Fdd's overnight brief

October 26, 2021

In The News


Iran will hold a second meeting this month with the European Union’s Enrique Mora, who coordinates talks between Tehran and six powers on reviving a 2015 nuclear pact, Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted on Monday. – Reuters 

Efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are at a “critical phase” and Tehran’s reasons for avoiding talks are wearing thin, a U.S. official said on Monday while raising the possibility of further diplomacy even if the deal cannot be resuscitated. – Reuters   

Iran executed over 250 people, including at least four child offenders, in 2020 and so far this year has carried out 230 executions that included nine women and one child who was executed in secret, the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in Iran said Monday. – Associated Press 

U.S. officials say they believe Iran was behind the drone attack last week at the military outpost in southern Syria where American troops are based. – Associated Press 

Iran has begun deploying advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries to the region, including in Syria where Israeli jets routinely carry out airstrikes, in an attempt to challenge Israel Air Force jets. – Jerusalem Post 

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, said he had unveiled a strategy that will cost “the Zionists billions of dollars,” according to Iranian media this week. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran is expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20% purity at a Natanz plant where it is already enriching to 60%, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Monday. – Arutz Sheva  

Until the second Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, Iran had been able to exert control over its ally Armenia and had direct land access to it, and through it to Europe, with the so-called North-South Corridor. Via this route, Iran was able to transfer goods from its industries, including those under Western sanctions. This land route was also used for the uninterrupted smuggling of goods of various kinds. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Singh writes: It is becoming increasingly likely, however, that any new agreement between the United States and Iran will not be a revival of the JCPOA. Moving directly to the negotiation of a new agreement will undoubtedly be fraught with risk in the short term—but if the Biden administration takes care to build both domestic and international support for its efforts, it could deliver a more successful and sustainable result in the long run. – Foreign Affairs 


Afghanistan is on the brink of a starvation crisis, with more than half its population — some 22.8 million people — projected to face acute food insecurity this winter, according to a the United Nations’ World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization. – Washington Post 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Taliban representatives during a trip this week to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, an official said Monday. – Associated Press 

In a rare joint appeal, the leaders of Pakistan and China on Tuesday urged the international community to swiftly send humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan, where people are facing food and medicine shortages in the shadow of winter. – Associated Press  

Two months after the Taliban seized power, violence, death and fear still stalk Afghanistan. US troops might have departed but the new Islamist rulers in Kabul are now threatened by an insurgency launched by Islamic State-Khorasan Province, an Isis-inspired jihadi movement that has deep ideological differences with the Taliban. – Financial Times 


A brewing diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries appeared to pass Monday after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed off a threat to expel their ambassadors for advocating on behalf of an imprisoned Turkish activist. – Washington Post  

Editorial: Turkey’s western partners were wise to seek to calm the dispute by declaring their compliance with Article 41 of the Vienna Convention, which includes a duty for diplomats not to interfere in the internal affairs of host states. […]But while respecting their commitments, US and European capitals should continue to press for the release of Kavala — against whom the charges are flimsy — and for respect for rule of law. The further Erdogan departs from that, the deeper he will lead Turkey into an economic and political black hole. – Financial Times  

Seth j. Frantzman writes: Ankara’s overall posture puts it increasingly at odds with democracy and Europe. It tends to use its far-right media and speeches of its ruling party to bash Europe. […]Turkey has also threatened a new conflict in Syria if this doesn’t do enough to increase populism. Increasingly Ankara’s ruling party increases tensions with NATO, the West and the US every time it wants votes, positioning itself as one of the leading anti-western countries. Even Iran, Russia and China don’t have the same levels of extreme rhetoric. Oddly, Turkey remains a NATO member despite these incidents. – Jerusalem Post 


Israel is sending an envoy to Washington amid a deepening rift with the Biden administration over six outlawed Palestinian rights groups, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday. – Associated Post 

Israel is holding its largest-ever air force exercise this week, joined by several Western countries and India, with the United Arab Emirates’ air force chief set to inspect the drills. – Agence France-Presse 

Israel has lifted a travel warning for Morocco in place for over a decade, while warning travelers to remain alert while visiting there. – Bloomberg 

A senior Sudanese diplomat was quoted Monday by Israel’s public broadcaster as saying that the military’s takeover of the country is not expected to dramatically affect the normalization process with the Jewish state. – Times of Israel 

The Israeli Air Force will begin practicing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program beginning next year, having set aside funding and updated its training schedule for the mission, The Times of Israel has learned. – Times of Israel 

Editorial: This year, Israel and Russia are marking 30 years of diplomatic relations after ties were restored following the fall of the Iron Curtain. These diplomatic relations are definitely worth celebrating. Differences of opinions and interests can be expected and are only natural but it is essential that relations between the two countries go beyond the personal. That seems to have happened in Sochi on Friday. – Jerusalem Post 

Eugene Kontorovich writes: Washington may reckon that Israel’s new leaders hate Mr. Netanyahu more than they love Jerusalem, and thus the coalition won’t fall apart if the U.S. forces Messrs. Bennet and Lapid into submission. This is likely a miscalculation. But U.S. senators who don’t wish to leave a question mark hanging over Israeli control of Jews’ holiest city should demand that the State Department shelve the consulate plan before an ambassador is confirmed. – Wall Street Journal    

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The overall context of the Tanf attack is that its complexity is a warning to Israel. Iran is using the Houthis and militias in Iraq, as well as Hamas to test out its drone technology. Iran also used drones to target a tanker in the Gulf of Oman in July. The US, UK and Israel blamed Iran for that attack which killed two crew members of the civilian ship. […]Questions about how Iran had the coordinates of the ship and was able to guide the drone into that precise location remain to be answered. It shows Iran’s deadly technology is increasing across the region. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt’s authoritarian president announced Monday that he had lifted a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, detain dissidents and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country. – New York Times 

For many Lebanese, Bitar’s investigation of last year’s massive Beirut port explosion is their only hope for truth and accountability in a country that craves both. Billboards in Beirut showing a fist holding a gavel read: “Only Tarek can take our revenge,” a play on Arabic words using the judge’s last name. – Associated Press 

The IDF is allowing olive growers from Lebanese border towns to enter Israeli territory under supervision in order to harvest olive trees, the IDF announced in a statement on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post 

James M. Dorsey writes: With a revival of the nuclear program in doubt, Iran fears that Azerbaijan could become a staging pad for US and Israeli covert operations. […] He noted that Aliyev has forced major US NGOs to leave Azerbaijan, has trampled on human and political rights, and been anything but tolerant of the country’s Armenian heritage. Still, it’s clear that Iran and Turkey are struggling to manage their soft power on the international stage. – Algemeiner 

Korean Peninsula

Robert Manning writes: Expect a wild ride, as maneuvering toward diplomacy plays out. Ultimately, North Korea is one of those wicked problems that may not have a solution and can only be managed. But current developments should be a cautionary note to the U.S. and its South Korean ally. – The Hill  

Lauren Sukin and Toby Dalton write: From this perspective, the ongoing military developments in South Korea may be less harbingers of nuclear proliferation than evidence that Seoul is developing a serious non-nuclear approach to regional security. U.S. efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict — whether through arms control, crisis management exercises, or improved interoperability in support of South Korean conventional counterforce options — could strengthen the alliance, stabilize the Peninsula, and reduce proliferation pressures. – War on the Rocks  

Doug Bandow writes: North Korea remains a problem with only the second-best answers. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in a hurry though since only five months remain before the election of his successor. However, President Joe Biden also should be in a hurry since the North continues to expand its arsenal. Once the DPRK possesses a certain ability to threaten the American homeland, the alliance with the ROK will be placed in doubt. Kim appears to have opened the door ever so slightly to a peace initiative. Washington should back Seoul in moving forward as quickly as possible. – The National Interest 


In the early summer, with less than five months to go before a critical United Nations climate conference in Scotland, John F. Kerry told President Biden that he wouldn’t achieve his goal of tackling climate change, a key administration priority, unless the U.S.-China relationship improved. – Washington Post 

The United States has “few credible options” to respond if China were to seize a set of islands administered by Taiwan in the South China Sea, underscoring the need for Washington and Taipei to build deterrence “against limited Chinese aggression,” according to the results of a war game conducted recently by foreign policy experts in Washington and the Asia-Pacific region. – Washington Post 

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen “frankly raised issues of concern” in a virtual meeting on Monday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, the U.S. Treasury said in a statement. – Reuters 

China pledged to help the Taliban “rebuild the country” while reiterating calls for the U.S. to lift sanctions against the new leaders of Afghanistan as the economy worsens. – Bloomberg 

In an effort to placate China, Israel refrained from signing on to a joint statement at the United Nations last week that expressed concern over Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority, an Israeli diplomatic official told The Times of Israel on Sunday. – Times of Israel 

Gordon G. Chang writes: The Chinese military, from all indications, is now building a nuclear “war-fighting” capability, probably hoping to intimidate others into submission. […]There is no defense against hypersonic glide vehicles. Soon, China will be able to drop a nuke on America in the blink of an eye. Americans think strategic nuclear weapons are unusable. Chinese strategists obviously do not agree. – Newsweek 


More than eight months after she was detained by the military in a coup, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, and her lawyers were set to mount her defense for the first time on Tuesday in a closed-door hearing. – New York Times 

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced the appointment of former U.N. undersecretary-general Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore as the new U.N. special envoy for conflict-torn Myanmar. – Associated Press 

Japan expressed concern Monday after China and Russia held a joint naval exercise in which 10 of their warships passed through international waterways between its northern and southern islands. – Associated Press 

Hong Kong has convicted a second person under its sweeping national security law for chanting pro-independence slogans, amid a political crackdown in the city. – Associated Press 

The human rights group Amnesty International said it will close its two offices in Hong Kong this year, becoming the latest non-governmental organization to cease operations amid a crackdown on political dissent in the city. – Associated Press 

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Monday with representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, the White House said late on Monday. – Reuters 

Southeast Asian leaders began a virtual summit Tuesday, with Myanmar skipping the annual meeting in protest after its top general was shut out for refusing to cooperate in defusing the crisis in his country since the military takeover. – Associated Press    

The concern that China might try to seize Taiwan is preoccupying American military planners and administration officials. Few of them think Taiwan’s military could hold the line. – Wall Street Journal  

Editorial: Saying that China and Taiwan are “not subordinate” to each other might seem obvious, since they’ve been locked in an unresolved civil war for decades. But Taiwan’s use of those words earlier this month continues to reverberate, risking a fresh rupture in U.S.-China ties. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida faces the biggest test of his fledgling administration with an Oct. 31 election that could determine how long he stays on as premier. – Bloomberg 

Amalendu Misra writes: Both parties to the conflict in Kashmir are intimately aware of the hazardous roadblocks that prevent them from moving forward in the direction of credible peace. It is this knowledge of the unsurmountable challenge that forces both the Indian government and the restive Kashmiris to dig their heels deep in violence towards the other. – The National Interest 


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled throughout the Black Sea region last week to promote the partnerships needed to mount a credible defense against Russia along the most volatile territorial frontier between Moscow and the West. But despite his show of support, experts say the Biden administration so far has struggled to articulate how it intends to turn the United States’ alliances into a successful plan for repelling Russian aggression, which is on the rise. – Washington Post 

Russia’s premier intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts warned on Sunday, only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of sophisticated spy operations it had conducted around the world. – New York Times 

Russia and the United States have released their latest nuclear weapons count at a time when ties between Moscow and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance were in freefall. – Newsweek 


A Munich court on Monday convicted a woman married to an Islamic State fighter for “crimes against humanity and attempted war crimes” in the aiding and abetting of the murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl, sentencing the woman to 10 years in prison. – Washington Post 

Poland is increasing the number of troops on its border with Belarus to around 10,000, its defence minister said on Monday, as the country tries to stem a surge in migration which it blames on Minsk. – Reuters 

British Brexit minister David Frost said on Monday that the European Union’s proposals to solve the problem of trade involving Northern Ireland did not go far enough and significant gaps remained between the two sides. – Reuters 

Divisions deepened among European Union countries ahead of an emergency meeting of ministers on Tuesday on the bloc’s response to a spike in energy prices, with some countries seeking a regulatory overhaul and others firmly opposed. – Reuters 

The UK’s three spy agencies have contracted AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing arm, to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage. – Financial Times 

John Pomfret writes: Yet over time, the relationship has cooled. The current Polish government is led by the Law and Justice Party, which has begun a political campaign against the very men who forged the American alliance. Thirty years after Communism ended in Poland, the Law and Justice Party remains obsessed with punishing all who served the old guard. But more important is the simple fact that foes and friends alike know that Poland is an American ally. – New York Times  

Walter Russell Mead writes: Sending token forces to the Pacific in hope of winning American gratitude and cooperation on other issues may be a strategic dead end, but there are other steps Europeans can take to keep trans-Atlantic ties strong in dangerous times. […]But to the degree that distorted perceptions inform European policy, Americans should think harder about communicating effectively with old allies even as we prepare for new challenges ahead. – Wall Street Journal 


Troops fired on demonstrators outside the Sudanese army headquarters, killing at least three people and injuring more than 80, according to a doctors’ group, as pro-democracy protesters flooded into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, on Monday, after the military mounted a coup, detaining the prime minister, suspending the government and declaring a state of emergency. – New York Times  

The United States froze $700 million in direct assistance to Sudan’s government in response to Monday’s coup, and American officials demanded that the Sudanese military immediately release civilian leaders and restore the transitional government. – New York Times  

At least 18 worshippers were killed by gunmen who attacked a mosque in northern Nigeria during early morning prayers Monday, local authorities and police told The Associated Press. – Associated Press 

Mali’s transitional government has ordered an envoy of the 15-nation West African regional bloc to leave the country within 72 hours because of actions “incompatible with his status.” – Associated Press  

The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting on the coup in Sudan for Tuesday afternoon. – Associated Press 

Helen Thompson writes: The reality, starkly stated, is that neither the German chancellor nor the French government can lead Europe. The compromises their predecessors made with each other are no longer available. And in the absence of leadership, Europe is headed for one thing — stasis. – New York Times 

Bobby Ghosh writes: Biden has other levers he can pull. The U.S. is Sudan’s largest humanitarian donor, and State Department has said it will suspend $700 million in emergency aid pending a review of Monday’s developments. The U.S. also can threaten economic sanctions and exercise its veto on assistance from the International Monetary Fund. But these measures risk penalizing the country for Gen. Burhan’s coup. – Bloomberg 

The Americas

Starting Tuesday, Florida will stop buying shares of British consumer goods conglomerate Unilever PLC over a decision by a subsidiary, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, to stop selling its products in the West Bank and Gaza. – Florida Politics  

A group of hackers aligned with the opposition in Venezuela have broken into the country’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, Israel Hayom’s Damian Pachter reported Monday. Once inside the database, the hackers gained access to information on purported Hezbollah operatives living freely in the country under the protection of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government. – Arutz Sheva  

Editorial: Cracking down on evasion and improving disclosure from offshore havens are vital goals. But guaranteeing the rule of law, economic stability and sound money at home are equally important. Ultimately, Latin America’s governments should reduce the appeal of offshore investment by making their own countries more attractive to invest in. – Financial Times 

Dina Smeltz, Sibel Oktay, Paul Poast and Craig Kafura write: Despite the blow to French pride, both the United States and Australia therefore remain critical partners for France in the Indo-Pacific. Shared national security interests make that cooperation essential for all parties, even if the next few rounds of meetings may be less collegial than in the past. – War on the Rocks 


Ahead of Vietnam’s party congress in January, Facebook significantly increased censorship of “anti-state” posts, giving the government near-total control over the platform, according to local activists and free-speech advocates. – Washington Post  

Facebook continued to face searing criticism on Monday, as whistleblower Frances Haugen providing blistering testimony to U.K. lawmakers, stirring global momentum to regulate the social media giant. – Washington Post 

Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast. – Associated Press  

The Biden administration is launching a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy at the State Department as part of an effort to strengthen diplomats’ cyber expertise, Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced in an email to the department’s workforce on Monday. – CNN 

Ellen Cushing writes: But Facebook is not like other companies. It is bigger, and the stakes of its decisions are higher. In North America, we have recently become acutely aware of the risks and harms of social media. But the Facebook we see is the platform at its best. Any solutions will need to apply not only to the problems we still encounter here, but also to those with which the other 90 percent of Facebook’s users struggle every day. – The Atlantic 


The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Monday posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to 13 American soldiers killed during a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August. – Newsweek 

The Air Force is wrapping up the first weeklong operational test of its two new F-15EX Eagle II fighter jets. – Defense News 

The U.S. Space Force has awarded L3Harris Technologies $121 million to upgrade 16 secretive weapons that can jam enemy communications. – C4ISRNET   

General Mark Kelly, Air Combat Command (ACC) chief, and an important US Air Force (USAF) officer, anticipates requirements for a possible new Advanced Tactical Trainer (ATT) that were not requested for the service’s Boeing-Saab T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer, which is in development. – Jane’s 360  

US Army leaders spearheading efforts to revamp the service’s legacy combat network are working through interoperability challenges linked to the Pentagon’s Mission Partner Environment (MPE) initiative. – Jane’s 360  

The US Navy (USN) and US Marine Corps (USMC) are sharpening Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABOs) concepts in the Pacific with existing platforms and units, according to Captain Tom Ogden, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7 in Singapore. – Jane’s 360 

The Navy is set to deploy USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) for the first time in 2022, four years later than the original maiden deployment date of 2018. – USNI News 

Harlan Ullman writes: Hopefully, the Navy will not have to fight another war. But if it does, is it fit and will it win? Without a top-to-bottom critical examination, that question remains unanswerable. – The Hill