. This is interesting because Iran is currently exporting drones to Russia and sending members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to help Russia use the drones, according to recent reports. – Jerusalem Post

A top Iranian general sanctioned by the European Union for allegedly supplying Russia with drones has mocked the bloc by telling it to “buy coal” for winter with his assets, media reported. – Agence France-Presse

Iran and Venezeula, both petroleum-rich OPEC members with international pariah status, have recently found solidarity in coordinated geopolitical, economic, and military maneuvers against shared common enemy the United States, which has subjected them to a regimen of economic sanctions for years. – Fox News

The hack-and-leak of emails and other materials this weekend related to Iran’s nuclear program was the result of “unauthorized access from a specific foreign country,” the Iranian government said Sunday. – CyberScoop

A new report sounds an alarm on Iran’s incipient strategic entrenchment in Russian-occupied Crimea, with a claim that Tehran is in effect using Ukraine as a staging ground to update its terrorist playbook in the Middle East. In a wide-ranging interview with Israel’s Walla News about emerging aerial threats, an Israeli brigadier general, Zvika Haimovich, said “the Iranians will turn Ukraine into a testing ground” and “will return differently from Ukraine to the Israeli battlefield. They are preparing for war.” – New York Sun

The government of Iran announced over the weekend that it would take legal action against the United States for U.S. officials’ support of the ongoing protest movement—a level of support that Tehran characterized as “direct involvement,” planning, and organization. – The National Interest

Emily Schrader writes: It’s time for FIFA to step up and support the players and the integrity of the game they claim to represent by banning the Islamic regime in Iran from participating. This would send three important messages: The first, to the regime that their oppression of athletes will not be tolerated; the second, to other international sporting bodies that they should follow suit; and the third, to the world that we stand with Iranian athletes who have faced the wrath of their own government for decades. – Jerusalem Post

Marie Abdi writes: Until Iranian officials are disabused of such perceptions, their obstinate attitude is likely to lead to more brutal crackdowns, while at the same time increasing the protesters’ distrust of the United States and decreasing their chances of bringing about fundamental change in their country. – Middle East Institute 

Mahmood Sariolghalam writes: Iran’s relations with the Arab world are the most unstable and turbulent in its entire foreign policy architecture. […]Nevertheless, the widespread protests in Iran that began in mid-September, following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in detention, have incited an overwhelming international reaction and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s global image and standing have never been so low. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Officials in Kyiv and several Western countries rejected claims made without evidence by the Kremlin that Ukraine is planning to use a “dirty bomb” — an explosive weapon designed to scatter radioactive material — on its own territory, characterizing them as an attempt by Russia to create a pretext for escalating the conflict. – Washington Post

Ukrainians will be the ones to “choose the moment and the terms” of peace in the war with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday. – Washington Post

Russia’s ongoing attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have been so methodical and destructive that Ukrainian and Western officials say they are being directed by electricity specialists who know exactly which targets will inflict maximum pain on Ukraine’s grid. – Washington Post

The confidant who vented to Russian President Vladimir Putin recently about his military’s handling of the war in Ukraine was Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the founder of a Russian mercenary group that is playing a critical role for Moscow on the battlefield in Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. – Washington Post

The first city to fall to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was in turmoil on Monday as its Moscow-appointed officials began fleeing across a river to safer territory, while Russian soldiers appeared to be digging in for a fight against advancing Ukrainian forces. – New York Times

Germany’s president arrived in Kyiv Tuesday for his first visit to Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, a trip that comes amid Moscow’s unsubstantiated warnings of a “dirty bomb” attack as the conflict enters its ninth month. – Associated Press

Russia intends to raise at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday its accusation that Ukraine is planning a “dirty bomb” attack and has urged U.N. chief Antonio Guterres to do all he can to “prevent this heinous crime from happening.” – Reuters

The U.N. nuclear watchdog is preparing to send inspectors in the coming days to two Ukrainian sites at Kyiv’s request, it said on Monday, in an apparent reaction to Russian claims that Ukraine could deploy a so-called dirty bomb, which Ukraine denies. – Reuters

There would be consequences for Russia whether it uses a so-called “dirty bomb” or any other nuclear weapon, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Monday that it had prepared its forces to work in conditions of radioactive contamination, after Moscow accused Ukraine of planning to detonate a “dirty bomb” – something Kyiv has strongly denied. – Reuters 

The United States has no indications that Russia has decided to employ a nuclear weapon, biological weapon or chemical weapon, a U.S. military official told reporters on Monday, despite U.S. concerns about false Russian warnings of a Ukrainian dirty bomb plot. – Reuters 

A group of liberal Democrats in the US Congress is pressing president Joe Biden to pursue direct talks with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, opening a new front of pressure on his Ukraine strategy as his administration tries to maintain domestic support for Kyiv. – Financial Times

A Ukrainian general has warned about the use of nuclear weapons by Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that Kyiv and the world “should be worried.” – Newsweek

Russian military units will soon be heading into battle with equipment provided by one of its few remaining allies: Iran. – Newsweek

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday tore into Israel over its stance toward his country and the Russian invasion, charging that Moscow would not have been collaborating militarily with Iran if Jerusalem had not decided against sending military aid to Kyiv. – Times of Israel

Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence arm, told a local newspaper that Moscow is only creating an “illusion” of a retreat by evacuating civilians from Kherson, a Ukrainian regional capital that Russia currently controls. – The Hill

Russian occupation officials in Kherson said they are forming “territorial defense units” as Ukrainian forces press on with a counteroffensive to recapture the key southern region. – The National Interest

Justin Sherman writes: The Putin regime is responsible for allowing a cybercriminal ecosystem to flourish. Prospects are dim for US and European diplomacy with Moscow on cyber issues, particularly in the domain of offensive operations. An effective response must begin with a nuanced grounding in the Kremlin’s spectrum of engagement with hackers. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Axel de Vernou writes: Putin is advocating for the construction of pipelines through Central Asia, including one that runs from Europe to Western China, while throwing his weight behind the EAEU. He is simultaneously pushing for energy cooperation with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Qatar to extend Russian influence over countries that could supply gas to Europe or through which a new pipeline could run. The United States has been hesitant to escalate energy sanctions, fearing the effect this would have on China and India, but doing so targets the roots of the Russian reserves that have sustained the war up to this point. – The National Interest


Leader of the Lions’ Den terrorist group and four other senior operatives were killed Tuesday morning in an Israeli Special Forces raid into the Nablus Kasbah old marketplace. – Jerusalem Post

President Isaac Herzog was set to depart for Washington on Monday night for a two-day visit that will see him meet US President Joe Biden, senior administration officials, Congress members and local Jewish community leaders. – Times of Israel

Israel is growingly concerned by the “dangerous closeness” between Russia and Iran over the supply of drones manufactured in the Islamic Republic to attack Ukraine and is, as a result, holding daily assessments to review its position on the conflict, Prime Minister Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Terrorists are a threat to the Palestinians themselves as well as to Israelis. Their aim is to spread fear and violence, not peace and stability. Militias such as the Lions’ Den must be dealt with before they incite more attacks and cause ever greater bloodshed. Its members gave themselves a name they hoped would project an image of strength and courage. It is only right to show their weakness – and that nothing is more cowardly than the sort of attacks they carry out. – Jerusalem Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has also increasingly used them against Israel. The opportunity for Jerusalem to help Kyiv regarding the drone threat, even if this is only an issue of sharing information, provides a best-of-both-worlds scenario for now, since Israel continues to be reluctant to ship military hardware to Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post

Neville Teller writes: Given the unjustifiable misery Putin has inflicted on Ukraine and its people, Israel would surely be justified in complying with its urgent request for assistance – and dealing with any consequences. – Jerusalem Post


Syria’s government has cancelled a planned visit this Wednesday to Damascus by a Lebanese delegation that was planning to discuss delineating the two countries shared maritime border, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Israeli missiles hit targets near the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday in a rare daytime attack, a Syrian military source said. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department has banned three high-ranking Syrian military officials from entering the United States for their allegedly involvement in air strikes in 2013 that used chemical weapons, killing at least 1,400 people, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia

An unwritten pact binding the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has survived 15 presidents and seven kings through an Arab oil embargo, two Persian Gulf wars and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now, it is fracturing under two leaders who don’t like or trust each other. – Wall Street Journal

Wall Street executives, European bankers and Asian business leaders are arriving here Tuesday for the Saudi kingdom’s flagship investment conference, in a sign that a diplomatic spat with the U.S. isn’t turning off global investors from a petrostate with a roaring economy and growing geopolitical power. – Wall Street Journal

Courtroom 30 in Washington’s district court might seem an unlikely venue for a diplomatic showdown between Saudi Arabia and the US. But for Hatice Cengiz it represents the last hope for justice following the brutal murder of her fiancee, the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. – The Guardian

Harley Lippman writes: While there will always be policy disagreements between nations, these disagreements must be handled diplomatically. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia should have never devolved into public bickering and partisan threats. With major challenges to world peace and prosperity, our elected officials must make the right decisions regarding our strategic relationships. We cannot travel down a dangerous path and alienate our allies. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Turkey has arrested and deported hundreds of Syrian refugee men and boys this year, detaining them arbitrarily and forcing them to return to northern Syria, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday. – Washington Post

Egyptian authorities announced Monday the release of a former parliamentarian and lawyer from prison, the latest in a series of high-profile detainees to walk free amid intensified international attention over its human rights record. – Associated Press

Egyptian-born Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, viewed for decades as one of the senior scholars of Sunni Islam, died on September 26 at the age of 96. According to a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Qaradawi’s story is a cautionary tale about how a radical Islamist can easily fool much of the West for an extended period of time by mixing in some reformist and modern-sounding views with his otherwise hateful rhetoric to obscure his darker side. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon’s parliament failed on Monday to elect a president for the fourth time, with just a week left until outgoing President Michel Aoun’s term ends and warnings of a constitutional crisis growing louder. – Reuters

Turkey’s finance minister has defended Ankara’s economic ties with Russia as “good neighbourly relations” even as western governments raise concerns that the country is serving as a backdoor for Moscow to evade sanctions. – Financial Times

Yaakov Lappin writes: Israel must be able to protect its waters if it is to protect its basic ability to function. As Israel’s enemies conduct an arms race to attack the country’s sea assets, the Israeli Navy has fashioned an entire new strategy to counteract the threat and stay a step ahead. – Algemeiner

Omar Abu Layla writes: In short, the United States should not stop at an expression of passing sympathy for this area—there are humanitarian duties these allies should provide to al-Shaitat and its people by giving them justice for the brutal massacre they have suffered. By recognizing that those who fought and sacrificed to defeat Daesh need support, the United States has a chance to be an example in establishing justice and humanity in those societies that have suffered from the crimes of terrorist groups. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

President Joe Biden’s administration has begun increasing intelligence gathering to decipher North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s next moves, as the White House warns that Pyongyang could imminently conduct a seventh nuclear test. – Newsweek

North Korea has finished preparations for a nuclear test, South Korea’s president told parliament, stoking concerns that Pyongyang’s first blast of an atomic device in five years could be imminent. – Bloomberg 

South Korea’s Kia Corp. sees volatility rising in Russia with the prolonged war in Ukraine, and in a worst-case scenario, may shutter its business entirely, an executive said Tuesday. – Bloomberg


The changing of the guard in China will likely alter how Beijing interacts with the rest of the world, especially the West. Gone from the new leadership are the pro-market pragmatists who for decades helped pilot the country’s integration into the global economy. Instead, Xi Jinping is starting his third term in power with a slate of senior Communist Party apparatchiks known for their loyalty to the supreme leader. – Wall Street Journal

Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger said that recently imposed U.S. restrictions on semiconductor-industry exports to China were inevitable as America seeks to maintain technological leadership in competition with China. – Wall Street Journal

Two Chinese intelligence officers tried to bribe a U.S. law-enforcement official to obtain what they believed was inside information about the U.S. criminal case against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co., prosecutors alleged in a case unsealed Monday. – Wall Street Journal

The United States said on Monday it had taken note of the Communist Party congress in strategic rival China that confirmed Xi Jinping in an unprecedented third term as leader, and stressed the importance of keeping lines of communication open. – Reuters

Yuan Yang writes: Yet European alliances are still in China’s grasp, and many of its own objectives, from technological upgrading to climate action, can only be achieved with a wide range of allies. But under a limitless presidency, China’s ability to engage in such co-operation will be seriously constrained. – Financial Times

Gideon Rachman writes: If it is to keep this new alliance together, the US will have to persuade its partners that the darkest fears about Russia and China are justified. This weekend’s scenes from Beijing certainly help to make that case. – Financial Times

Gordon G. Chang writes: These two trends mean that his threshold of risk is far lower than most Americans think it is. Xi is the author of policies — economic, disease-control, social and external — that many recognize as disastrous. Therefore, he needs a win, and he has made taking Taiwan his critical test. Xi Jinping is insecure, vulnerable, powerful and belligerent. He told the world last Sunday that the international outlook is grim. This means China has never been more dangerous. – The Hill

Rebecca Grant writes: Xi’s big claim is that China has lifted millions out of poverty, proving the success of Red Communism. Xi’s predecessors did most of the poverty alleviation, but under Xi, the surveillance state has grown by leaps and bounds. Oppression in Hong Kong and military aggression around Taiwan are all the handiwork of Xi. His ambition has no limits, and the last structural checks and balances are gone, too. – Fox News

Peter Brookes and Dustin Carmack write: Indeed, though not explicitly directed at the PRC, but likely applicable to Beijing, the Director of National Intelligence’s 2022 “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” amplifies the warning […]Considering the PRC’s geopolitical aspirations, unprecedented military build-up, and revisionist vision of global politics, Beijing’s potential use of the life sciences, especially biotechnology, must be of deep concern to U.S. policymakers—and requires U.S. action. – Heritage Foundation


Taiwan won’t back down in the face of “aggressive threats” from China, the president of the self-governing island democracy Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday, comparing growing pressure from Beijing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Associated Press

The chief of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong will visit China next week on the invitation of President Xi Jinping, Vietnam’s government said on Tuesday, in a rare overseas trip by the ageing leader. – Reuters

An air strike killed at least 50 people at a concert in Myanmar held by an ethnic minority group in conflict with the ruling military, opposition groups and media said on Monday, an attack condemned by the United Nations and western embassies. – Reuters

Taiwan is working to increase energy inventories in a move to boost the island’s resilience in the event of a crisis, a deputy economy minister said, as China stepped up military pressure to try to force Taiwan to accept Chinese rule. – Reuters


After months of political fever, Britain on Tuesday will get a new prime minister, the third in two months, with the country now looking to Rishi Sunak — a former finance minister and hedge-fund manager, a 42-year-old whiz kid, richer than the royals — to beat back the harshest economic head winds here in a generation, including some of his own creation. – Washington Post

Rishi Sunak, who will be the new British new prime minister after becoming Conservative party leader on Monday, is considered a strong supporter of Israel and a friend of the UK’s Jewish community. – Associated Press

Instructors from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are training Russian forces in Belarus and coordinating the launches of Iranian-made drones, according to the Ukrainian National Resistance Center. – Jerusalem Post

A man who received orders from the Islamic State group to carry out a drone attack against a Barcelona-Real Madrid football match was sentenced Monday by a Spanish court to three years in jail. – Agence France-Presse


Representatives of the Ethiopian government and rebel forces in the country’s Tigray region arrived in South Africa on Monday for their first formal peace talks, a much-anticipated effort to resolve the almost two-year civil war that has ravaged Africa’s second-most-populous nation. – New York Times

Fighters from the M23 rebel group clashed with the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday in a fourth day of violence in which four civilians have been killed, the army said. – Reuters

Residents in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, were on high alert and avoided some places on Monday, a day after the U.S. and U.K. issued terror alerts about possible attacks in the city. – Associated Press

Latin America

President Biden increased the pressure on Nicaragua’s authoritarian regime Monday, sanctioning the country’s gold industry and imposing visa restrictions on more than 500 key supporters of President Daniel Ortega. – Wall Street Journal

Japan has temporarily closed its embassy in Haiti due to the worsening security and humanitarian situation, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Mexico will speak with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry about lithium, batteries and the automotive industry when Kerry visits the northwestern state of Sonora on Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday. – Reuters


The US Army is evaluating industry ideas for its Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) Increment 2 and expects to decide in a few months which companies will participate in the programme’s prototyping phase, according to the service’s Program Executive Office for Aviation (PEO Aviation). – Janes

General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company recently laid the keel for the Navy’s next Expeditionary Sea Base, the service announced today. – USNI News

Joint Task Force Red Hill is set to start draining jet and marine diesel fuel from three pipelines at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Tuesday, Navy officials confirmed Monday. – USNI News

Christine Wormuth, Frank Kendall and Carlos Del Toro write: The military can and must do more to recruit and retain America’s finest, but we need America behind us. We must ask ourselves how we can help ensure that there is a new generation able and inspired to carry on the nation’s proud, selfless and distinguished legacy of service. You can write your own story of service to the country. – Wall Street Journal

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Publicly addressing the gaps and problems in given national forces is only embarrassing when countries hide failures in their national efforts that they truly need to correct. All force planning involves major compromises as to what is actually affordable and what can actually be done. The present approach of issuing hollow strategy documents, failing to justify defense spending through net assessments, and hiding the gaps in national efforts critically undermines and limits the effort of every NATO country as well as the effectiveness of the alliance. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Brent Sadler writes: A 2023 naval act, as it did in 1938, can grow the nation’s naval shipbuilding capacity for a war that could occur with China this decade. As a discrete legislative act, it would draw attention to a national security priority while not competing directly with other military service budget needs. […]A modern naval act, echoing the nation’s historic success in preparing for war in the Pacific, would galvanize meaningful action. Congress has indicated that it is willing to make the needed investments. A new naval act is one way of acting on that intention. – Heritage Foundation