Fdd's overnight brief

September 1, 2022

In The News


The U.S. Navy is working with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations to build a network of unmanned drones as it seeks to constrain Iran’s military in the region—a program the Pentagon hopes will be a model for operations around the world. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday the United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, the White House said, as Tehran seeks stronger guarantees from Washington for the revival of a nuclear deal with world powers. – Reuters

Iran needs stronger guarantees from Washington for the revival of a 2015 nuclear deal, its foreign minister said in Moscow on Wednesday, adding that the U.N. atomic watchdog should drop its “politically motivated probes” of Tehran’s nuclear work. – Reuters

Iran has begun enriching uranium with the second of three cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-6 centrifuges recently installed at an underground plant at Natanz, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog seen by Reuters said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Not long after Joe Biden clinched the Democratic nomination in 2020, he and his team of foreign policy advisors began to use a new phrase to describe their vision for a renewed nuclear deal with Iran. – Jewish Insider

Over 5,000 Israeli defense officers signed on to a letter to President Biden urging him not to sign a rekindled nuclear deal with Iran, arguing that the deal currently being negotiated gives Iran a clear path to nuclear weapons. – Fox News

The U.S. told Iran through EU mediators that linking the UN investigation of Iran’s undeclared nuclear activity to the reimplementation of the 2015 nuclear deal could delay lifting U.S. sanctions, according to a U.S. official and a think tank expert briefed on the issue. – Axios

Nearly 30 House Democrats have signed onto a draft letter expressing fresh concerns about the Iran nuclear deal, which appears to be moving toward a conclusion following months of stalled negotiations. – Jewish Insider

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Mossad director David Barnea correctly noted last week that if the West signs a deal with a regime – regarding which it was 100% proven in 2018 from its own secret nuclear archives that it had lied to them about past nuclear dimensions – the West has already signaled that, at some point, they will put the issue on the back burner. However, this does mean that, although now Iran insists that there are things it will not budge on, it may very well concede on those things in the near future. – Jerusalem Post

Ephraim Sneh writes: If there is an advantage to a new nuclear agreement, it is hurdles it puts on the Iranian way en route to a nuclear weapon, delaying by a few years. This gives Israel time for preparation for an independent action. In any case, we need to prepare to act quickly. To do so, the U.S. must provide Israel with two vital things: essential weapon systems for carrying out the mission, and political backing for the military operations. – Ynet

Ben Samuels writes: The question at this point is how AIPAC’s anti-deal efforts in 2022 might resemble its unprecedented campaign against the deal in 2015, when it spent nearly $30 million in advertising and lobbying efforts. – Haaretz 

David Albright writes: Iran isn’t the only nuclear threat facing the world. From North Korea’s proliferation and weapons tests to Russia’s occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the world is faced with an unprecedented level of nuclear irresponsibility. We need a strong and empowered IAEA, now more than ever. – Politico

Russia & Ukraine

Moscow and its separatist allies in Ukraine have forcibly transferred hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia since the start of the war, according to U.S. officials and human rights investigators, sending many through a vast and punitive “filtration” system that includes detentions, interrogations and mass data collection. – Washington Post

In Putin’s condolence telegram to Gorbachev’s family and friends, his attitude was conveyed in what he did not say, according to analysts. He did not praise Gorbachev’s greatest reforms, merely noting that the Soviet leader understood the need for change and “strove to offer his own social reforms to our urgent problems.” – Washington Post

Ukrainian army units pushing toward Kherson in the south are retaking ground held for months by Russia’s invading troops amid extremely fierce fighting, according to Ukrainian soldiers taking part in the offensive. Russian soldiers seemed well equipped and were putting up stiff resistance, the Ukrainians said. – Wall Street Journal

Oil and gas remain a huge source of revenue for Russia’s war machine, making up around half of the country’s budget revenue. Western officials have been working for months to find a way to reduce those financial inflows while keeping enough Russian oil on global markets to prevent a fresh jump in already high energy prices. – Wall Street Journal 

But on Wednesday, a day after Mr. Gorbachev’s death in Moscow at 91, political analysts, opposition politicians and the former Soviet leader’s close friends said that in Russia the debate has a clear winner—and that President Vladimir Putin’s government embodies the winning side. – Wall Street Journal  

Germany’s chief of defence has warned that the West must not underestimate Moscow’s military strength, saying Russia has the scope to open up a second front should it choose to do so. – Reuters

The Russian military is suffering manpower shortages as it battles Ukraine and is seeking to recruit contract service members and may even draw in convicted criminals, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, citing U.S. intelligence. – Reuters

People should not expect Ukraine to rack up quick victories against Russian troops during a counteroffensive because Kyiv does not want to lose too many troops, a senior presidential aide said on Wednesday. – Reuters

UN inspectors vowed to press on with a visit to a Russian-held nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Thursday despite an early shelling attack on the town next to the facility. – Agence France-Presse

As the war in Ukraine stretches into its seventh month, North Korea is hinting at its interest in sending construction workers to help rebuild Russian-occupied territories in the country’s east. – Associated Press

Russia on Thursday launched weeklong war games involving forces from China and other nations in a show of growing defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing as they both face tensions with the U.S. – Associated Press

Russia’s defence ministry said on Thursday Ukrainian forces tried to seize the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine and “measures had been taken” to destroy the opposing troops, including use of military aviation. – Reuters

The fascist Christian Orthodox Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), which has been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the United States Department of State, published an address to Russia’s “Supreme Commander-in-Chief,” i.e. President Vladimir Putin, on its Telegram channel on August 31, 2022. The address called for mobilization against what the group described as emerging domestic and foreign threats. – Middle East Media Research Institute

The U.S. military assesses that as many as a third of deployed Russian vehicles have failed on their own, due in large part to unenforced maintenance practices at their home bases. Reports have emerged that its troops are eating expired rations, likely because logisticians either sold the replacements or never used dispersed money to buy them in the first place. – U.S. News & World Report

Editorial: A more democratic Russia would in turn offer hope for an improved relationship with Moscow’s European neighbours and the US. Western countries must firmly resist Putin’s aggressions. But they should also remember that it once seemed unthinkable that a humane, far-sighted leader like Gorbachev would come to power in Moscow. He did, to the benefit of the world. – Financial Times

David Ignatius writes: As Russia has struggled with Ukraine’s fierce resistance, it has increasingly turned to mercenaries from a private army known as the Wagner Group. Their corpses are easy to recognize on the battlefield because they wear distinctive “Grim Reaper” badges with the slogan “Death is our business — and business is good,” and “I don’t believe in anything. I’m here for the violence.” That grotesque, cynical brutality captured the spirit of Putin’s war. But after six months, the assault has stalled, and for Russia the business of death doesn’t look so good. – Washington Post

Henry Olsen writes: We should be grateful that Gorbachev failed to save the Soviet Union, as it was truly an evil empire. History, however, did not end when the U.S.S.R. fell. Instead, nationalism reasserted itself, with all the consequences that inevitably follow. – Washington Post 

David Satter writes: Mikhail Gorbachev’s goal, according to his associates, was “socialism with a human face.” The belief that communism was reformable was what led him to risk introducing fundamental change. Soviet citizens were allowed to speak and demonstrate without fear of arrest, to open businesses and to travel abroad. Gorbachev put an end to the Cold War, renounced the Marxist idea of class struggle as the driving force of history, and refused to intervene to save communist regimes in Eastern Europe. – Wall Street Journal 

Leon Aron writes: By the nature of the regime he dismantled and the sheer number of people and peoples whom he freed, Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev — the reformist Soviet leader who died Tuesday at 91 — may have been the greatest liberator of all time. – The Hill 

Jon Sweet writes: This may be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s last best shot, similar to Germany’s failed Ardennes Forest counterattack during World War II. But throwing a “corps” made up of recently formed and trained volunteer battalions into the fight against a battle-hardened Ukrainian military confirms the Kremlin’s strategy of attrition. – Washington Examiner

Emil Avdaliani writes: Wars have consequences. The invasion of Ukraine means that goods shipments now have to skirt Russia, offering possibilities to nations along the so-called Middle Corridor. The Middle Corridor has some drawbacks which may prove problematic, but for now, it presents an opportunity. Starting in Turkey, it reaches Central Asia via the road and railway infrastructure of the South Caucasus and the improving ferry-crossing capabilities in the Caspian Sea. – Center for European Policy Analysis


The website of Supreme Leader Khamenei published an interview with Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In the interview, Salami reiterated Khamenei’s instructions to the Palestinian resistance movements to arm the West Bank, including the cities of Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Tulkarm, and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem – just as Iran had helped Gaza arm itself with missiles and weapons – and to continue their armed struggle against civilians in Israel’s cities, including from within the West Bank. – Middle East Media Research Institute

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the appeal of Amiram Ben-Uliel of his conviction and life sentence for the terror arson murders of the Palestinian Dawabshe family in Duma in 2015. – Jerusalem Post

​​Heyman broke the news of Israeli intelligence involvement as part of an interview with Malam magazine, which is published by the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center. “Soleimani’s assassination is an achievement since our main enemies, in my eyes, are the Iranians,” he told Malam, discussing two major assassination operations in which Israel played a role (with Soleimani referring to an intelligence role). – Jerusalem Post

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday signed a seizure order to levy sanctions against 20 people and organizations that allegedly are part of an international money laundering mechanism facilitating funds for the Palestinian Hamas terror group. – Algemeiner

Omar Shaban writes: Israel’s offensive achieved several strategic and tactical goals — though not all. It succeeded in dealing a severe, though not necessarily decisive, blow to the PIJ. Prime Minister Lapid succeeded in winning a card that may increase his chances in the upcoming elections. But in terms of keeping the Gaza and West Bank fronts separated and the resistance factions divided, Israel was not able to achieve a significant breakthrough. Despite the loss of trust and harm done to the relationship between Hamas and the PIJ, the leaders of both movements have made clear that they will continue to coordinate and cooperate closely. – Middle East Institute


Taliban fighters and senior leaders gathered Wednesday for a celebration at Bagram air base, once the largest American military base in Afghanistan, to mark one year since U.S. and NATO forces withdrew from the country. – Washington Post 

The thousands of U.S. troops involved in last year’s withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan will be awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation or its equivalent, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday. – The Hill

Naheed A. Farid writes: Whatever the Taliban’s endgame is, the international community must prioritize the rights of Afghan women and girls. The world has a moral responsibility to continue the initiatives it began with Afghan women in 2001. – The Hill 


Israel launched a missile attack on Wednesday targeting the airport in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Syrian state media said, citing a military source. The Syrian government did not report any casualties. – Associated Press

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Overall, the recent airstrikes in Syria paint a picture of heightened tensions right as the West is talking about a return to the Iran deal. This presents a picture of what the future may look like even with a deal; with Iran increasingly moving its weapons to Syria and toward Lebanon, even as it gets something from the West. With Russia now working closely with the Iranians and potentially acquiring their drones and looking for more defense connections with Tehran, the ramifications loom over the Middle East, and especially over Syria. – Jerusalem Post

Shoshana Bryen writes: While Iran spins attacks on American forces as a net positive, American retaliation inside Iraq—or retaliation that killed militia forces—would show that Iran is operating inside Iraq, which would only further inflame Iraqis. The Biden administration kept its strikes, thus far at least, inside Syria and with only minimal casualties among militia forces. – Newsweek


Michael Rubin writes: To gauge Iraq only through the lens of Iran guarantees failure. Iraqis say corruption in Kadhimi’s office is now of an extraordinary degree. To support a person over the system not only might repel Iraqis when that person does wrong but also will never achieve lasting change. Instead, change requires strengthening the system rather than relying on a single man. – Washington Examiner 

Judith Miller writes: On the eve of a potential nuclear deal with neighboring Iran, Iraq is in chaos – yet again. But this time, in what many Iraq analysts consider one of the most serious challenges yet to Iraq’s sovereignty and preservation of the state, Washington seems to have been missing in action. – Fox News 

Michael Knights writes: Sadr may have learned a lesson this week: that killing ISF soldiers is a terrible stain regardless of the context in which the shots are fired. Yet the Iran-backed terrorists who dominate the PMF have suffered no consequences so far for drawing first blood—they are still rooted at the heart of the government center, and no orders have been issued to remove them. – Washington Institute 

Middle East & North Africa

Forty years since Hezbollah was founded at the height of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the group has morphed from a ragtag organization to the largest and most heavily armed militant group in the Middle East. – Associated Press

Hezbollah must stop stockpiling weapons on Israel’s northern border, deputy US Ambassador Richard Mills told the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday after it voted to renew the mandate of the organization’s peacekeepers in that area of southern Lebanon.  – Jerusalem Post

Jemima Shelley writes: Right now, modernizing change is underway in the Middle East, not least driven by the region’s inspiring and enterprising women. Biden was right to visit the region—diplomatic engagement is key to further involvement in supporting these changes and encouraging others–and he must not back down. Western governments and peoples cannot turn their backs on the Middle East, especially for the sake of the region’s women. – Washington Institute

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Throughout the war on ISIS, there has been balkanization in the West regarding policy in Syria. While some parts of governments worked with Turkey and wanted to work with the Syrian rebels; other agencies and parts of the government were working with other groups. For instance, US Central Command formed a close relationship with the SDF to fight ISIS. […]The failure to stop citizens of the UK and other states from traveling to join ISIS is another example where it wasn’t just “chaos” that led to the West dropping the ball; in some cases, more could have been done. – Jerusalem Post


The United Nations human-rights agency said China’s government may have committed crimes against humanity in its treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, in a report that broadly supports critical findings by Western governments, human-rights groups and media detailing mass abuses in the region. – Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration has imposed new restrictions on sales of some sophisticated computer chips to China and Russia, the U.S. government’s latest attempt to use semiconductors as a tool to hobble rivals’ advances in fields such as high-performance computing and artificial intelligence. – New York Times

China on Thursday lashed out at the U.N. human rights office over its release of a damning report which concluded that Beijing’s crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region involved “serious human rights violations,” including possible crimes against humanity. – Washington Post

A senior Chinese official formerly in charge of investigating corruption within the national security ministry has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party and from public office after being found guilty of corruption himself. – Reuters

Josh Rogin writes: China’s strategy, not U.S. policy, is leading to the decoupling of the two biggest financial sectors in the world. The duty of Congress and the U.S. government is to protect U.S. investors and U.S. national security, not to save Wall Street’s relationship with Beijing. If that means Chinese companies all leave U.S. capital markets, so be it. – Washington Post

South Asia

Sri Lanka and the International Monetary Fund on Thursday reached a preliminary agreement on a bailout package as the bankrupt island nation tries to find a way out of a crippling economic crisis that toppled its president. – New York Times

Editorial: With Pakistan reeling from devastating floods and spiraling inflation, it’s an exceptionally bad time for a political crisis. Unfortunately, that’s what seems to be shaping up in the standoff between the government and ex-prime minister Imran Khan. All sides should recognize that compromise is in their best interests — and, more to the point, in Pakistan’s. – Bloomberg

Arif Rafiq writes: As Pakistanis are being hit with historic flooding and 20 percent-plus inflation, their country’s elites remain locked in a game of brinksmanship with no end in sight. Even with Monday’s announcement of the resumption of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program, economic conditions in Pakistan will remain precarious at least into next year. – Foreign Policy


Taiwan said it would defend itself and strike back against Chinese military incursions into its territorial waters and airspace, an unusually strong warning that comes as Beijing steps up drills and patrols around the self-ruled island. – Wall Street Journal 

Taiwan looks forward to producing “democracy chips” with the United States, President Tsai Ing-wen told the visiting governor of the U.S. state of Arizona, Doug Ducey, on Thursday, the latest in a string of senior officials from the county to visit. – Reuters

Germany will expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific by sending more warships and joining drills with allies as it keeps an eye on the “enormous” build-up of China’s armed forces. Germany is joining other Western nations in showing more muscle in the region amid growing alarm over Beijing’s territorial ambitions. – Reuters 

Australia’s foreign minister used a visit to East Timor on Thursday to warn the nation against going into “unsustainable debt” to the Chinese on a major gas project. – Associated Press

Taiwan’s military shot down for the first time an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace near an islet off the Chinese coast on Thursday, after the government vowed to take tough new measures to deal with an increase in such intrusions. – Reuters

China will try to establish military control of the Taiwan Strait before the 2024 elections in Taiwan and the United States, according to a senior Taiwanese official. – Washington Examiner

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is now docked in Singapore for a port call, having arrived at Changi Naval Base on Wednesday following an underway in the South China Sea. – USNI News

Tom Rogan writes: Allowing the delivery of a 1,000-pound warhead onto a target at a range of up to 600 miles, the JASSM-ER will allow U.S. warplanes to launch against enemy ground targets from as far away as Okinawa, and thus with greater survivability and more efficient sortie times. This ranged capability will also allow the United States to deploy non-stealth bombers like the B-52 and B1-B and fighter jets like the F-15 and F-16 with these weapons. This will be especially valuable in any future conflict with China over Taiwan. – Washington Examiner


European Union foreign ministers agreed to suspend a visa agreement with Moscow that gives Russian citizens inexpensive and easy access to the bloc, EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal 

Kosovo and Serbia intend to join the European Union and have agreed, as part of that membership process, to resolve their outstanding issues and build good neighbourly relations. – Reuters

Britain’s Royal Navy took charge of its fifth Astute-class nuclear submarine Aug. 31, but it was news that Australian submariners were going to train on the boat as part of the so-called AUKUS pact that caught much of the attention. – Defense News

Cordelia Buchanan Ponczek writes: Nord Stream 2 was so critical to the future of Europe, we were told, that German and Finnish taxpayers were required to help fund the $11bn project. Now that it is no longer critical, and may never be used despite its completion, German and Finnish taxpayers must instead help mop up the losses. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Zambia won International Monetary Fund approval for a $1.3 billion, 38-month loan program on Wednesday, a crucial step in the southern African country’s quest to restructure its debts and rebuild an economy ravaged by mismanagement and COVID-19. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: The recent outbreak of conflict in eastern DRC between the government and the M23 rebellion has brought back to attention the ineffectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. The UN’s peacekeeping model in Africa is broken but Rwanda’s bilateral deployments provide a better alternative from which the UN should adopt. – American Enterprise Institute

The Americas

Ariel Koren, a Jewish Google employee, who led a campaign against an Amazon-Google Israeli infrastructure project, announced she was quitting in a letter to colleagues made public on Tuesday, citing the company’s retaliation against her activism and a work environment hostile to her political beliefs. – Jerusalem Post

Trevor Sutton and Marley Morris write: Amid tumultuous global events, old models of trade liberalization are being replaced with a more hedged approach to economic integration, in which like-minded countries deepen their economic connections even as they continue to trade with competitors and adversaries. Given the historical importance of the U.S.-U.K. relationship in setting up the rules of the global economy, from Bretton Woods to the WTO, it would be a major missed opportunity if the two countries did not seek deeper trade ties as this process unfolds. – Foreign Policy

Eli Lake writes: On the one hand, if Mr. Blinken follows Mr. Cruz’s advice, he will be putting the United States government in the middle of a boiling conflict. On the other hand, he has recently adopted for Latin America a get-tough policy on corruption. – New York Sun


A rapid deployment team of FBI cyber experts is heading to Montenegro to investigate a massive, coordinated attack on the tiny Balkan nation’s government and its services, the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs announced Wednesday. – Associated Press

The State Department has banned three former National Security Agency employees from working on any matters related to International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which regulates the sale of military technologies overseas, due to their involvement in helping the United Arab Emirates carry out a widespread surveillance campaign to spy on dissidents, journalists and politicians as well as U.S. companies. – CyberScoop

The Belarusian Cyber Partisans, a hacktivist collective working to topple the autocratic leadership of Belarus, listed a series of digital “passports” related to Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his associates as NFTs for sale Tuesday, hoping to raise money for continued actions against the government. – CyberScoop


The U.S. Army will establish an office dedicated to offensive cyber and space capabilities next year amid rapidly shifting priorities, officials said. – Defense News

Raytheon Missiles and Defense won a $972 million contract to supply U.S. and other militaries with Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, or AMRAAMs. – Defense News

Gabriel Scheinmann writes: After a long wait, the Biden administration may finally release the new U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) this fall. Originally scheduled for publication late last year, the document was withheld as Russian war preparations on Ukraine’s borders intensified. The invasion and its fallout then presented Washington with a new strategic situation, requiring the document to be rewritten. Its absence has left many wondering about the administration’s strategic objectives, priorities, and plans to achieve them. – Foreign Policy