Fdd's overnight brief

October 26, 2022

In The News


By tightening curbs on women’s rights, President Ebrahim Raisi has boosted his hardline credentials and possibly his prospects of becoming Iran’s Supreme Leader, even at the cost of provoking mass protests and driving a wedge between many Iranians and the ruling elite, three analysts and a pro-reform official said. – Reuters

Iranian students protested Tuesday at multiple universities, defying a bloody crackdown as tensions mount on the eve of planned ceremonies marking 40 days since Mahsa Amini’s death. – Agence France-Presse

There was a time when America was willing to stir things up abroad in working to promote liberty and U.S. interests, but that was before the term “regime change” became unspeakable among Washington’s foreign policy mavens. – New York Sun

President Joe Biden faces growing calls from activists and even a former crown prince to openly back regime change in Iran as the country’s Islamist rulers face a wave of protests. But Biden and his aides are unwilling to go that far. – Politico

Western powers have tightened the screws on several Iranian institutions as protests continue to sweep the country. They include the feared morality police, which has become the focus of attention after 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini died in its custody, triggering the outpouring of anger. – BBC

Iran has reportedly turned to child soldiers in an attempt to crack down on the ongoing riots in the country, a tactic the Islamic Republic has used in the past and a potential violation of international law. – Fox News

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday accused the US leaders of “dragging their feet” instead of making a decision to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. – Agence France-Presse

Iranian schoolchildren, girls in particular, have brought the nation’s widespread protests into the classrooms according to a late-October report from Israeli non-profit IMPACT-se, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education. – Jerusalem Post

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Colonel Mehdi Molashahi and Basij militant Javad Kikha were shot and killed by unidentified persons in Zahedan on Tuesday afternoon, as anti-government protests continued in the area and throughout Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Mawlana Abdolhamid, an influential religious leader within Iran’s minority Sunni community, publicly blamed Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for violence targeting Sunni Iranians during a sermon on Friday—an open challenge to the government only one week after demonstrations in Iran’s southeastern Baluchestan region were crushed by security forces. – The National Interest

Shay Khatiri writes: Those who hope that protests in Iran will overthrow the regime on their own, without external assistance are fooling themselves, just as they are wrong to think of these protests as a women’s movement or about compulsory hijab. We are witnessing a revolution. And if the American government won’t ensure that it succeeds, civil war will break out. – New York Sun

Himdad Mustafa writes: It is worth noting that a regime change in Iran might end Iran’s imperialism and its authoritarian theocratic rule, but it may not end the persecution of its minorities. The will of the minorities, that united together comprise almost half of Iran’s population, should be respected and their right to statehood and liberty recognized. Dividing Iran along ethnic lines serves local, regional, and international interests. Any future plan or foreign intervention should be toward that end. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Henry Rome and Louis Dugit-Gros write: Ultimately, Iran’s reaction would aim to demonstrate resistance and resilience, whether through nuclear steps, conventional steps, or both. Nuclear steps could include further restricting inspections and enriching uranium to 90 percent (i.e., the commonly accepted threshold for weapons-grade material). Conventional steps might take the form of destabilizing attacks or vessel seizures in the Strait of Hormuz, as well as escalation by proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and/or Yemen. – Washington Institute

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Spencer Faragasso write: The IAEA report also indicates that Iran completed an additional cascade of IR-4 centrifuges since August, bringing the total at the FEP to three IR-4 cascades, halfway to their planned goal of six cascades there. However, the installation of the three additional cascades had not yet begun. The installation of this third IR-4 cascade had started by May 23, 2022 and had not been finished by August 31, 2022, based on earlier IAEA reports, meaning it took well over three months to install that third cascade. Iran has yet to begin installing the three additional cascades of IR-4 centrifuges planned at the FEP. The slow deployments may possibly indicate manufacturing issues in the carbon fiber bellows used in the centrifuge or other manufacturing, assembly, or operational problems. – Institute for Science and International Security

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian forces continued their advance against the Russian military in the southern Kherson region Tuesday, pushed back Russian mercenaries from Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk, and gained new momentum in Luhansk, where they seized a key highway between the towns of Kreminna and Svatove. – Washington Post

U.S. allies in Europe are growing increasingly concerned that the united front presented by the West in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could quickly unravel if Republicans are victorious in next week’s midterm elections, ceding an advantage to President Vladimir Putin just when Ukraine is making progress on the battlefield. – Washington Post

Western officials quickly rejected Russia’s claim over the weekend that Ukraine was planning to use a so-called dirty bomb in its own territory. The United States and its allies have issued a series of statements accusing leaders in Moscow of making “transparently false allegations” to create a pretext for escalating the war. But the intense exchanges in recent days have renewed attention on the concept of the dirty bomb itself. – New York Times

President Biden renewed his warning to President Vladimir V. Putin on Tuesday that it would be an “incredibly serious mistake” to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, reflecting the increasingly urgent concern in Washington and among Western allies that Russia may be searching for a pretext to unleash such a weapon. – New York Times

A Russian court rejected U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her more than nine-year prison sentence on drug charges Tuesday. Griner has been imprisoned since her arrest Feb. 17, when she was accused of entering Russia with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. – Washington Post

A top Russian propagandist who mused about burning and drowning Ukrainian children in a television segment has been suspended from his position with Kremlin-controlled outlet RT, in a rare instance of anti-Ukrainian rhetoric meeting with consequences. – Yahoo News

The likelihood that Russia would resort to using a nuclear weapon in its war on Ukraine was “higher than a couple of months ago” and “requires full attention”, a top European spy chief has warned. – Financial Times

Russian forces are digging in for the “heaviest of battles” in the strategic southern region of Kherson, a senior Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin prepares to defend the largest city under its control from Ukraine’s counter-offensive. – Reuters

Russia has continued to use long-range cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea to hit civilian targets in Ukraine over the last several weeks, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Tuesday. – USNI News

Thomas L. Friedman writes: If Biden wants America to be the arsenal of democracy to protect us and our democratic allies — and not leave us begging Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela or Iran to produce more oil and gas — we need a robust energy arsenal as much as a military one. Because we are in an energy war! Biden needs to make a major speech, making clear that for the foreseeable future, we need more of every kind of energy we have.  – New York Times


The United States is concerned “over current heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives in the West Bank,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli President Isaac Herzog, currently on a state visit to Washington, DC. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Arab terrorist groups vowed to avenge the deaths of five terrorists killed in clashes with the IDF overnight in Samaria during an Israeli raid on a terrorist safe house. – Arutz Sheva

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman faced a wave of criticism on Tuesday after referring to five slain members of a Palestinian terror group as “martyrs” and asserting that their “resistance” was a response to “the occupation.” – Times of Israel

Palestinian gunmen fired a hail of bullets Tuesday morning at a settlement industrial zone in the northern West Bank, the military said. According to the Israel Defense Forces, slight damage was caused to a building in the Shahak industrial zone near the settlement of Shaked, about 10 kilometers west of the Palestinian city of Jenin. – Times of Israel

In a public appeal to the Israeli government published online, over 100 Ukrainian Jews – including community leaders, academics, lawmakers and rabbis – complained that Israel has stood on the sidelines while “tens of thousands of Jews were forced to leave” and “objects of Jewish public infrastructure [were] destroyed and damaged throughout the country.” – Haaretz

Amos Harel writes: For the time being, it seems that the answer lies in precise, targeted action in the northern West Bank, not in clunkily sending tens of thousands of soldiers to recapture the area. But should the makeup of the government change with the fast approaching elections, sending more boots in a massive ground operation could be on the table. – Haaretz


Hundreds of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon returned home on Wednesday, the first day of repatriations organised by Beirut, amid concerns from rights groups that the scheme may involve elements of coercion. – Reuters

The United Nations has procured tens of millions of dollars in contracts with companies linked to Syrian government-backed individuals sanctioned for human rights abuses, a report published Tuesday revealed. – Associated Press

Syria is facing “acute violence,” the worst economic crisis since the war began in 2011, and a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak with more that 24,000 suspected cases reported throughout the country and at least 80 deaths, U.N. officials said Tuesday. – Associated Press


Police carried out raids in several Turkish cities on Tuesday and detained 11 journalists affiliated with pro-Kurdish media for their alleged links to Kurdish militants, officials and reports said. – Associated Press

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said on Tuesday the new government was committed to overcoming Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s historic bid to join NATO. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish police on Wednesday detained the head of Turkey’s doctors’ union on “terror propaganda” charges after she urged a probe into the army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish militants, the prosecutor’s office said. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish engineering company Titra has been picked to receive government subsidies for its ambition to produce the country’s first unmanned helicopter, the Alpin. The Ankara government has put the program on its “regional priority investment list.” This means the program will be supported by government incentives. – Defense News

İlhan Uzgel writes: Turkey under the AKP government is considered an unreliable, unpredictable, and untrustworthy country by many of its allies, friends, and neighbors. The most critical task going forward will be to restore Turkey’s image, position, and place in a turbulent world. – Middle East Institute

Saudi Arabia

As President Biden was planning a politically risky trip to Saudi Arabia this summer, his top aides thought they had struck a secret deal to boost oil production through the end of the year — an arrangement that could have helped justify breaking a campaign pledge to shun the kingdom and its crown prince. It didn’t work out that way. – New York Times

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has signalled a willingness to pump more oil if the global energy crisis worsens, while describing this month’s decision by the Opec+ cartel to cut crude supply during a period of high prices as a “mature” decision. – Financial Times

Saudi Arabia decided to be the “maturer guys” in a spat with the United States over oil supplies, the kingdom’s energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Lebanon is still mediating between the United States and Syria over the fate of American journalist Austin Tice who went missing a decade ago in the war-torn country, a Lebanese general said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Already reeling from three years of economic meltdown, Lebanon faces the prospect of its multi-faceted crisis deepening further when President Michel Aoun’s mandate expires in a week from now. – Agence France-Presse

Libya’s Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah signed two deals with Turkey’s defense minister on Tuesday, building on a 2019 agreement that angered European nations. Dbeibah’s administration posted a statement saying the deals included “implementation protocols for the security agreement” signed that year by authorities in Tripoli, who at the time were fending off a blistering assault by eastern-based military chief Khalifa Haftar. – Agence France-Presse

Israel and Lebanon are expected to sign on to a Washington-mediated maritime border deal at a ceremony in Israel as early as Thursday, after the country’s highest court turned down a petition by right-leaning groups to block the pact. – Defense News

Korean Peninsula

The United States will make full use of its military capabilities, “including nuclear, conventional and missile defense,” to defend its allies Japan and South Korea, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Tuesday as she warned North Korea against escalating its provocations. – Associated Press

The United States, Japan and South Korea warned on Wednesday that an “unparalleled” scale of response would be warranted if North Korea conducts a seventh nuclear bomb test. – Reuters

Donald Kirk writes: Like Biden & Co. in Washington, Yoon in Seoul appears to have more or less given up on human rights in the North as a lost cause. It’s as though both American and South Korean policymakers think there’s no point to infuriating Kim by carrying on about North Korea’s brutality to its own people while vainly pleading for dialogue. The subject, however, is not totally dead. – The Hill

Sue Mi Terry writes: It is obvious why none of the options to bolster South Korean deterrence have yet been implemented: all come with major drawbacks. But there is a strong sense in South Korea that something needs to be done to address its heightened security concerns. The threat from North Korea is growing, and since Trump’s presidency, U.S. security guarantees appear less sturdy. The Biden administration needs to act to bolster the alliance as it comes under increasing strain. – Foreign Affairs


No classified information was passed on when former British military pilots offered training to China, a South African flying school has said. Last week it was reported up to 30 former pilots had gone to train members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. – BBC

Uyghur rights activists are suing the UK government over its failure to investigate imports of cotton products made using forced labour from Xinjiang, in a move that will increase pressure on companies sourcing from the Chinese region. – Financial Times

Wealthy Chinese are pulling the trigger on exit plans from their homeland as pessimism builds over the future of the world’s second-largest economy under Xi Jinping and the ruling Chinese Communist party. – Financial Times

China is likely to ramp up its diplomatic “attacks” on Taiwan following last week’s twice-a-decade congress, including snatching more of the island’s few remaining diplomatic allies, Taiwan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Editorial: All of this calls for an investigation on Capitol Hill with a goal of accountability up and down the chain of command. Managing relations with China is a strategic priority, but not at the expense of American diplomats. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Still, hard times require hard choices. If Sunak chooses China’s trade over Britain’s traditional alliance with the U.S., the nature and expectations of the U.S.-U.K. alliance must shift in tandem. The stakes attached to the U.S.-China struggle are simply too great. In such a scenario, Australia would become America’s most special ally. – Washington Examiner

Mike Gallagher writes: If we ignore the hard lessons about hard power that we have learned in Ukraine, if we succumb to the utopian path of disarmament, and if we allow the fear of escalation to dominate our decisions, we will feed Mr. Xi’s appetite for conquest and invite war. By choosing to put an anti-navy in Mr. Xi’s path, we can deter war in the short term and buy time to build a Navy that defeats communism over the long term. – Wall Street Journal

Adam Taylor writes: Pekingologists risk a similar miscalculation when looking at Hu’s fate. “In the end, how you interpret that moment depends partly on how you interpret China’s political system,” Rory Truex, an expert on Chinese politics at Princeton, wrote for the Atlantic this week. – Washington Post

Bradley A. Thayer writes: Xi’s remarks should come as no surprise, though it was novel to see the demonstration of his power within the party and the humiliation of his opponents — all proof of his ruthless ambition. Biden must respond to Xi by articulating forcefully that the West will not tolerate any aggression against the United States, its allies or partners, and that the U.S. is determined to achieve victory over the CCP. – The Hill

Alon Pinkas writes: Something that could help avert a Sino-American war is the Chinese economy. Unlike the Soviet Union, it is reliant on global markets and is currently undergoing major crises. In the end, Xi has 1.3 billion citizens to feed and keep content. Being very repressive internally and stretching thin and far externally may prove too much. – Haaretz

Hal Brands writes: Xi isn’t Stalin, Mao or Putin. But he is a globally ambitious strongman who is systematically stripping away the limits on his own authority, as he doubles down on a brasher, more antagonistic approach to foreign affairs. That’s a sadly familiar story in global politics — one that is unlikely to end well for China or the rest of us. – Bloomberg


The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar warned Tuesday that the political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation is deepening and taking “a catastrophic toll on the people.” – Associated Press

The recent visit of a Russian megayacht to Hong Kong has sparked warnings from corruption investigators that the city could become a haven for oligarchs and officials hiding from Western sanctions. – Agence France-Presse

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is gravely concerned about an escalation of violence in Myanmar and is calling for restraint and an immediate cessation of fighting, the bloc’s chair Cambodia said. – Reuters

A majority of Americans would back the government if the United States aided Taiwan against a future attack by China, with support for similar action also high among America’s key allies, according to a recent survey. – Newsweek

Yossi Melman writes: When such an event occurs, emergency protocols to minimize damage and cover tracks are activated immediately – including the cancellation of similar operations in Malaysia or neighboring countries. In other words, several years’ work and considerable investments go down the drain. The Prime Minister’s Office, under whose jurisdiction the Mossad falls, declined to comment on the issue. – Haaretz


Only two months ago, Franco-British relations appeared to have hit a new low when Liz Truss — at the time the front-runner to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister — said “the jury is out” on whether French President Emmanuel Macron was Britain’s friend or foe. – Washington Post

At a moment when Germany’s allies seek reassurance and leadership, even its closest partners wonder aloud about its commitment to European solidarity. Although Germany has long been Europe’s de facto leader, it has been slow to provide serious military equipment to Ukraine. – New York Times

Western leaders meeting in Berlin said the effort to rebuild Ukraine would take generations, as Kyiv stepped up its requests for economic and military support and fissures began to emerge in Washington’s long-solid backing for Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

New Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni outlined her programme for government on Tuesday, reaffirming her support for the EU, NATO and Ukraine and presenting herself as a steady hand to guide her country through turbulent times. – Agence France-Presse

The relationship between France and Germany has long been the motor that drives the EU. Wednesday’s meeting between president Emmanuel Macron and chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris is a chance to put it back on the road after months of problems. – Financial Times

Norwegian police on Monday arrested a suspected Russian spy in the Arctic town of Tromsoe, the PST security service said on Tuesday, describing him as a rare illegal agent. – Reuters


Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on Tuesday, marking the first anniversary of a military coup that upended the nation’s short-lived transition to democracy. One protester was killed after being run over by a security force vehicle, medical officials said. – Associated Press

The European Union said on Tuesday it had lifted sanctions on three officials from Burundi, including the prime minister, as it engages in ongoing dialogue with authorities about improving the country’s human rights record. – Reuters

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi will serve as a facilitator for the political transition process in Chad, Central Africa’s main regional body said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday authorised the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their families from Nigeria due to a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the country. – Reuters

The first formal peace talks aimed at ending two years of war between the Ethiopian army and forces from the country’s northern region of Tigray started in South Africa on Tuesday and will end on Sunday, the South African government said. – Reuters

The US military conducted an airstrike over the weekend against the al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia, which was attacking Somali National Army forces near Buulobarde, US Africa Command said. – CNN

Editorial: With Ethiopia’s economy floundering because of the conflict, global powers can also make clear that debt relief is available — but only if the situation improves. As fears of atrocities mount and the death toll increases by the day, there is no excuse for the world to look away. – Washington Post

The Americas

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has rescinded a letter, signed by 30 House liberals and sent to the White House on Monday, that urged President Biden to negotiate directly with Russia to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. – Washington Post

Sending a special international force to Haiti could provide much-needed relief to a population choked by powerful gangs, but any new stabilization mission has little chance of ending the chaos without a long-term political solution, experts say. – Agence France-Presse

Canada’s Quebec separatist party on Tuesday called on the federal government to sever ties with the British monarchy, saying the recent transfer of the crown to King Charles was an opportunity to do so. – Reuters


Operating under a continuing resolution is the “one thing” preventing the full transition of parts of the Defense Department’s marquee artificial intelligence program to its new Chief Digital and AI Office (CDAO), a senior official from the office said today. – Breaking Defense

The Justice Department on Tuesday unsealed charges against a Ukrainian national for his role in the Raccoon Infostealer malware-as-a-service operation, which U.S. law enforcement officials blamed for infecting millions of computers around the world to steal personal data. – CyberScoop

Germany’s federal cybersecurity office warned on Tuesday that ransomware, political hacking, and other cybersecurity threats facing the country are “higher than ever.” In its annual report, the office said ongoing criminal activities were responsible for the threat level, alongside attacks linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — but it also warned that insufficient IT and software product quality was a contributing factor. – The Record

Australia plans to strengthen its online privacy laws following several major data breaches, attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said in a statement on Saturday. An amendment to the country’s privacy law, which will be tabled in the Australian parliament this week, will increase fines for repeated or serious privacy breaches from the current $2.2 AUD (about $1.4 million) to up to AUD$50 million (about $32 million). – The Record

Online access in Sudan was disrupted Tuesday as tens of thousands protested on the anniversary of a military coup that derailed a transition towards democratic governance. Multiple global web traffic monitors reported an internet shutdown that significantly disrupted cell and fixed line connections lasting from roughly 9:50am to 6:15pm local time. – The Record


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday vowed that Congress would include more assistance for Ukraine as part of the annual government funding bill. – Defense News

The Defense Department and the Intelligence Community have reached a “consensus opinion” on how to parcel out responsibility for tracking moving targets on the ground from space, Space Force vice chief Gen. DT Thompson said today. – Breaking Defense

The U.S. Air Force is deploying MQ-9 Reapers in the Indo-Pacific for the first time under a newly reactivated squadron on the edge of the East China Sea. – Defense News