Fdd's overnight brief

October 28, 2021

In The News


Iran will return to nuclear talks before the end of November, its chief negotiator said Wednesday, restoring the Biden administration’s hopes that it can revive the 2015 nuclear deal. – Wall Street Journal 

France, Britain, and Germany (E3) have not received an invitation to meet Iran and stand ready for a meeting, but regret the Iranian negotiator declined to meet them during a European visit, a French diplomatic source said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The White House on Wednesday responded skeptically after Iran’s chief negotiator announced that Tehran was ready to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of next month. – Associated Press 

Representatives of the countries bordering Afghanistan have met in Tehran to discuss how to coordinate actions in response to the change in government in the war-torn country. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Dennis Ross writes: If Washington wants to make the use of force against the Iranian nuclear program less likely, it is essential to restore deterrence. For that, Iran’s leaders must believe either the United States or Israel will act militarily to destroy their massive investment in the nuclear program if they stay on the current path and reject a negotiated outcome. Not for the first time, the credible threat of force is necessary to obviate its use. – Foreign Policy 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: In short, Iran wants the plausible deniability of not being behind cyberattacks abroad. But there is evidence that incidents referred to by Iranian media are those done by hackers in Eastern Europe or Russia, not necessarily ascribed to Iran. And there is no evidence that Tehran is behind some of the incidents it has linked itself to in the US. – Jerusalem Post 


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday to resume financing support to cash-strapped Afghanistan for reconstruction. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed on Wednesday that he has ordered a series of internal reviews of the State Department’s planning and execution of the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan and the relocation efforts, operations that were widely criticized as chaotic. – Reuters 

NATO’s security operation in Afghanistan became a victim of “mission creep” as the military organization allowed itself to be dragged into helping rebuild the impoverished, conflict-torn country, the official leading a process of drawing lessons from the mission said on Wednesday. – Associated Press 

Peter Mills writes: Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) is expanding its support zones and attack zones across Afghanistan as part of a campaign to undermine and replace the Taliban government. […] If IS-KP continues to expand and strengthen, it could develop havens that enable it to conduct attacks outside Afghanistan. – Institute for the Study of War 


Top advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Wednesday about defense issues and how to resolve disagreements, the White House said, days after Turkey’s leader threatened to expel U.S. and other ambassadors. – Reuters 

Bobby Ghosh writes: The diplomatic flare-up may have been the latest attempt to distract attention from the careening currency and reverse Erdogan’s own plunging popularity. The episode made clear that there are few checks and balances to the power he wields. Its allies and rivals, as well as investors with exposure to the country, should brace for more bumps ahead. – Bloomberg 

Laura Pitel and Katrina Manson write: “This is really a blow to the US-Turkish relationship overall, and especially given that the blow came to the state department,” said the person, adding that it was the agency that most supported strong bilateral ties with Turkey. “Realistically, Nato and Turkey need each other,” he said. “But Erdogan’s instinct to punch his western partners in the eye — a combination of his own ideology and the feelings of his political base — poisons what should otherwise be a good relationship.”- Financial Times 


Israel moved forward on Wednesday with plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, defying the Biden administration’s strongest criticism to date of such projects. – Reuters 

The State Department confirmed that it could not open a consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem without Israel’s authorization, in a Senate hearing on Wednesday. Biden promised to reopen the consulate in his election campaign, and American officials have raised the issue with Israelis, but the government in Jerusalem opposes it. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel chose not to sign a United Nations statement expressing concern about the welfare of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group in China that has been forced into “re-education camps,” which some have likened to concentration camps. – Jerusalem Post 

Palestinian Authority (PA) Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that the “injustice will come to an end” as will “the occupation,” and that Jerusalem will be “liberated” and returned to the fold of Islam. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Emily Schader writes: No organization, of any nationality, should get a free pass to assist violent terrorist organizations. To pretend there is not a track record of these organizations’ affiliations and assistance to the PFLP in the past few years is to ignore evidence that has already been released. Israel is entitled to designate these organizations as PFLP fronts, and the international community should respect that and stop funding them. – Jerusalem Post 

Arabian Peninsula

Saudi Arabia is seeking Washington’s help in bolstering its defences as it comes under intense U.S. pressure to end a blockade of Yemeni ports that its Houthi enemies say is an obstacle to ceasefire talks, two sources with knowledge of efforts to end the Yemen war and a U.S. official said. – Reuters 

The spokesman of the Yemen Shiite Houthi rebels officially announced that their armed forces have captured the districts of Al-Jubah and Jabal Murad in the oil-rich Marib province, getting closer to the city of Marib. – Bloomberg 

US Defense Department is encouraging the sale of more than $500 million worth of armed drones to Qatar, even as the State Department has slow-rolled the Qatari government’s request, say three U.S. officials and a congressional aide familiar with the discussions.- Agence France-Presse 

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday classified the Lebanon-based Al-Qard Al-Hassan association as a terrorist entity, citing links to activities supporting Hezbollah – Arutz Sheva 

Middle East & North Africa

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a village in Diyala province east of Iraq, the militant group said on Wednesday in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account. – Reuters 

The U.N. special envoy for Syria said Wednesday the Syrian government’s refusal to negotiate on revisions to the country’s constitution is a key reason for the failure of talks last week that left the road map to peace in the conflict-torn country in question.. – Associated Press 

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned in the wake of the Beirut port explosion, filed a suit against the state on Wednesday over his prosecution by investigating judge Tarek Bitar for his role in the disaster, local Al Jadeed TV reported. – Reuters 

Paul Gadalla writes: As Lebanon restarts its negotiations with the IMF and seeks money from donor countries, the international community should make it known that it will not allow its money to be siphoned off by Hezbollah and its allies. […]If nothing is done to push back against Hezbollah’s slow takeover of the Lebanese state, it is doubtful the country will ever climb out of the current crisis. – Middle East Institute 

Haisam Hassanein writes: The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have lent Sisi heavy financial and political support ever since he helped topple Morsi in 2013. And one thing the three capitals still agree on—especially after America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan—is the need to keep chipping away at the influence of political Islamists and other radical elements. Embracing the MB could threaten that pillar of unanimity. – Washington Institute 

Sardar Aziz writes: The election results crystalize further the fact that the majority of Iraqi people are frustrated with the militias and their parties. They expressed their wish by not voting. If the election results did not favor Iran and others, the resulting government may be more in line with U.S. interests. The leader of this election’s largest party, Muqtada al-Sadr, has already changed his previous position and has since called for U.S. forces to remain in the country. Moreover, Sunni, Kurdish, and independent MPs will likely favor a strong relationship with the United States. – Washington Institute 


The top U.S. military official described China’s recent test of a hypersonic missile as a near “Sputnik moment” and said that the Pentagon was focused on the development. – Wall Street Journal  

Elbridge Colby writes: The U.S. and China are engaged in a “strategic competition,” as the Biden administration has put it, with Taiwan emerging as the focal point. But an ascendant view inside the administration seems to be that while China represents a serious economic, political and technological challenge to American interests, it doesn’t pose a direct military threat. This is a very imprudent assumption that could lead to war and, ultimately, American defeat. To avoid that disastrous outcome, the U.S. must recognize that China is a military threat—and conflict could come soon. – Wall Street Journal 

Elisabeth Braw  writes: Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, wants fewer Chinese investments in sensitive areas of the British economy such as nuclear power and 5G technology. […]Only if governments know the full chain of entities involved can they make an informed decision as to the wisdom of such a takeover or major investment. As the Recorded Future analyst’s reconstruction of Alpi’s acquisition shows, finding the information isn’t insurmountable. Without such details, the UK could end up with Chinese presence in the very areas where Truss wants to eliminate it. – American Enterprise Institute 

Seth Cropsey writes: U.S. media coverage of China’s advertised hypersonic missile capability helps explain the large issue of the arms race that exists between the U.S. and China. But Chinese nuclear doctrine is inconsistent with developing hypersonics as a strategic threat to the U.S. in addition to the weapons systems that the PLA already possesses. The “hype” in “hypersonics” is a more accurate picture of what China is trying to achieve in its unclear public mention of recent missile tests. – RealClear Defense 

South Asia

Four Pakistani police were killed and hundreds wounded when armed activists from a banned Islamist group clashed with security forces at a anti-blasphemy demonstration near the eastern city of Lahore, officials said. – Reuters 

India’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it was concerned about a new law passed by China last week to strengthen border protection amid a protracted military standoff between the two Asian giants along a contested Himalayan frontier. – Reuters 

India has test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,125 miles) from an island off its east coast amid rising border tensions with China. The successful launch on Wednesday was in line with “India’s policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no first use,” said a government statement. – Associated Press 

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


A small number of U.S. forces are in Taiwan to train with Taiwanese soldiers, President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN, confirming the presence of U.S. troops on the self-governing island that China considers its own. – Reuters  

Taiwan’s defense minister said Thursday that Taiwan must be prepared to defend itself and could not entirely depend on other countries to help if China were to launch an attack against the island, even as Taiwan’s president said she had faith the U.S. would defend it. – Associated Press  

President Joe Biden told Southeast Asian nations on Wednesday the United States would stand with them in defending freedom of the seas and democracy and called China’s actions towards Taiwan “coercive” and a threat to peace and stability. – Reuters 

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could lose its majority in Sunday’s general election, polls show, potentially turning new leader Fumio Kishida into another short-term prime minister and triggering a return to political uncertainty. – Reuters 

Hong Kong’s legislature passed a new film censorship law on Wednesday to “safeguard national security”, though critics say it will dampen creativity in its world famous movie industry and further reduce freedoms in the former British colony. – Reuters 

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday China’s ambassador to Canberra is leaving his post, ending a tenure that has coincided with a deteriorating bilateral relationship. – Reuters 

Rep. Pat Fallon writes: Ultimately, a Taiwan under the grip of communist China would be a tragic and chilling disaster for the U.S. and the global democratic movement. For us to protect our homeland, we must be the bulwark for freedom. If our silence persists, my home state of Texas loses billions of dollars in investments , the U.S. loses all credibility as an ally in the Indo-Pacific, and we further jeopardize the security of American citizens. The Biden administration must immediately declare its intent to guarantee the sovereignty of Taiwan. Anything short of this is inexcusable. – Washington Examiner 

Matthew P. Goodman writes: The new Kishida administration’s initiative in moving forward a tangible economic security agenda should get serious attention in Washington. It highlights both the importance of a well-targeted economic security strategy in the United States—one based on confidence rather than fear—and the opportunity to work with the world’s third-largest economy and leading U.S. ally in Asia to push out economic rules and norms that advance the interests of both countries. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 


For years, the European Union tried to loosen Russia’s iron grip on its gas supplies by fostering a competitive import market. Those efforts have boomeranged this year as supplies run short, setting off an energy crisis across the Continent. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia’s top diplomat told Afghanistan’s neighbours on Wednesday to refuse to host U.S. or NATO military forces following their withdrawal from Afghanistan. – Reuters 

The U.S. has cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by about 90% in the last four years, paring back to only the most basic services, according to a senior State Department official, as relations between Washington and Moscow continue to languish. – Bloomberg 


The European Union’s top court on Wednesday handed down a record daily fine to Poland for failing to comply with its decisions, the latest episode in an escalating fight between Brussels and Warsaw over judicial independence. – Wall Street Journal 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is back in court in Britain this week fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges after he obtained and published a trove of classified material about the U.S. role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. – Washington Post 

France released a list of sanctions that could come into effect from Nov. 2 unless enough progress is made in its post-Brexit fishing row with Britain, and said it was working on a second round of sanctions that could affect power supplies to the UK. – Reuters 


The World Bank halted disbursements for operations in Sudan on Wednesday in response to the military’s seizure of power from a transitional government, while state oil company workers, doctors and pilots joined civilian groups opposing the takeover. – Reuters  

Sudan’s army launched a new wave of arrests of opponents to Monday’s coup, activists said, shrugging off African Union and World Bank suspensions and pressure from the U.S. as they looked to consolidate control. – Bloomberg 

Mike Cohen writes: Now the army has toppled an uneasy coalition of civilian and military figures that ran the North African nation after the popular uprising, detaining premier Abdalla Hamdok and four of his cabinet members. The coup sparked unrest and a deadly crackdown by security forces, put hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid at risk and dashed hopes of a speedy transition to democracy. – Bloomberg 

The Americas

The morning after a Brazilian Senate committee recommended criminal indictments for President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, president has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called the Senate committee’s probe a politically motivated sham seeking to undermine his administration. – Associated Press  

Editorial: Without Mexico’s cooperation, it’s a dead letter, and it’s hard to imagine the administration pushing Mexican officials very hard to reestablish a program that neither side much liked to begin with. Administration officials say their goal, if the policy does get a second act, would be to cap processing time at six months for asylum seekers, and use makeshift courts at border crossings in southern Texas to facilitate hearings. – Washington Post 

Andrew Selee writes: U.S. policymakers could also do much more to help countries in the region get back to economic health, starting by donating far more Covid-19 vaccines. And the international community can provide additional resources to host countries with large migrant and refugee populations so they can accelerate access to legal status, education and health care, all of which remain major issues in integrating recent arrivals. – New York Times 


A notorious Russian cybercriminal group has posted what appear to be National Rifle Association files to the dark web. The group, known as Grief, posted 13 files to its website Wednesday and claimed to have hacked the NRA. It is threatening to release more of the files if not paid, though it did not publicly state how much. – Agence France-Presse 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday formally announced the establishment of a new cyber bureau at the State Department to help tackle cyber and emerging technology diplomatic issues. – The Hill 

A hacker group called Moses Staff claimed this week that it has successfully conducted a cyberattack on the Israeli Defense Ministry, releasing files and photos it claims it obtained from the ministry’s servers. – Jerusalem Post 


The U.S. Navy still isn’t positive what one of its most powerful attack submarines hit in the South China Sea, as repair assessments continue in Guam, four sources familiar with the results of the preliminary investigations told USNI News this week. – USNI News 

The Navy wants to develop and procure three types of large unmanned vehicles (UVs) called Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs). The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $434.1 million in research and development funding for these large UVs and their enabling technologies. – USNI News 

The Navy’s USS Gerald R. Ford is set to deploy next year, four years after its original maiden deployment date. The aircraft carrier , the lead ship in the new Ford class, is in the middle of its last maintenance phase ahead of deployment following a series of delays, including those stemming from new technologies. – Washington Examiner  

As the U.S. Marine Corps begins launching the Naval Strike Missile from unmanned ground vehicles and the U.S. Navy continues installing NSM on its littoral combat ships, missile manufacturer Kongsberg is confident it can keep up with growing demand in the U.S. and around the globe. – Defense News