Fdd's overnight brief

October 6, 2022

In The News


Iranian women and girls held fresh antigovernment protests on Wednesday, activists said, as demonstrations stretched into a third week, given new impetus as word spread on social media that a 16-year-old student had died after taking part in a women’s rights rally. – Wall Street Journal

Long before protests started spreading across Iran last month, the hijab — the Islamic head scarf that Iranian law requires women to wear in public, along with loose-fitting modest clothing — had been at the center of conflicts over national identity, religious authority and political power for decades. – New York Times

President Joe Biden has hit back at Iran over the government’s brutal crackdown on antigovernment protests. He’s praised the “brave women of Iran” for demanding basic rights and signaled that he’ll announce more sanctions against those responsible for violence against protesters in the coming days. – Associated Press

Iran has continued to target Kurds in response to protests in Iran. As the protests continued for weeks the regime, decided to try to placate some of the protests at home; while striking out at the Kurdistan region of Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Kurdistan region of Iraq is an autonomous region and Iran is seeking to destabilize it and also target Kurdish opposition groups. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian schoolgirls have come to the fore in protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, removing their hijabs and staging sporadic rallies in defiance of a lethal crackdown by the security forces. – Agence France-Presse

Baquer Namazi, one of four US citizens whose freedom Washington had demanded in the context of any revived nuclear deal with Tehran, landed in neutral Oman Wednesday, his lawyer said. – Agence France-Presse

The vast majority of Americans support diplomacy with Iran to constrain its nuclear program, a survey found Wednesday, amid a stalemate in negotiations to restore a 2015 deal. – Agence France-Presse

Halmat Palani writes: Unity among Iranian opposition groups can only be achieved by acknowledging that the rights of all peoples in Iran are legitimate whether they be Kurd, Fars, Baloch, Azeri or Arab, man or woman, Sunni or Shia, Christian or Jew, Yarasani or Baha’i. – Jerusalem Post

Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Carl, Zachary Coles, and Frederick W. Kagan write: Anti-regime protests may have occurred in at least four cities in four provinces—a significant decrease from the previous day’s protest activity. Anti-regime outlet Iran International reported that Iran is using orbit jamming to block the network’s satellite signal into Iran. – Institute for the Study of War

Maysam Bizaer writes: But the ruling elite is unlikely to take this course given that, in their view, agreeing to even a single demand would lead to additional and ever more far-reaching demands in the future. Although the outcome of the current protests is far from certain, one thing is clear: Iranian Zoomers will have a very active role to play in shaping their country’s future. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

As Russia’s military retreats on the battlefield, Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric about using nuclear weapons is escalating. Russia’s president has been warning of nuclear consequences with increasing intensity since the first week of his war in Ukraine — when he put his arsenal on higher alert. Now he is threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend the Ukrainian territory that Russia has illegally annexed. – Washington Post

In a vain bid to celebrate his illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday congratulated educators on Teachers’ Day, and promised to organize restful autumn holidays for schoolchildren in “restless and even dangerous” areas of Ukraine. But even as he spoke, Russian forces continued to retreat from the territories Putin just claimed as his own. – Washington Post

The drone operator ignored the occasional thunder of outgoing artillery in the distance and kept his eyes focused on the computer monitor in front of him, waiting for the burst of smoke to appear. His thumbs pushed the joystick left, then right, before moving to his cellphone screen to report where the artillery should aim next. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Western powers are hardening their positions over the war in Ukraine, widening a gulf that complicates a potential resolution of the conflict. – Wall Street Journal

SpaceX blasted another crew toward the International Space Station, launching a group that includes a Russian cosmonaut amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia. – Wall Street Journal

The UN nuclear agency chief on Wednesday said he was travelling to Kyiv to discuss creating a security zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia atomic plant, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to take it over. – Agence France-Presse

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that the United States should continue to support Ukraine, despite Russian threats that it could use nuclear weapons to protect its territory, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government on Wednesday to take control of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, as the U.N. nuclear watchdog warned that power supply to the site was “extremely fragile”. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin would learn to “regret” any use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to a senior officer in NATO’s command structure.- Washington Examiner

Russian propagandists loudly claim that America is trying to undermine the Kremlin and overthrow President Putin. Yet the idea of regime change — espoused by American leaders since the days of Hitler and continued through the Cold War and to the “end of history” era — has long-since fallen out of fashion in Washington. – New York Sun

While Elon Musk was busy in recent days sparring with President Zelensky,  something else dropped on Twitter: “We are reopening Navalny’s Headquarters. Against Putin, war, and mobilization,” tweeted Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for Vladimir Putin’s chief domestic rival, the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. – New York Sun

One person was injured in an attack with Iranian-made drones in the town of Bila Tserkva southwest of Kyiv, the region’s governor said Wednesday. – Agence France-Presse

Michael Dobbs writes: While Mr. Putin has talked about putting his nuclear forces on heightened alert, there appears to be no confirmation of unusual movements in that direction. The most dangerous phase of the Cuban missile crisis lasted just 13 days; we are already in the eighth month of the war in Ukraine, with no end in sight. The longer it drags on, the greater the threat of some terrible miscalculation. – New York Times

George F. Will writes: Blinken’s formulation is pitch-perfect: If Russia stops fighting, the war ends; if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. If Biden stays strong, with U.S. drones as a judicious increment in punishing Putin’s brutality by reversing his aggression, Biden’s presidency will be deemed by wise historians as, on balance, a success. – Washington Post

Seth J. Frantzman writes: It seems all the talking points about not escalating in Ukraine and giving Putin an “off-ramp” are points that Moscow wants to be raised, and it wants people afraid of nuclear war because it thinks that then it might be able to cement its control of areas it illegally annexed. – Jerusalem Post

Al Moses writes: As the war in Ukraine drags on, things are not looking up for Vladimir Putin. More and more he resembles the little man in the hole, brandishing his weapons while the treasure he sought at little cost in Ukraine is no longer attainable. – Jerusalem Post

Emil Avdaliani writes: Russia is losing. It has increasingly fewer levers of influence even with its allies. And while Ukraine consumes all attention, the South Caucasus and Central Asia could be seen as a real gauge of how the Kremlin’s power is fading in the depths of Eurasia. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Ben Burgis writes: Disaster was averted in the Cuban Missile Crisis because Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy both ignored hawks within their respective camps who insisted that negotiated de-escalation was “appeasement” of a dangerous enemy. Sixty years later, the only sure path away from the brink is for Biden and Putin to follow their example. – The Daily Beast


Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinians during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, killing one Palestinian and forcing the surrender of a wanted man. – Associated Press

The Palestinian Authority has offered members of the Lions’ Den to hand themselves over to the Palestinian security forces and dismantle their armed group, which has been responsible for a spate of shooting attacks on IDF soldiers and Jewish settlers in the Nablus area. – Jerusalem Post

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk told Israel Hayom that “Russia’s rapprochement with Iran is a very significant factor that will propel Israel to help Ukraine in a more visible and effective way.” – Arutz Sheva

Neville Teller writes: Their position defies logic. Either the status of Jerusalem is still to be determined or the part that used to be occupied by Jordan is declared to be Palestinian and the issue is closed. Moreover, if east Jerusalem is Palestinian, then at least west Jerusalem is Israeli – a position acknowledged by both the US and Russia, together with a clutch of other states, including the Czech Republic and Ukraine. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey’s government and opposition both vowed legal steps to enshrine women’s right to wear Islamic headscarves on Wednesday, restoring to the heart of political debate ahead of next year’s elections an issue which once caused deep divisions. – Reuters

NATO member Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador over “insulting content” about President Tayyip Erdogan aired on Swedish public service television, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Ryan Gingeras writes: Rather than shy from confrontation, Erdogan has touted these advances as an effort to defeat a NATO and American conspiracy to destroy Turkey. If Erdogan believes, as one columnists put it, that “America is our enemy, and not Greece,” then it is possible he sees the risks of a rupture as a regrettable but still essential price to be paid in the name of Turkish national security. – War on the Rocks

Saudi Arabia

A coalition of oil-producing nations led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day, in a rebuke to President Biden that could push up gas prices worldwide, worsen the risk of a global recession and bolster Russia in its war in Ukraine. – Washington Post

Editorial: But the Administration won’t do it because it is too afraid of, or shares the beliefs of, the climate left that wants to ban fossil fuels. That’s the definition of “shortsighted,” and it leads to humiliations like the one Wednesday and higher prices for American families. – Wall Street Journal

Javier Blas writes: This week, Biden officials found their urgent calls to Riyadh, Kuwait City and Abu Dhabi went largely unanswered. OPEC+ is making a mistake, but Western governments need to rethink their energy policies, too. They should be boosting all of their domestic sources, encompassing oil, gas and nuclear but also extending to renewables including wind and solar. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Israel’s high-level security cabinet was set to convene Thursday to discuss the terms of the US-proposed deal for a maritime border with Lebanon. – Times of Israel

A senior Israeli official said on Thursday that if Lebanon puts forward new conditions in negotiations over the maritime border deal, they may as well forget about signing the agreement. – Ynet

Yemen’s government wants to renew a ceasefire with Huthi rebels and will not escalate the conflict, its foreign minister said Wednesday, as a US envoy voiced guarded hope despite the lapse in the six-month truce. – Agence France-Presse

As protests flare across Iran over the death of young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, the Kurdistan region of neighboring Iraq has paid a price, coming under bombardment from the Islamic republic’s forces. – Times of Israel

Korean Peninsula

Two days after North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan, it launched what appeared to be two more short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday morning, Japan’s Defense Ministry reported. – New York Times

North Korea on Thursday condemned military drills by the United States and its allies in the region as a “serious threat to the stability” of the Korean Peninsula, suggesting its latest missile launches were in response to the exercises. – Washington Post

Debate over how to handle a North Korean ballistic missile launch over Japanese territory split an already deeply fractured U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, with Russia and China insisting that U.S.-led military exercises in the region had provoked North Korea into acting. – Associated Press

South Korea and the U.S. military conducted rare missile drills and an American supercarrier repositioned east of North Korea after Pyongyang flew a missile over Japan, one of the allies’ sharpest responses since 2017 to a North Korean weapon test. – Reuters

Between long-range missile launches and the looming prospect of new nuclear tests, this year has seen North Korea return to weapons activities not seen since the days of “fire and fury” in 2017. – Reuters


Xi Jinping has delivered a blunt message to the top ranks of the ruling Chinese Communist party: no one is beyond reach. In the weeks leading up to this month’s party congress, at which Xi is expected to secure a third term as party leader and head of the military, China’s courts have orchestrated a series of high-profile corruption trials of senior cadres from the state’s police and security apparatus. – Financial Times

It’s all but certain Chinese President Xi Jinping will secure a third term at the Communist Party’s congress this month. Yet a range of other decisions will reveal whether he won or lost along the way. – Bloomberg

China has deepened its reliance on Russian crude oil, with imports soaring over the summer according to a report from the Energy Information Administration. – Business Insider 

South Asia

Pakistan’s powerful military chief met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other security and government officials, the military said. – Associated Press

Paris Club creditors reached out to China and India to coordinate Sri Lanka’s debt-restructuring talks, according to a person familiar with the matter, in an attempt to bring major global creditors together to rework the obligations of emerging economies. – Bloomberg

A suicide bomber struck at a center of Taliban power Wednesday, setting off a blast at a government ministry in the Afghan capital of Kabul and killing at least four people. – Associated Press


American officials are intensifying efforts to build a giant stockpile of weapons in Taiwan after studying recent naval and air force exercises by the Chinese military around the island, according to current and former officials. – New York Times

Japan has had enough of just playing missile defense. Now it’s looking to play offense too.North Korea’s latest missile flight over Japan showed how Pyongyang could threaten its neighbor with attack, but military specialists say it has low ability to stop missiles coming the other way. – Wall Street Journal 

After North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward Japan on Tuesday, authorities urged residents to immediately take cover via mobile-phone alerts, warnings on loudspeakers and flashing highway signs. – Bloomberg

A court in military-ruled Myanmar has sentenced a Japanese journalist to prison after he filmed an anti-government protest in July, a Japanese diplomat and the Southeast Asian nation’s government said Thursday. – Associated Press

Taiwan’s defense minister on Wednesday said the island will respond to incursions into its airspace by Chinese warplanes and drones, but gave no details on specific actions. – Associated Press

Taiwan authorities have rejected immigration applications from Hong Kong residents who have worked for the China arm of Big Four audit firm KPMG and airline Cathay Pacific, as Taipei tightens national security controls. – Financial Times

Taiwan expects China to increase its coercion and intimidation to achieve its goal of bringing the island under Beijing’s control once President Xi Jinping assumes a third term in office, a senior Taiwanese minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

Taiwan will make an announcement on extending its four-month military conscription requirement by the end of this year, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said, in the latest sign Taipei is taking a potential war threat from China more seriously. – Bloomberg

China has destroyed a tacit agreement on military movements in the Taiwan Strait by crossing an unofficial “median line” running down the waterway, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Chris Miller writes: But rather than a standoff over an impoverished island, this time the battleground would be the beating heart of the digital world. What’s worse is that unlike in the 1950s, it’s not clear the People’s Liberation Army would eventually back down. This time, Beijing might wager that it could well win. – Time


European governments should consider temporary measures to curb prices in the continent’s natural-gas market, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, marking her clearest comments in support of a possible bloc-wide limit on gas prices. – Wall Street Journal

Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz were smiling as they posed for photos before a long dinner this week in Berlin, but there was a chill in the air. – Bloomberg

The leaders of Germany and Spain raised pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron to drop his resistance to a natural gas pipeline they see as key to reducing European dependence on Russian energy supplies. – Bloomberg

David Ignatius writes: When triumphal talk is in the air, it pays to be skeptical. Wars don’t end easily or neatly. But the changes that the Ukraine conflict brought to the European mood seem real, and they could last for decades. – Washington Post

Andrew A. Michta writes: Until and unless European governments have a serious conversation about what path they can offer Ukraine to become an integral part of NATO’s defensive perimeter—if not of the alliance itself—we will be talking about secondary issues, avoiding the principal challenge staring us in the face. – Wall Street Journal

Tyler Cowen writes:  Real interest rates, remember, have been rising lately. In short: None of these scenarios is especially upbeat, no one really knows what they are doing, and the eventual outcome will probably be dictated by the bond market. – Bloomberg

Mathieu Droin writes: Initially criticized as a waiting room for Ukraine and Moldova to distract from EU membership, the prospect has since gathered momentum as a format that allows to bring together all Europeans, regardless of their participation to NATO or the European Union, to discuss common concerns. All in all, it will be a busy and decisive winter for Macron and Scholz to make sure that the engine of Europe does not sputter. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Ethiopia’s government and rebels from the country’s Tigray region said Wednesday they were ready to attend peace talks after the African Union invited both parties to negotiations in South Africa. – Agence France-Presse

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni apologized to Kenyans after his son threatened to invade the East African nation. – Bloomberg

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi rejected a request by the US to halt bidding on oil blocks in one of the world’s most important carbon sinks. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The Biden administration is having “ongoing conversations” with the Cuban government on “the humanitarian needs of the Cuban people” in the wake of the devastation on the island caused by Hurricane Ian, a senior State Department official said Wednesday. […]But the talks mark a new stage in sporadic efforts to communicate following President Donald Trump’s rollback of the normalization of ties that began in 2015, when Barack Obama renewed U.S. diplomatic relations with Havana’s communist government more than five decades after they were severed. – Washington Post

The Biden administration is preparing to scale down sanctions on Venezuela’s authoritarian regime to allow Chevron Corp. to resume pumping oil there, paving the way for a potential reopening of U.S. and European markets to oil exports from Venezuela, according to people familiar with the proposal. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration has no plans to change its sanctions policy toward Venezuela without positive actions from President Nicolas Maduro’s government, the National Security Council said after a report that the US would scale down restrictions affecting Chevron Corp. – Bloomberg

The Mexican government plans to bring another lawsuit against U.S. companies it claims are responsible for the flow of illegal weapons into Mexico, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Josh Rogin writes: Everyone knows why this bill faces an uphill climb in Congress: because so many lawmakers plan to shill for dictators after leaving office. But everyone also knows that containing despotic influence in Washington is the right thing to do — and that it is long overdue. We have to drain the foreign dictator influence swamp, once and for all. – Washington Post


The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, facing a decision point early next year on the light amphibious warship, are working to balance the Corps’ focus on affordability with the Navy’s push for survivability. – Defense News

After 10 months without a confirmed commander at Army Futures Command, Gen. James Rainey took over in an Oct. 4 ceremony at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library here in front of a crowd comprising nearly all Army leaders involved in creating the now four-year-old outfit. – Defense News

The Reagan Carrier Strike Group is now in the Sea of Japan following the launch of a North Korean ballistic missile earlier this week, a U.S. defense official confirmed to USNI News on Wednesday. – USNI News