Fdd's overnight brief

October 5, 2021

In The News


Lawyers for an 84-year-old Iranian American who was formerly imprisoned by Iran and whose son remains jailed there, urged Tehran on Monday to let him leave the country for medical care, saying he needs immediate surgery for an arterial blockage. – Reuters  

Germany would reject any Iranian demands for the United States to release frozen Iranian assets as a condition for nuclear talks to resume, Germany’s foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters  

Top U.S. officials will tell their Israeli counterparts on Tuesday that the Biden administration remains committed to diplomacy with Iran, but if necessary would be prepared to pursue “other avenues” to ensure Tehran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, a senior U.S. official said. – Reuters 

Iran said its demand that the U.S. unblocks $10 billion in trapped Iranian oil funds is “one example” of how Washington could generate goodwill and enable a resumption of big-power talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. – Bloomberg 

Iran foresees talks with world powers aimed at reviving its nuclear deal resuming by early November, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday. – Agence France-Presse 

Azerbaijan on Monday denied Iranian allegations of Israeli military presence in the Caucasus country after Tehran’s army launched drills at the countries’ border, further raising tensions between the neighbours. – Agence France-Presse 

The attempted terror plot against Israelis in Cyprus allegedly orchestrated by Iran was a “warning signal,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday, as Israeli media reported that the attack was planned as revenge for the 2020 targeted killing of a key Iranian nuclear scientist. – Algemeiner 

Editorial: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has put nuclear negotiations on the back burner for his first two months in office, and it’s unclear whether he’s serious about ever reviving the 2015 deal. Yet Tehran certainly is open to getting paid to flirt with the idea. – Wall Street Journal 


Members of an internationally renowned orchestra of Afghan women and girls have been evacuated from Afghanistan after protracted negotiations among the musicians’ supporters in the U.S., the Qatari government and Taliban leaders in Kabul. – Wall Street Journal  

When the Taliban ruled the country in the 1990s, after all, their regime was known for having some of the world’s harshest restrictions on women. The group still adheres to a fundamentalist vision of Islamic society. But ideology is only part of the story. – New York Times  

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the forthcoming G20 summit must send a clear message to Afghanistan’s Taliban on the conditions for international recognition. – Reuters 

Afghan refugees will soon be arriving again in the U.S. after a massive campaign to vaccinate them against measles following a small outbreak that caused a three-week pause in evacuations, officials said Monday. – Associated Press 

Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, accused President Joe Biden of not caring about the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban government. – Washington Examiner 

Taliban forces unlawfully killed 13 ethnic Hazaras — including nine surrendering former government soldiers and a 17-year-old girl — in Afghanistan’s Daykundi province on August 30, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International. – CNN  


Republican Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) delayed on Monday a vote to fast track a bill that would provide Israel $1 billion to replenish its stockpile of Iron Dome interceptors. – Jerusalem Post 

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will host his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata at the White House on Tuesday for talks on the Iranian nuclear program. – Times of Israel 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Israel next week for a farewell visit before her expected departure from office after 16 years in power, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday. – Reuters 

The conference also recommended that rules be drawn up for dealing with “Jews” in the country, including defining which of them will be killed or subjected to legal prosecution and which will be allowed to leave or to remain and be integrated into the new state. It also called for preventing a brain drain of Jewish professionals, and for the retention of “educated Jews and experts in the areas of medicine, engineering, technology, and civilian and military industry… [who] should not be allowed to leave.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: Overall, this is the context of the Abbas outreach. He wants to meet Israelis but he is not ready to make any changes. He wants the status quo and his endless rule. Israel must face this with caution. Talk is good and moderation – including confidence-building measures – is important. However, the Palestinian leadership should be held accountable for its two-faced approach which seeks to slam Israel internationally and reach out locally. – Jerusalem Post 

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The more pain Iran can deal out to any of its adversaries, the more both that targeted adversary, as well as the West in general, may be averse to a broader conflict and more ready to make concessions on the wide nuclear and regional issues – just to secure quiet and stability. This time, it appears that either the Iranian proxy, who was caught by Cypriot border officials with a gun and silencer in his car, got careless. […]But the key takeaway from this incident is that Iran is still very much hunting Israelis overseas, and it is unlikely to stop anytime soon. – Jerusalem Post 

Gulf States

Kuwait’s government and opposition lawmakers are expected to start talks this week called for by the ruling emir in a bid to end a standoff that has hindered efforts to boost state finances and enact economic and fiscal reform. – Reuters 

A US delegation led by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in talks with leading Saudi Arabian officials last week, a senior US official said on Monday. – Reuters  

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg were in the United Arab Emirates this week for meetings with officials on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo, which kicked off last week with an Israeli pavilion among the exhibits. – Times of Israel 

Middle East & North Africa

Russian mercenaries in Libya killed detainees, among the possible war crimes committed by multiple sides in the conflict, U.N. human rights investigators said on Monday, adding that they had drawn up a confidential list of suspects. – Reuters 

Libya’s parliament on Monday passed a law on legislative elections, its spokesman said, ahead of a planned national vote set for December 24 under a United Nations-led peace process. – Agence France-Presse 

The head of a new unmanned and artificial intelligence task force in the Middle East said the U.S. Navy will begin using off-the-shelf gear to boost maritime domain awareness in the region, first gaining trust in the systems and then applying them to real missions. – Defense News 

Korean Peninsula

Intensifying competition between the US and China is forcing South Korea, a crucial American ally that has long sought to maintain cordial ties with Beijing, to confront an awkward choice. – Financial Times 

South Korea’s powerful antitrust regulator sought to defuse fears of a sweeping tech crackdown as it takes steps to rein in the influence of its fastest-growing online platforms. – Bloomberg 

More details have emerged about South Korea’s procurement of the M3K – a localised version of the M3 – amphibious rig to meet a Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirement for an amphibious bridge and ferry system. – Janes  


The Biden administration began defining its China trade policy Monday, saying it aims to launch new talks with Beijing but will keep existing tariffs in place, while also restoring the ability of U.S. importers to seek exemptions from those levies. – Wall Street Journal 

Singapore’s parliament has passed a law aimed at countering foreign interference that is potentially so powerful rights groups and legal experts worry it could crush public debate in a city-state where authorities are already frequently accused of curbing civil liberties. – Washington Post 

The United States has “real reasons for concern” over China’s expanding size and range of its military capabilities close to Japan that also pose threats to Guam and Hawaii, as well as Australia, the deputy secretary of defense said Friday. – USNI News 

Hundreds of police officers armed with rifles went house to house in Uyghur communities in the far western region of China, pulling people from their homes, handcuffing and hooding them, and threatening to shoot them if they resisted, a former Chinese police detective tells CNN. – CNN 

Dan Coats writes: As technology’s role grows in the global race for economic and military supremacy, China is determined to do what it must to surpass the United States. A vibrant U.S. technology industry is one of our strongest assets in this competition, and Congress should continue to seek to strengthen this advantage, not limit it. – Washington Post 

Tom Rogan writes: Since Friday, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force has sent nearly 150 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Access to such a zone requires aircrews to request entry and to identify themselves and their course. […] These flights thus allow Xi to broadcast strength at home and abroad. But they also allow the otherwise cautious leader to throw a bone to party hard-liners. – Washington Examiner 

Kal Raustiala and Nicholas Barile write: Ultimately, the Biden administration needs to weigh whether and when U.S. courts ought to be employed to solve what is chiefly a foreign policy problem. It may be the case that diplomatic olive branches—rather than prosecutorial arrows—are more effective in encouraging foreign leaders to reject BRI bribes. Bringing China to court may blunt some corruption, but it will not address its underlying causes and enablers. – Foreign Affairs 


China’s military flew 56 sorties near Taiwan, including flights by a dozen bombers, from the predawn hours into the night Monday, intensifying a streak in recent days following the arrival of an armada east of the island comprising ships from the U.S., U.K. and four other countries. – Wall Street Journal 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter has no intention of joining her father’s party or being its flag-bearer, her spokesperson said on Monday, adding to the twists surrounding next year’s presidential election in the Southeast Asian nation. – Reuters 

The Biden administration is in private communication over Chinese actions with regard to Taiwan, the White House said on Monday, after Taiwan’s defense ministry reported that China’s air force had sent aircraft into its air defense zone. – Reuters 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that Beijing has no timetable to extend an anti-sanctions law to the global financial hub, where financial institutions are concerned over the impact it could have on their operations. – Reuters  

A group of French senators including a former defence minister will visit Taiwan this week, the island’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, with the visit coming at a time of soaring tensions between Taipei and Beijing and despite China’s opposition. – Reuters 

Japan hopes tension between China and Taiwan will be resolved peacefully through dialogue, Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Tuesday, adding that his ministry would keep an eye on the widening military imbalance between Beijing and Taipei. – Reuters 

Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held his first talks as Japanese leader with President Joe Biden and confirmed they will work to strengthen their alliance and cooperate in regional security in the face of growing challenges from China and North Korea. – Associated Press 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will prepare his defence against an International Criminal Court probe into his deadly drug war, after previously insisting he would not cooperate. – Agence France-Presse 

A U.S. journalist who has spent more than four months in pretrial detention in military-ruled Myanmar has been charged with a second criminal offense, his lawyer said Monday, while authorities refused to disclose the reason behind his arrest. – Associated Press 

Hong Kong’s ties with mainland China are more important than international business and global travel connections, according to the Asian financial hub’s leader. – Bloomberg 

Malaysia summoned China’s ambassador on Monday to protest the presence and activities of Chinese vessels off the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak states, describing the incident as an encroachment. – Bloomberg 

Two U.S. carrier strike groups drilled with the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) and a Japanese big-deck warship over the weekend in a major naval exercise in the waters off the southeast of Okinawa, Japan. – USNI News  

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen writes: As countries increasingly recognize the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses, they should understand the value of working with Taiwan. And they should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy. – Foreign Affairs 

Bruce Klingner writes: Having won Japan’s Game of Thrones, Fumio Kishida will need policy successes if he seeks to avoid a return to Japan’s revolving door of short-term prime ministers. […]Kishida will be judged, and his political longevity determined, by how well he handles Japan’s security and economic challenges. If he succeeds, he will retain the political and public support necessary to remain in office; if he does not, many political challengers are eager to capitalize on a short tenure. – Heritage Foundation 


As U.S. sanctions bit into Russia’s billionaire class in 2018, an accounting firm in Singapore issued a secret appraisal of a $200 million debt owed by one of the targeted oligarchs. – Washington Post  

The operator of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany — criticised by some Western countries as a geopolitical weapon — said on Monday it had begun filling the pipeline with gas. – Agence France-Presse 

A Russian submarine completed two hypersonic Zircon cruise missile tests. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced the Severodvinsk submarine’s successful tests on Monday. The nuclear submarine missile cruiser fired a hypersonic missile from a surface position, and a day later, the crew ran a second test from a depth of 40 meters in the water. It was the first time both of these tests were conducted. – Washington Examiner 


The Czech national police announced Monday that it will “act upon” the Pandora Papers, as the revelations emerged as an election campaign issue in the country and a potential challenge for Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who is up for reelection this week. – Washington Post 

The American Conservative Union is planning a version of its CPAC gathering in Budapest early next year. Those are among the more visible recent fruits of a well-funded campaign by Mr. Orban in the United States that stretches back a decade and now stands as a case study in how governments around the world seek to shape policies and debates in Washington, sometimes raising concerns about improper foreign influence in U.S. politics. – New York Times 

Lars Vilks, an artist and free speech activist whose cartoon depiction of the Prophet Muhammad on the body of a dog in 2007 made him the target of numerous assassination attempts, was killed in a car crash in Sweden on Sunday, the police said. – New York Times  

As European Union leaders gather for a summit on how to keep engaging with their Western Balkans neighbors, the bloc’s once-successful enlargement policy faces an impasse. – Associated Press 

Catalonia’s former separatist leader Carles Puigdemont walked out of a Sardinian courthouse Monday after a judge delayed a decision on Spain’s extradition request and said he was free to travel. – Associated Press 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Paris as the Biden administration seeks to repair damage to relations caused by excluding America’s oldest ally from a new Indo-Pacific security initiative. – Associated Press 

Ondrej Ditrych writes: Czech-Russian relations are now in ruins. The Vrbětice revelations were the last nail in the coffin. […]Immediately, the critical variable that can now determine the future state of the relations is the outcome of Czech parliamentary election later this week, and the composition of the next government. The relations can remain deeply frozen or enter a path of a slow and gradual improvement. But under certain political conditions, even a more sudden reversal cannot be ruled out. – War on the Rocks 


A large group of heavily armed militants killed 14 Burkina Faso soldiers and injured seven others in a dawn attack in the north on Monday, the government said in a statement. – Reuters  

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was sworn in for a new five-year term on Monday, telling a crowd of thousands he would protect the country from foreign interference, amid global criticism over the war in the northern region of Tigray. – Reuters 

It is critical that United Nations officials expelled from Ethiopia be allowed to return to the country, the U.S. State Department said on Monday. – Reuters 

The Americas

Venezuela will reopen its border with Colombia on Tuesday, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a state television address on Monday, after a nearly three-year closure due to political tensions. – Reuters 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Mexico City on Friday to lead a delegation for high-level security talks between the neighboring countries, the White House said on Monday. – Reuters 

UN Security Council powers including the United States on Monday accepted that Haiti’s elections will be delayed until the second half of 2022 at the latest as the impoverished nation is hit by repeated crises. – Agence France-Presse 

The Canadian government invoked oil and gas transit rights under a decades-old treaty with the U.S. to stop Michigan’s attempt to shut down an Enbridge Inc. pipeline under the Great Lakes. – Bloomberg 

As the United States moves quickly to deport thousands of Haitians, the Biden Administration has repeatedly promised to support the migrants upon their return to their impoverished home country. But more than a week after mass deportations began, U.S. assistance has yet to arrive, NGOs in Haiti say. – TIME 

John Mor writes: Renewed instability in Cuba and Haiti this year underscores the importance of a stable U.S. partner in the Caribbean, which some have called the United States’ third border. The Bahamas sits astride this border and will forever be linked to the United States by cultural, political, and historical ties. The United States should do more to embrace this close but often overlooked Caribbean neighbor. – War on the Rocks  


After four years of almost continuous scandal, Facebook is approaching its latest controversy over political polarization and the toxic effects of social media in a more aggressive and defiant way than it has previously, say current and former employees, including executives who helped shape the company’s earlier responses. – Washington Post 

An international coalition of American, French, Ukrainian and European Union (EU) law enforcement authorities coordinated on the arrest last week of two individuals and the seizure of millions of dollars in profit allegedly involved with a spree of damaging ransomware attacks. – The Hill 

A global telecommunications company has admitted that hackers may have had access to billions of text messages from potentially millions of cellphone users for years. – Newsweek  

The Israeli company at the heart of the Pegasus surveillance scandal on Tuesday said it would support international regulation to prevent repressive governments from abusing powerful spyware like its own. – Agence France-Presse 

Editorial: Lawmakers on Tuesday may well want to yell about (and at) Facebook, and some of that is warranted. Yet they should realize that to glean the necessary information for addressing these issues they must first demand transparency, and likely mandate it through legislation. Or Facebook, to spare itself the drama of another whistle-blown scandal, could be more honest on its own. – Washington Post  

Eugene Robinson writes: A less drastic step would be for Facebook to be completely transparent about how its algorithms work and about the process for adjusting them. That would still require a considerable number of humans to oversee the process and make sure the algorithms were doing their job. But what is no longer acceptable is the status quo. In pursuit of profit, Facebook has cost the rest of us too much. – Washington Post 


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is gearing up for a major exercise in which it plans to demonstrate a single user controlling a swarm of about 200 unmanned systems in an urban environment. – Defense News 

The Navy decommissioned the first Littoral Combat Ship with more than a decade of naval service last week. USS Freedom (LCS-1) was decommissioned on Sept. 29 at Naval Base San Diego after 13 years in the fleet. – USNI News 

The Air Force last week stood up its first permanent F-35A Lightning II squadron in Europe, a first for the U.S. and a major step toward stationing the advanced fighter jets on the continent. – Military.com 

Long War

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Monday for an explosion in Kabul the previous day, the group’s Amaq news agency said on Telegram. – Reuters  

Four suspected Islamic State-linked militants and one Sudanese security forces member were killed during clashes in a raid in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Monday, state news agency SUNA reported. – Reuters 

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi urged Islamist militants in its far north to surrender on Monday, saying they had nowhere to run, after allied Rwandan, Mozambican and southern African forces pushed them out of territory they had been occupying. – Reuters