Fdd's overnight brief

October 27, 2021

In The News


Fuel sales were disrupted at gas stations across Iran on Tuesday, after what officials said was a cyberattack crippled a system that allows consumers to buy subsidized fuel using government-issued cards, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said. – Washington Post  

Iran appears to have been responsible for a drone attack last week on a U.S. outpost in Syria, suggesting that a new front could be opening in the low-level conflict that has simmered since the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord in 2018. – Washington Post 

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani will meet Enrique Mora, a top European Union diplomat in Brussels, to discuss how to reboot nuclear negotiations with big powers that have been stalled since June. – Bloomberg  

The United States is alarmed by Iran’s actions since leaving talks over its nuclear program, but the White House still believes there is an opportunity to resolve the situation diplomatically, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas writes: In the meantime, U.S. sanctions are still a large impediment to foreign companies hoping to invest in Iran, and political disputes with the United States and its allies continue to be formidable barriers to expanding trade relations with Iran’s eastern neighbors. It’s also possible—perhaps even likely—that China and Russia see their interests in the Middle East differently than Iran imagines and that Iranian aspirations are not among their top priorities. – Foreign Policy 


For 20 years, Iranian officials have said they wanted the U.S. military out of Afghanistan. Iran supplied Afghan insurgents with weapons to use against American soldiers. It sheltered Al Qaeda’s top leaders in Tehran. It courted the Taliban with diplomatic visits, covertly and then publicly. – New York Times 

In Kabul’s main children’s hospital, the crumbling of Afghanistan’s health system is reflected in the eyes of exhausted staff as they eke out fast-diminishing stocks of medicines. – Reuters 

The former U.S. representative for Afghanistan reconciliation defended the disastrous “peace deal” with the Taliban, sticking to the notion that the group was interested in a negotiated settlement even after its military takeover. – Washington Examiner 

An email showing “orders” from the Biden administration to fill up planes to “excess” during the frantic evacuations from Afghanistan this summer raises concerns about a lack of vetting, according to a Republican senator. – Washington Examiner 

A senior Pentagon official said it is unclear whether the Taliban has the capability to fight the Islamic State extremist group effectively, even if it is clear that the two groups are “mortal enemies.” – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Javid Ahmad writes: Pakistan has managed to turn Afghanistan into a puppet. Going forward, Islamabad expects to play the dominant role in managing the Taliban government. But Washington can’t afford to be distracted or politically absent. The U.S. should reassess its fundamental relationship with Pakistan and investigate Islamabad’s role in the Taliban takeover. Meanwhile, Washington should deploy an intelligence-led team to engage the Taliban directly on counterterrorism and avoid the temptation of enlisting Pakistan as a counterterrorism partner. – Wall Street Journal 

Stephen Morrison and Leonard Rubenstein write: Yet developing safety and security mechanisms, engaging agencies that have already developed productive relationships with the Taliban, demanding close monitoring, and ensuring strong fiduciary and contract capacities by the consortium—allof these actions can sustain services and build confidence. […]In the meantime, of course, the United States and its allies can continue, as they should, in pressing the Taliban forcefully for inclusive governance, the rights of women and girls, the outmigration of Afghan allies, and verifiable action against al Qaeda and ISIS-K. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


Syria’s electricity ministry signed a $115 million contract Tuesday with an Iranian company to rehabilitate a power station in a central province of the war-torn country, state media reported. – Associated Press 

Just a week after a U.S. military outpost in Syria was hit in a drone strike believed to have been orchestrated by Iran, a defense contractor and a high-tech startup company announced they were joining forces to integrate counter-drone systems to Army combat vehicles. – Washington Times 


Turkey’s parliament voted Tuesday to extend the government’s mandate to send troops to Syria and Iraq for cross-border operations through the end of October 2023. – Bloomberg 

Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers urged President Joe Biden’s administration not to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey and said they were confident Congress would block any such exports. – Reuters 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said Armenia should mend ties with arch foe Azerbaijan if it wants better relations with Ankara. – Agence France-Presse 

Greece’s leader on Tuesday called on Turkey to stop its “aggressive posturing” and engage in talks over their maritime dispute, during a visit to Saudi Arabia to strengthen ties with Gulf countries. – Agence France-Presse 

Hayat Alvi writes: Although the latest reports indicate that Erdoğan is backtracking somewhat from his expulsion orders, Western powers should assure Turkey that no one intends to violate anyone’s sovereignty. Keeping diplomatic channels open on all sides would not be a bad idea — the irony of which might drive home the message to Erdoğan that everyone should keep talking. – The Hill 

David Gardner writes: Erdogan has made Kavala an international issue just as his domestic opposition is starting to unite in the belief he might self-destruct. What the US and Europeans said about Kavala and the absence of rule of law in an allied state cannot be unsaid. They will be measured by what they do, not what they say. – Financial Times 


Jerusalem’s mayor dismissed media speculation on Tuesday that a U.S. consulate for Palestinians in the city would be denied municipal services if the Biden administration reopens it despite Israeli opposition. – Reuters 

The United States on Tuesday said it strongly opposed Israel’s plans for Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank as damaging for peace prospects between Israelis and Palestinians, in the Biden administration’s harshest public criticism of Israeli settlement policy to date. – Reuters 

A group of 35 Republican senators has introduced a bill to block the Biden administration from reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem. – Times of Israel 

Israel’s defense establishment has identified growing Iranian efforts to improve their air defenses in locations where, according to foreign media, the Israeli air force has been carrying out attacks. – Haaretz 

Gulf States

An Israeli private jet landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning, per KAN news, marking the first time a flight from Israel has ever landed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. – Jerusalem Post 

Qatar’s ruling emir on Tuesday warned the Gulf state against excessive tribalism he said endangered national unity, proposing a plan to promote equal citizenship through changes to legislation that has inflamed tribal sensitivities. – Reuters 

The Saudi-led coalition intercepted and destroyed an explosives-laden drone that attempted to attack Abha International Airport located in the southwestern part of the kingdom, state Al Ekhbariya television said late on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center. – Associated Press 

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati said late on Tuesday that comments made by a member of his cabinet who criticised the Saudi military intervention in Yemen did not reflect the cabinet’s position. – Reuters 

Jason Pack writes: Today, major powers are unwilling to invest sufficient political capital to bring about stability—in Libya or globally—in the short or medium term. […]In this new global system, instead of using their power to foster order, neo-populist leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have deliberately promoted disorder. Libya was the first theater in which major features of this new international relations era played out. Syria and Ukraine followed in its wake. A new era of global disorder has begun—and it will likely endure. – Foreign Policy 

Korean Peninsula

In a last-ditch attempt to restart talks with North Korea before his term ends next year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is calling for a declaration that could eventually end a state of war that has technically lasted since the 1950s. – Reuters  

Major aerospace firms from Israel and South Korea are collaborating on a loitering munitions program that will maximize the effectiveness of strike missions against enemy air defenses. – The Defense Post  

North Korea is, needless to say, not a capitalist country. But that doesn’t mean that it’s completely without commerce. The Central Committee of the North Korean regime recently announced plans to build out “a new commercial network.” A new article looks at what that might look like in one part of North Korea. – The National Interest 


The Federal Communications Commission revoked the license that allows China’s largest telecom operator to do business in the U.S., citing national security concerns, dealing the latest in a series of blows against major Chinese businesses in the country. – Wall Street Journal  

The scramble by Chinese leaders to address the crisis over the past month coincided with Beijing’s preparations for a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, highlighting China’s challenge balancing international pressure to speed up its shift away from fossil fuels and the need to keep the supply of energy stable at home. – New York Times 

Hong Kong has banned films that run contrary to the interests of a Beijing-drafted national security law, the latest crackdown on freedom of expression in the Asian financial hub. – Bloomberg  

President Xi Jinping called for “breaking new ground” in weapons development, as China and the U.S. rebalance their forces for an era of what Biden administration has dubbed “strategic competition.” – Bloomberg 

China rebuked U.S. efforts to boost Taiwan’s participation in UN organizations, saying the self-ruled island has “no right” to join the world body a half century after it was booted out. – Bloomberg 

China’s Vice Premier Liu He spoke with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Oct. 26 via video call and talked about the macroeconomic situation and bilateral relations, according to a statement from China’s commerce ministry. – Reuters 

French President Emmanuel Macron asked China’s President Xi Jinping during a phone call on Tuesday to send the world a “decisive signal” on climate change ahead of the COP26 summit in Scotland on the topic, the French Presidency said in a statement. – Reuters 

European Union green policy chief Frans Timmermans will meet China’s top climate envoy Xie Zhenhua face-to-face for the first time on Wednesday ahead of the COP26 summit, as pressure grows for tougher action to curb global warming. – Reuters 

President Joe Biden and China’s Premier Li Keqiang will join an annual summit of 18 Asia-Pacific nations by video Wednesday in a region where the world powers have dueled over trade, Taiwan, democracy, human rights and Beijing’s increasingly assertive actions in disputed territories. – Associated Press 

Rosalind Matheson writes: China is “past that stage in development” where Xi needs affirmation from meeting with President Joe Biden, Thompson says, and Xi can gain “maybe more domestic political credibility by being able to firmly tell the West where to step off, where to back down.” While remaining in China, Xi has in recent weeks moved to improve ties with other countries, setting up a virtual meeting with Biden and planning an EU summit for later this year. – Bloomsberg  

Chris Dougherty, Jennie Matuschak and Ripley Hunter write: Wargames are not predictive, but they are useful tools for exploring decision-making and identifying vulnerabilities. As China’s assertiveness rises, failure to prepare for the threat of an incursion against Taiwanese territory presents grave risks to Indo-Pacific security. The United States, Taiwan, and regional allies and partners can better understand how to build an effective deterrence strategy to discourage Chinese aggression or coercion through multilateral gaming, to include crisis simulations and exercises. – Center for a New American Security 

South Asia

India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered an independent probe into reports that phone numbers belonging to journalists, activists and political figures in India were found on a list that included some selected for surveillance by clients of the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group. – Washington Post  

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan signed off on a new head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, the military said on Tuesday, after weeks of delay as regional players try to stabilize the security and economy of neighboring Afghanistan. – Reuters 

Pakistan’s interior minister said on Tuesday the government was ready to consider the demands of a banned Islamist group that has threatened to march on the capital Islamabad, but could not accept their call for the French ambassador to be expelled. – Reuters 

Two U.S. senators have urged President Joe Biden to waive sanctions against India over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defence system, saying such a punitive measure would endanger growing cooperation. – Reuters 


Nations across Central and Eastern Europe are deepening ties with Taiwan as relations with China cool, leading to confrontation with Beijing. – Wall Street Journal 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s push to restart Japanese nuclear power plants idled after the Fukushima disaster faces stiff opposition ahead of a general election on Sunday, where his future as leader hangs in the balance if the vote is tight. – Reuters 

The world’s biggest economies should create a forum to facilitate global coordination for the next pandemic, as well as a new financing facility to keep up with emerging threats, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

New Zealand, a U.S. ally with a reputation for economic dependence on China and conflict avoidance, wants to participate in a landmark trilateral defense deal between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. – Washington Examiner 

Joseph Bosco writes: Publicly declaring America’s intention to defend Taiwan will end the need to consult administration oracles, eliminate any lingering doubts or confusion in Beijing, and advance the cause of regional peace and stability. – The Hill   


A Dutch appeals court ruled in favor of Ukraine in the case of a priceless collection of Crimean gold that Ukraine and Russia both claimed as their own, the latest in a cross-national dispute that had come to epitomize the Black Sea peninsula’s complex and contested history. – Wall Street Journal  

Russia has opened an antitrust case against Apple (AAPL.O) for failing to allow app developers to tell customers about alternative payment options when using its App Store platform, Russia’s anti-monopoly regulator said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Andreas Kluth writes: As an obvious first step, the EU should now extend sanctions to all airlines and other operators — in Belarus or anywhere else — that are participating in this human trafficking. […]But Europeans, including those who’ve in the past downplayed the menace of Putin’s Russia, must also review their overall strategic position in the light of such tactics. In the geopolitical clash between western Europe and Moscow, one side values human life while the other does not. The question is whether this asymmetry, now or in future, leaves Europe vulnerable. – Bloomberg 


Pro-democracy protesters in Sudan vowed Tuesday to resist a military coup of their transitional government through nationwide civil disobedience, deepening a high stakes standoff that leaves the country with no clear path out of a debilitating economic and political crisis. – New York Times 

A day after he seized power in Sudan, the country’s top general said on Tuesday that he had detained the civilian prime minister in his own home, and defended the coup as necessary for stability — even as large crowds of protesters flooded the streets of the capital and other major cities to resist the military takeover. – New York Times 

The Sudanese prime minister arrested in Monday’s military coup was returned to his home but remains under close guard, the Information Ministry said. – Bloomberg  

The U.S. is weighing more economic measures on Sudan on top of suspending $700 million of aid as it tries to pressure the army into restoring democracy after Monday’s takeover, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. – Bloomberg 

Privinvest Group said Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi was served on Oct. 19 with the company’s litigation claims in the High Court of London. – Bloomberg 

Editorial: For the United States, the coup represents a direct challenge. It came just two days after the Biden administration’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, had visited Khartoum to warn military leaders that they were risking the aid and diplomatic legitimacy Sudan had regained by embarking on democratic change and — after Mr. Bashir’s ouster — paying compensation to American victims of terrorism and joining other Arab nations in recognizing Israel. The Trump administration had removed Sudan from the list of terrorism-sponsoring nations, removing a key obstacle to international aid and loans. – Washington Post  

Alberto Fernandez writes: Washington’s best course of action now is not to waver, but to openly take a hard and clear line against the rule of Sudanese military strongmen (and their civilian enablers once their identity becomes known). Initial steps in that direction have been taken, with the Biden administration suspending bilateral aid and publicly condemning the military. In addition, the generals need to be quietly warned that things could get worse for them if the situation on the ground deteriorates further. The moral way forward—full defense of Sudan’s 2019 democratic revolution and besieged transition—is also the best one for U.S. policy. – Washington Insititute  

Michael Rubin writes: Both President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have promised to put diplomacy and human rights first. […]It is time to do right by Liberia. It is time to abide by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia’s recommendations, ignore Weah’s excuses, and demand the establishment of an independent War and Economic Crimes Court based on the model of what worked in Sierra Leone. America should use its diplomatic muscle to seek neutral Western and African donors to underwrite its operation and mandate. – The National Interest 

The Americas

A 2.1 million-barrel cargo of Iranian condensate, the most recent delivery from a swap pact between the Middle Eastern nation and Venezuela, is expected to begin discharging on Wednesday at a PDVSA port, a document from the state-run firm showed. – Reuters 

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva defended the fund’s actions in changing language on Brazil’s climate risks as part of an economic assessment after nearly 200 IMF staff demanded answers on the topic. – Reuters 

Mexico plans to seek the arbitration of a panel of experts to resolve a simmering dispute with the United States over the interpretation of rules of origin in the automotive industry, three people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

As activists in Cuba defy the government and continue preparing for nationwide protests Nov. 15, the government is ratcheting up its rhetoric against the U.S., accusing it of financing and directing protesters. – NBC News 

United States

U.S. President Joe Biden entered office declaring that “America’s back” and vowing a new era of engagement with the world. He arrives in Rome this week for a meeting of the world’s largest economies facing deep skepticism that he can make good on that promise. – Bloomberg 

The U.S. Senate confirmed two former senators and the widows of two senators to high-level diplomatic posts on Tuesday, including former Republican Senator Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey and former Democratic Senator Tom Udall as ambassador to New Zealand. – Reuters 


The Justice Department and European police authorities said they arrested 150 people who sold and bought drugs and weapons on darknet forums, using evidence drawn from the world’s largest illegal online marketplace after it was taken down in January. – New York Times  

A draft law in Australia seeks to require social media platforms such as Facebook to seek parental consent for children and teens under 16 years old and to strengthen the protection of people’s personal information — or face hefty fines. – Washington Post  

A Senate panel broadened its inquiry into social media’s impact on children and teenagers, questioning representatives of TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube as lawmakers build a case for new legislation to protect young people online. – New York Times 

An executive at TikTok faced tough questions on Tuesday during the video-sharing app’s first appearance at a U.S. congressional hearing, saying it does not give information to the Chinese government and has sought to safeguard U.S. data. – Reuters

Draft EU rules to curb the power of Amazon, Apple, Alphabet unit Google and Facebook should also tackle providers of cloud computing services for possible anti-competitive practices, a study said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are praising the upcoming establishment of a new cybersecurity bureau at the State Department, following years of advocacy and escalating global attacks. – The Hill


Congress is set to force America’s armed services to keep better track of their guns and explosives, imposing new rules in response to an Associated Press investigation that showed firearms stolen from U.S. bases have resurfaced in violent crimes. – Associated Press 

The American guided-missile destroyer that has worked with the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) for more than a year is returning home, the U.K. Royal Navy announced on Tuesday. – USNI News 

Platform Aerospace is offering a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) variant of its Vanilla Unmanned ultra-long endurance Group 3 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for US Army programmes, according to a company executive. – Jane’s 360 

On a single day last week, 40 Russian warships staged a mock landing in Crimea, 20 Russian fighters and bombers repelled a notional enemy from landing on the Crimean coast ― and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began the first leg of his trip to Black Sea nations. – Defense News 

James R. Holmes writes: The perverse thing is this: Audiences able to influence the outcome of a competition may be unschooled in naval affairs, but their opinions count all the same. If the perception sets in that a bumbling U.S. Navy now faces off against a sleek, well-handled People’s Liberation Army Navy or Russian Navy, U.S. diplomacy could suffer a grave setback. That would be bad for America, its allies and partners, and the world. Let’s fix our problems — and burnish our good name for seamanship and tactical acumen. – The Hill 

Long War

ISIS-Khorasan , the Islamic State branch based in Afghanistan , is working to strengthen its capabilities and could be able to conduct an international attack within six months to a year, according to a Department of Defense official. – Washington Examiner 

Gunmen from the Islamic State extremist group attacked a village northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 11 civilians and wounding six others, Iraqi security officials said. – Associated Press 

Mohammad Salami writes: With major attacks by ISIS on Shia mosques in Afghanistan over the last several weeks, the Taliban will have to reckon with how it will handle Islamist groups such as ISIS and its affiliate, The Islamic State Khorasan Province, ISK or Daesh (ISIS) or how it will confront anti-Taliban movements such as those in the Panjshir Valley. Likewise, the Arab countries’ fears of terrorism are being realized, which indicates that they will cooperate with the international community—who shares this fear—to discuss how to reduce the possibility of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan becoming a training ground for terrorist groups. – Washington Institute