Fdd's overnight brief

October 4, 2023

In The News


Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that countries seeking to normalise relations with Israel “are betting on a losing horse”, state media reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

An Iranian girl aged 16 has been left in a coma and is being treated in hospital under heavy security after an assault on the Tehran subway, a rights group said on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

While it’s clear that the Islamic Republic benefits from cultivating American sympathizers, it’s less clear what America gains from admitting them into top policy-making circles. – New York Sun

Bret Stephens writes: It’s the lack of transparency. Readers of their opinion essays deserved to know from them about their links to I.E.I. and its masters in Tehran. Full transparency was also owed to their think-tank funders, academic deans, newspaper and magazine editors and the government. Without it, honest advocacy becomes malign influence peddling. – New York Times

Russia & Ukraine

The facade of the apartment building was blown off, the remains sagging to one side. Working together, the military police, the emergency services, the fire department and the explosives team cordoned off the scene, swept for other explosives, disarmed one, and searched for those still alive in the rubble with sniffer dogs, while removing the wounded and the dead. – New York Times

When Marc Fogel, a teacher at the Anglo-American School of Moscow, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being convicted of marijuana smuggling last year, he joined a growing number of Americans held in Russia. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. funding system for Ukrainian salaries and Kyiv government expenditures is expected to run out in the next month absent a fresh infusion of money from Congress, Ukrainian and American government officials said. – Wall Street Journal

The unblinking eye of the Ukrainian surveillance drone spotted attractive prey: eight Russian soldiers entering a fortified, well-camouflaged dugout.Inside a darkened trench a few miles away, Ukrainian soldiers of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade’s strike drone company got to work. A pilot tightened the plastic blades of his hand-built machine, strapped a fuel bomb to its belly and lifted off. – Washington Post

As the squad of Ukrainian soldiers crept along the tree line toward the Russian bunker, artillery fire sent their enemies scrambling for cover. This was the chance they had been waiting for. – Wall Street Journal

Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania have agreed on a plan they hope will help expedite Ukrainian grain exports, officials said Tuesday, with needy countries beyond Europe potentially benefitting from speedier procedures. – Associated Press

Russia downed 31 Ukraine-launched drones overnight over the regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk bordering Ukraine, the defence ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday evening it had shot down a Ukrainian missile off the Crimea coast, and the local Russia-appointed governor reported damage to dwellings from debris from a downed drone. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday discussed the battlefield situation with commanders in Ukraine’s northeast, where he visited troops on one of the hottest fronts of the war with Russia. – Reuters

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russia had not abandoned a moratorium on nuclear testing, and dismissed a suggestion by the editor of a state television channel that Moscow should detonate a thermonuclear device in Siberia as a warning to the West. – Reuters

Western military powers are running out of ammunition to give Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s full-scale invasion, the UK and Nato have warned. – BBC

Jillian Kay Melchior writes: Postponing the election for a year or so seems prudent given the legal complications and practical concerns. But delaying the vote indefinitely could put wind in the sails of Russian propaganda about Ukrainian democracy. All the more reason for the West to give Kyiv what it needs to hasten victory. – Wall Street Journal

Catherine Sendak writes: But I choose to be hopeful. Over my years in government service, I have seen reason replace absurdity, pragmatism replace anger, and good governance replace politicking. I remain a believer in the system. The majority of Congress wants to get the work done, ensure Ukrainian support, and exhibit clear leadership on these critical national security needs. I believe in the institution of the US Congress; now it’s time for the institution to believe in itself. – Center for European Policy Analysis


A video that shows ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground beside a procession of foreign Christian worshipers carrying a wooden cross in the holy city of Jerusalem has ignited intense outrage and a flurry of condemnation in the Holy Land.  – Associated Press

Israel allowed more countries to buy its defense exports last year as European and NATO arms spending rose following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US-brokered regional agreements led to increased deals. – Bloomberg

After the White House’s announcement last week that there is the basic infrastructure for a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the United States cooled the spirits in the Middle East on Tuesday night. “We don’t have a formal framework and we don’t have the terms ready to be signed,” said US State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel during a press briefing.  “There’s still lots of work to do, and we’re continuing to work that process.” – Ynet

As Israel continues its efforts to reach a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, an Israeli delegation to the country, led by Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, arrived in Riyadh on Monday. – Ynet

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, held live-fire military drills in Gaza on Tuesday, including missile launches toward the sea. Loud explosions were heard in the northern Gaza Strip, and residents living in the area were notified of the drills ahead of time. – Ynet

The leader of the National Resistance Front in Afghanistan, the primary group fighting the Taliban in the country, said that he would be willing to work with Israel in a regional peace initiative according to an exclusive Tuesday interview with Maariv. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas charged that “America is occupying Palestine” just as Secretary of State Antony Blinken was reportedly planning to visit Israel and the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

Efraim Inbar writes: Acting responsibly is also the best response to prevent further Chinese encroachment upon the Middle East. Beijing has signed strategic agreements with Iran, Syria, and even the Palestinian Authority. All these political entities are anti-American. The US must show the world that reliance on China cannot prevent unilateral measures by the US or Israel, its ally. It should be clear that getting closer to China might be costly. – Jerusalem Post


President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he expected concrete steps from allies in support of Turkey’s counter-terrorism fight after a weekend bomb attack in Ankara, for which a Kurdish militant group claimed responsibility. – Reuters

Turkish air forces conducted fresh air strikes in northern Iraq on Tuesday and destroyed 16 targets of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Turkey’s defence ministry said. – Reuters

Sinan Ciddi writes: Oscillating between sticks and carrots plays to Erdogan’s strengths. It allows him to manipulate different branches of the U.S. government to get what he wants while remaining noncommittal on the White House’s key expectations. At the recent United Nations General Assembly, Erdogan gave an interview with PBS News, where he announced that he “trusts Russia as much as the United States.” The United States should stand consistently behind its demands from Erdogan before giving him what he wants for one simple reason: he needs the United States more than we need him. Let’s meet his jingoism with consistency and stop him playing us like a fiddle. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

As Egypt prepares for a presidential election, authorities have detained dozens of opposition figures. Potential challengers to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi say they are facing obstacles getting on the ballot. And some Egyptians have received food vouchers in exchange for their support. – Wall Street Journal

Tunisia’s public prosecutor detained Abir Moussi, a prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, after she was arrested at the entrance to the presidential palace on Tuesday, lawyers said, the latest arrest targeting Saied’s political rivals. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden called Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to thank him for Doha’s mediation that resulted in the release of a number of Americans from Iran, the Amiri Diwan and the White House said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked military aid to Egypt, days after Senator Bob Menendez stepped aside from the job as he fights allegations that he took bribes to help the Egyptian government. – Bloomberg

Salem Alketbi writes: MBS’s statements on nuclear weapons are mainly a warning to those concerned about the peril of nuclear weapons. They do not contradict the atmosphere of cross-Gulf rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran. On the contrary, they aim to consolidate and maintain that rapprochement. Moreover, such calculations and strategic positions of countries are not primarily tied to the regional environment and the current state of neighborhood relations, but to ensuring the long-term security and interests of the country. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) will lead a bipartisan delegation of senators on a visit to China, Japan and South Korea this month as part of an effort to advance U.S. interests in the region, his office confirmed. – Washington Post

North Korea criticised a new U.S. strategy on countering weapons of mass destruction for describing the reclusive state as among those it considers a “persistent threat,” KCNA media reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

Donald Kirk writes: None of this had much to do with Private Travis King, who can only hope that the army will go easy on him for having jumped across the North-South line at the truce village of Panmunjom in July. He would surely have some tales to tell intelligence experts of where he’d been, what the North Koreans had been asking and maybe even whether he believed they were serious about wanting to go to war with the Americans and South Koreans. – The Hill

Mitchell Lerner writes: History will tell us whether Kim’s efforts to retain power by so closely linking his regime to the nuclear weapons program proves successful in the long-term. For now, though, any effort to truly understand the central role the program plays in DPRK society must start by recognizing the domestic political imperatives that lay behind it. And those domestic political imperatives mean that as long as there is a Kim family dictatorship in North Korea, there will be nuclear weapons alongside it. – The National Interest


U.S. officials announced criminal charges Tuesday against eight Chinese companies and 12 of their executives accused of supplying precursor chemicals for the illegal manufacture of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs. – Washington Post

China has “very diverse” ways of interfering in Taiwan’s elections in January, from military pressure to spreading fake news, including manipulating opinion polls, a senior Taiwanese security official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

For much of the world, China’s Xinjiang region is notorious, a place where ethnic Uyghurs face forced labor and arbitrary detention. But a group of visiting foreign journalists was left with a decidedly different impression. – Associated Press

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday the United States has become overly dependent on China for critical supply chains, particularly in clean energy products and needs to broaden out sources of supply. – Reuters

Bobby Ghosh writes: Just 15% — a record low — of Americans now regard China favorably, and that doesn’t seem to bother Beijing very much. Nor, I suspect, will the departure of Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and The Little Miracle be long mourned in a city where hostility toward China is one of the few bipartisan sensibilities. Americans seeking a panda fix will have to make do with the next iteration of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, due out next year. And while it may not do much for China’s soft power, a giant panda still makes a nice soft toy. – Bloomberg

Martin Wolf writes: Yet sceptics are right that this is not going to happen without a great deal of reform. The structural issues I discussed last week will have to be overcome. In addition to the reforms to internal migration and retirement outlined above, it will be essential to raise the educational standards of the young people they have, as well as encourage the most innovative economy possible. It will also be necessary to overcome the external constraints. Will Xi Jinping’s state be able to meet such big challenges? That is a big question, to which I will return. – Financial Times

Glenn Chafetz writes: Fear of a more risk-tolerant China might tempt some in the West to seek to propitiate Beijing by tempering their criticisms. That is a moral hazard that rewards and encourages China’s bullying. The best course is for the democratic world to continue to speak the truth and force China to recognize that its dictatorship stops at its borders. – The Hill

David M. Finkelstein writes: For its part, Beijing must understand that it is in its interest to engage. Xi wants a strengthened PLA so that China can project more sovereignty and authority. But he must acknowledge that a stronger military entails more responsibilities—not only to use force wisely but also to discuss ways to preclude and manage potential crises with the armed forces of other nations. Now is the time for serious discussions between the PLA and the Pentagon that draw a road map to a military relationship that can address the strategic concerns of both sides. Washington has been reaching out; the ball is now in Beijing’s court. Rejecting such dialogues and merely continuing to beef up the PLA risks undermining the security that Beijing seeks. – Foreign Affairs

Jessica Batke writes: And yet, its relatively gentle tactics notwithstanding, the UFWD tacitly seeks a change in Chinese society that is all-encompassing and profound. The impact of this change may feel slight when it comes to how the UFWD relates to, say, an atheist Han businessman who lives a workaholic lifestyle in Shanghai. While the UFWD may target him as a member of the “nonpublic economy,” it views his identity (nonreligious, Han, focused largely on economic rather than political or social concerns) as inherently more pro-CCP than a Tibetan, a Uyghur, or even a Han churchgoer. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Citing a draconian anti-terrorism legal provision, Indian police on Tuesday raided the homes and seized the phones and laptops of 46 journalists and contributors associated with NewsClick, a left-leaning news outlet critical of the Indian government, amid an intensifying crackdown on media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. – Washington Post

India’s external intelligence service is a feared foe in its neighborhood: Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal have all accused it of political meddling and involvement with outlawed groups that have perpetrated acts of violence. – Reuters

Pakistan on Tuesday ordered all illegal immigrants, including 1.73 million Afghan nationals, to leave the country or face expulsion after revealing that 14 of 24 suicide bombings in the country this year were carried out by Afghan nationals. – Reuters


The Philippines is investigating a maritime incident to find out what killed three Filipino fishermen in a ramming incident that sank their boat in the South China Sea, its president said on Wednesday. – Reuters

An Australian constitutional referendum on Indigenous recognition is on track to be defeated amid strong opposition from older voters and those living outside cities, according to a poll published on Wednesday. – Reuters

Australia will address significant abuses of its visa system, the government said on Thursday, in a bid to crack down on human trafficking and other forms of organised crime. – Reuters

Armenia’s parliament voted Tuesday to join the International Criminal Court, a move that further strains the country’s ties with its old ally Russia after the court issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin over events in Ukraine. – Associated Press

New Zealand’s main opposition National Party is in prime position to win this month’s election but it will need the support of two smaller parties to govern, according to the latest opinion poll. – Bloomberg

Joseph Epstein writes: These statements may translate into action. Reports from both Azerbaijani and Armenian media mention the potential of a Kremlin-backed coup against Armenia. […]Should Pashinyan survive the protesters and a Kremlin plot. Armenia could see a bright future ahead, aligned with the West. But should he fall, Armenia’s independence and the prospect of regional peace will fall with him. – Newsweek


A supporter of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who was involved in the hijacking of an aircraft to Malta in 2016 has been jailed for 10 years by a Maltese court after he pleaded guilty. – Reuters

The European Union is considering unlocking billions of euros for Hungary that were frozen over rule-of-law concerns as it seeks to win Budapest’s approval for aid to Ukraine including a start to membership talks for Kyiv, senior officials said. – Reuters

Spain’s acting Prime Minister predicted “complex talks” with other political parties to form a government on Tuesday, after he was nominated to seek their backing for a new mandate. – Reuters

Moldova’s Constitutional Court cleared the way on Tuesday for members of a banned pro-Russian party to run in local elections as independent candidates or as members of other parties. – Reuters

Top officials from the United States and the EU met with their Russian counterparts for undisclosed emergency talks in Turkey designed to resolve the standoff over Nagorno-Karabakh, just days before Azerbaijan launched a military offensive last month to seize the breakaway territory from ethnic Armenian control. – Politico

While Western support to provide military aid to Ukraine has been steadfast over the last nineteen months, a number of European states appear to be having a change of heart, opting to now prioritize domestic issues. Is European support for Ukraine doomed? – DefenseNews

Editorial: Given Poland’s outsized importance to Ukraine’s defense — and Europe’s own security — a swift, diplomatic resolution of the grain dispute is far preferable to squabbling and threats of litigation. The costs may be high, but the losses will only be greater if allies are pulling in opposite directions. – Bloomberg

Lee Hockstader writes: Ignoring AfD seems a losing strategy, given Germany’s lackluster leadership. “It would help to have more inspirational political leaders in the vein of Churchill or Willy Brandt,” said Minkenberg. Yet no such towering figures are waiting in the wings, and no German politicians have found the right messaging to turn back AfD’s gains. Without that countervailing force, Europe’s already precarious future might soon look even grimmer. – Washington Post

Janan Ganesh writes: That isn’t so true elsewhere. There was always a kind of British liberal whose critical powers failed them when it came to Europe, as though cycle lanes and subsidised childcare excused everything. Well, the spread of plausible outcomes at the next UK election is a centre-right government or a centre-left one. It shouldn’t feel as transgressive as it does to say that Europe’s other democracies should be so lucky. – Financial Times

Tom Rogan writes: U.S. support for Ukraine is very important. But the notion that the EU is somehow distinguishing itself by carrying the weight of Ukraine’s support is patently absurd. Indeed, if the U.S. is forced into war with China in the coming years, the EU’s self-congratulation may be proven a disastrous delusion. The EU should be doing far more for Ukraine and far, far more than the U.S. is doing. – Washington Examiner

Harun Karcic writes: One of the most egregious threats to Bosnia’s unity lies in the Republika Srpska, where secessionist ambitions, supported by Serbia and Russia, emboldened by the European Union’s appeasement policies over the past years, are rapidly rising. This is not merely an internal affair; it is a manifestation of Belgrade’s wider regional ambitions and power dynamics. The danger is that the Republika Srpska’s secession would not only destabilize Bosnia but also inflame ethnic tensions throughout the Balkans, potentially sparking a chain reaction of territorial claims and conflicts in Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Kosovo. – Jerusalem Post

John Kampfner writes: If the CDU does make a change and moves back more toward the center, it could opt for the younger and—at the national level—relatively untried Hendrick Wüst, the premier of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The other big beast in the mix is Söder himself, who is not one to hold back if he sniffs a chance. These forthcoming elections in Bavaria will be a midterm test for him, for his party, and for the resilience of the politics of the mainstream, which is facing one of its sternest tests since the advent of the Federal Republic. – Foreign Policy


Niger has banned all exports of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) until further notice, the government said in a statement on Tuesday. – Reuters

The European Union on Tuesday pledged a $680 million aid package for Ethiopia that was delayed due to a 2020-2022 civil war in its northern Tigray region. – Reuters

European Union ambassadors agreed a framework of sanctions that will be used to target key actors in Sudan’s war and impose asset freezes and travel bans, sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

At least 29 Nigerien soldiers have been killed by jihadis near the country’s border with Mali, Niger’s junta said, as they struggle to end a spate of attacks. – Associated Press

Latin America

Approval of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government has slipped slightly after nine months in office, but almost half of Brazilians say it is doing a better job than that of his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, a poll said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Senior officials of the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, met Guatemalan President-elect Bernardo Arevalo in Washington on Tuesday, following concerns that Guatemalan authorities have been trying to undermine the transfer of power to Arevalo. – Reuters

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday launched a new national drug policy that will look to reduce the size of coca crops, cut potential cocaine output and prevent deforestation linked to drug trafficking, while helping transition small farmers to the legal economy. – Reuters

El Salvador’s political parties launched their campaigns for the upcoming presidential elections on Tuesday, amid vocal criticism from the opposition that President Nayib Bukele will seek re-election despite it being prohibited by the constitution. – Reuters

New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said he will travel to Latin America to discourage people from seeking asylum in the city as it struggles to handle a massive influx of migrants that have overwhelmed its shelter system and strained financial resources. – Associated Press

North America

Canada sought to dial down tensions with India in the wake of a diplomatic upheaval, calling on the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to refrain from further expulsions of Canadian diplomats. – Wall Street Journal

Canada’s House of Commons on Tuesday elected Greg Fergus as its new speaker, making the Liberal Party lawmaker the first Black Canadian to hold the post after the previous speaker quit over unknowingly inviting a former Nazi soldier to parliament. – Reuters

Mexico’s president said Tuesday that assailants have killed two workers who were conducting internal polling for his Morena party in southern Mexico. – Associated Press

United States

President Joe Biden gathered other world powers Tuesday to coordinate on Ukraine as it battles Russia in a war now almost 20 months long — a deliberate show of U.S. support at a time when the future of its aid is entangled with a volatile faction of House Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv. – Associated Press

Kevin McCarthy became the shortest-tenured US House speaker in 147 years on Tuesday, ousted by Republican hardliners who toppled him with a rarely used maneuver that had never before succeeded. – Bloomberg

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes: The predicament of respectable Biden appointees like Messrs. Garland and Burns is the least of the symptoms but ought to awaken a more honest discussion of whether Mr. Biden is essentially throwing the country under a bus because he wants a second term. Mr. Biden has been a better friend of Ukraine than might have been expected after Russia’s invasion, but even Ukrainians might begin to feel he’s a friend who doesn’t know when it’s time to say goodbye. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: Like Putin, Xi is no doubt contemplating whether it is better to bide his time and hope for a Trump victory in 2024. Despite the transformative policies on China and Taiwan of several officials in the Trump administration, recent disclosures about his term in office reveal his own lack of conviction or coherence on East Asia security issues. – The Hill


Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal are seeking information about TikTok’s executive transfers from ByteDance, its China-based parent company. – Wall Street Journal

NATO is investigating claims by a politically motivated hacktivist group that it breached the defense alliance’s computer systems, which, if confirmed, would mark the second time in the last three months that the group known as SiegedSec has broken into NATO systems. – CyberScoop

European Union officials have launched a review of foreign access to high-end emerging technology, a sign U.S. policymakers and analysts see as Brussels embracing President Joe Biden’s wariness of Chinese technology developments. – Washington Examiner


Canada is deploying tanks on an overseas mission for the first time in more than a decade, but the future for the country’s armored fleet remains uncertain. – DefenseNews

As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., fights to hold onto his position this week, Democrats have made clear he can’t count on their support, partly because of lingering resentment over the annual defense policy bill. – DefenseNews

Jun Yan Chang writes: Certainly, no analogy can be perfect, as the above discussion about the gaps regarding the poison shrimp, porcupine, and dolphin has demonstrated. Searching for the Next Gen SAF image may be a fool’s errand, given the increasing complexity of the contemporary security environment. Even as we desire such reductionist symbols as elegant proxies to anchor our thinking and communicate our actions, summing up Singapore’s defense policy succinctly and neatly, such shorthand may no longer be possible in the reality of the day. – The National Interest

Michael Bohnert writes: Will F-16s win the war for Ukraine? No. Only ground victories and unacceptable Russian losses will force Putin to negotiate. The most important support to Ukraine is still artillery, medical equipment, infantry weapons, ground vehicles, and drones. However, a long-term commitment to supporting a well-equipped, sizable F-16 force will improve the likelihood of Ukrainian success even if an F-16 never shoots a Russian fighter. – DefenseNews