Fdd's overnight brief

September 14, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


U.S. and European officials are increasingly gloomy about the prospects of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran before the U.S. midterm elections, as a hardening of demands from Tehran raises doubts about its willingness to conclude a deal soon. – Wall Street Journal

Iran is not “a willing partner” in indirect talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States told a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors on Tuesday. – Reuters

Western powers are lobbying other states on the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board to jointly pressure Iran to give the agency the answers it has long sought on uranium traces found at three undeclared sites, diplomats said on Tuesday. – Reuters

On August 24, 2022, IRINN (Iran) aired a report about the first-ever multibranch UAV exercise held by the Islamic Republic of Iran Army. The exercise involved 150 drones from four of the Army’s branches, and the report showed footage from the Army’s UAV Base 313, which houses over 100 drones. It also described the operations of the Kaman-12 and Kaman-22 reconnaissance drones, of monitoring stations located in the Anark area, and of the Omid suicide drone, which it compared to the Israeli-made Harop drone used by Azerbaijan. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The US on Tuesday doubled down on its support of its special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, after a senior Israeli official told reporters a day earlier that Jerusalem managed to sideline the architect of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement from a decisive role regarding a possible US return to the agreement. – Times of Israel

Iranian authorities have arrested several people over the assassination of a Revolutionary Guards colonel in May that Tehran has blamed on Israel and its Western allies, judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said on Tuesday. – Ynet

Iran International TV has revealed the first photo of the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) cyberwarfare unit, Hamid Reza Lashgarian. According to the Intelli Times website, Lashgarian’s central role is developing Iran’s electronic warfare efforts. – Jerusalem Post

Y. Carmon and M. Reiter write: Even if Iran were a trustworthy negotiations partner, even if the fatwa existed, even if the IAEA could enforce Section T, and even if anybody knew where the 8.5 tons of enriched uranium had disappeared to – the nuclear negotiations are still meaningless, since the sunset clauses begin taking effect in 2023. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Salem Alketbi writes: But the revival of the agreement seems to be the best and even the optimal scenario for Iran in terms of the great strategic benefits to be expected: the neutralization of the West to taking a back seat and looking for solutions to its crises, and benefits in its regional conflict, with all the negative consequences that this implies for the crises and problems of the Middle East. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russia has secretly funneled at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014 in an attempt to shape political events beyond its borders, according to a new U.S. intelligence review. – Washington Post

Moscow’s rapid loss of more than 2,300 square miles of territory in northeastern Ukraine has raised the prospect that the Russian military is spent as an offensive force for the foreseeable future, which could limit Russian President Vladimir Putin to defending the Ukrainian territory he already holds while leaving him open to additional defeats, according to military analysts. – Washington Post

Ukraine’s ability to expel Russian forces from its country as soon as possible now depends largely on Germany and its willingness to send desperately needed armor, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday. – Washington Post

The Ukrainian counteroffensive in northeast Ukraine has forced Russia to surrender a wide swath of territory that it spent months, and many lives, capturing. Videos and photos posted on social media have provided a glimpse into what Russian troops left behind during their hasty retreat. – Washington Post

Ukrainian forces looked to maximize gains from a lightning-quick offensive in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region, making a diplomatic push for more weapons and deeper security ties with Western allies. – Wall Street Journal

The first in-person meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin since the start of the Ukraine war is expected to include discussions between the two leaders on how to deepen their economic ties as Russia faces setbacks on the battlefield. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S State Department strongly criticized Russia on Tuesday for making what it called “spurious allegations” that the United States operated clandestine biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine. – New York Times

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday to find a diplomatic solution for the conflict in Ukraine based on a ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Russian troops as soon as possible. – Reuters

The UN is pressing Russia and Ukraine to agree a deal on chemical exports through the Black Sea in a bid to ease global fertiliser prices and solidify Vladimir Putin’s commitment to the current shipment agreement on grain. – Financial Times

Dissenting voices need to “remain within the law” that punishes people “discrediting” the army, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday. “The line is very, very thin, one must be very careful here.” – Agence France-Presse

A drone which appears to be an Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAV was shot down near Kupiansk in the Kharkiv Oblast of eastern Ukraine, the Strategic Communications Department of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Bret Stephens writes: What Ukraine initially lacked in overwhelming firepower, the United States made up for in precision. Now, as Russian units flee their positions and abandon equipment, Ukraine may be able to gain at least a temporary advantage in both precision and mass, creating a unique window for further decisive gains. – New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman writes: If we want to get oil and gas prices down to reasonably low levels to power the U.S. economy and, at the same time, help our European allies escape the vice grip of Russia while we all also accelerate clean energy production — call it our “Energy Triad” — we need that transition plan that balances climate security, energy security and economic security. – New York Times

Bobby Ghosh writes: And never mind taking the fight to the West, Putin may not even be able to win the cultural contest in his own backyard. Tellingly, the pro-Putin rapper and entrepreneur who took over the Starbucks franchise network are replacing it, not with Russian tearooms, but with a cheap knock-off of the original. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Yes, the war in Ukraine is going badly for Putin. But the Russians and Putin personally revel in their ability to withstand hardship. This is 2022, not 1917. Although Ukraine may have cost Putin his chance to define destiny as Lenin did, Putin is no Tsar Nicholas II. Not yet, at least. – Washington Examiner


Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian gunmen on Wednesday in a clash near the boundary with the occupied West Bank in which an army officer was also killed, a military spokesman said. – Reuters

Israel recently provided the Biden administration with intelligence aimed at justifying controversial IDF raids on seven Palestinian human rights organizations in the West Bank last month, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. – Times of Israel

The Biden administration on Tuesday appeared to step away from urging Israel’s military to review its open-fire protocols in the wake of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, after Israeli leaders expressed ire over the US’s suggestion. – Times of Israel

Israeli officials believe that despite the signals of concern from the Biden administration and Europe, the international community is sympathetic to Israel’s stance on the rising unrest in the West Bank. – Haaretz

Editorial: Israel needs to project societal strength and solidarity. Instead, we are transmitting a sense of deep domestic division and the loss of common purpose. This would not be the first time Israel’s enemies looked at the country’s internal rifts and read them as a sign of weakness. And when Israel’s enemies sense weakness, it is often just a matter of time before they test the country’s resolve. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Ultimately, Israel and the US are bound to have differences, but as we’ve seen with the current discussions regarding the Iran nuclear deal, they are conducted with the mutual respect and trust that comes with a longstanding partnership. Israel will always have to take care of itself, but maintaining a close bipartisan relationship with the US must be a top priority. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel and Yaniv Kubovich write: There are no widespread demonstrations and although the Palestinian public is losing faith in the PA, most West Bank residents do not take part in terror or violent protests. Many in the West Bank see the renewed spread of armed activists as a severe internal threat in Palestinian society and fear a rise in crime. – Haaretz

Dore Gold writes: There are national security implications from these changes as well. When Iran backs Hezbollah threats to Israeli gas sources, it is undermining the well-being of Europe and not just Israel. This requires a unified Western strategy for energy rather than blindly following the ideology of “green energy,” which remains unproven. – Arutz Sheva

Maurice Hirsch writes: The stages program is not only the policy of the PLO/PA/Fatah, but it is also widely accepted by the Palestinian people. In a 2014 survey conducted for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 62.5% of those surveyed supported the assertion that if the Palestinian leadership were to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel, “that would be part of a ‘program of stages’ to liberate all of historic Palestine later” — and 63.2% of those surveyed supported the assertion that if the Palestinian leadership were to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel, “resistance should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated” (in other words, until all of Israel is eliminated). – Algemeiner

Rachel O’Donoghue writes: Israel’s legal safeguards comprise a powerful framework against arbitrary and unlawful detention that is consistent with other democratic nations. It is therefore clear that administrative detention is neither distinctive nor egregious. Yet, it is invariably treated as such when Israel when makes use of it to protect its citizens. – Algemeiner


Egypt, the host of this year’s upcoming U.N.-led climate conference, is rejecting reports by a rights group saying that authorities in the Middle East country are stifling environment activism as part of a broader crackdown on dissent. – Associated Press

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began a two-day visit to Qatar on Tuesday, his first since Cairo and Doha restored relations last year following a regional diplomatic rift. – Reuters

Egypt’s state grains buyer has agreed to replace a detained Ukrainian wheat shipment with a new 60,000-tonne cargo, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, following weeks-long negotiations to either free or replace the shipment. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

If it weren’t for Hezbollah, Lebanon would have been part of the Abraham Accords, the head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

Reacting to Algeria’s preparation to host the next Arab League summit in early November 2022, Arab intellectuals are deeply divided regarding Algeria’s foreign policy positions. While some have praised Algeria for its support of the Palestinian issue, others condemned it for being hostile to its neighbor Morocco, allying with Iran against the Arabs, and siding with Ethiopia in its dispute with Egypt. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

On the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, one of the key side deals attached to Israel’s normalization with the Arab world has yet to come to fruition: the sale of advanced fighter aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. – Haaretz

Trevor Filseth writes: Due to its opposition to the PKK, Turkey’s relationship with Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq is largely antagonistic. […]The ongoing Turkish intervention in Iraq has also led to a deterioration in relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which has condemned Operation Claw-Lock and other Turkish operations in Iraqi Kurdistan as violations of its sovereignty. – The National Interest

Carmon and Alberto M. Fernandez write: All this human and fiscal waste comes in the face of massive unaddressed existential challenges. Iraq, Libya, and Yemen are three of the most water-scarce countries on the planet. All three will see increasing deleterious effects as a result of climate change in the near future, results that could make life in these countries increasingly harsh.[10] Both Iraq and Yemen, larger countries with rapidly growing populations, have not been able to invest in providing young generations with the education and economic futures they crave. The easier way out has been to pick up a gun or work for the government (or both). These conflicts may freeze or unfreeze but the weight of these costly, lost decades makes future prospects look increasingly incendiary. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Hany Ghoraba writes: Erdogan is trying to break his country’s isolation following a decade of aggressive policies that left it economically battered and isolated. Turkey supported the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt, and opposed the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in the popular revolution in 2013. Egypt and Turkey also were on opposite sides of vicious military campaigns in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. And Turkey has had other confrontations with Greece and Cyprus over naval borders and gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean. – Algemeiner

Korean Peninsula

North Korea has released new propaganda posters featuring its nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, state media reported on Tuesday, doing so for the first time in years and after the country codified its nuclear policy in law last week. – Reuters

South Korea’s privacy watchdog has fined Google and Meta a combined 100 billion won ($72 million) for tracking consumers’ online behavior without their consent and using their data for targeted advertisements. – Associated Press

Joseph Bosco writes: To add economic teeth to the human rights pressure, Biden should impose expanded secondary sanctions on China for its collusive role with Pyongyang. If denuclearization of North Korea is now a fantasy, rehumanization of the North Korean people should become the West’s priority. – The Hill


The summit this week between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China is a show of force by two autocratic leaders united against what they consider American hegemony. It is also a moment of mutual weakness as Russia suffers losses in Ukraine and China endures an economic slowdown. – New York Times

The United States is considering options for a sanctions package against China to deter it from invading Taiwan, with the European Union coming under diplomatic pressure from Taipei to do the same, according to sources familiar with the discussions. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping on Tuesday vowed to “defend common security” with Kazakhstan, state media reported, as he prepares to travel to Central Asia this week. – Agence France-Presse

“In the UN, China’s influence is massive. They really are so powerful there and so much more sophisticated than, say, the Russians, who are only really able to spoil things,” said a senior European diplomat. “They know how to work the system to their advantage.” – Financial Times

Michèle Flournoy and Michael Brown write: The stakes could not be higher, and the clock is ticking. The United States is running out of time to deploy the new capabilities and operational concepts it needs to deter China in the near term. The Department of Defense still has time to make the necessary changes—but only if it acts with greater urgency and focus now. – Foreign Affairs

Gordon G. Chang writes: So how does America deal with China and Russia? For starters, both have weak economies. Russia’s has been shaken by sanctions imposed after the Ukraine invasion, and China’s is exhausted and fragile, especially because Beijing’s massive stimulus programs, which have reliably created growth for decades, are not working well now. – Newsweek


A new round of fighting erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, threatening to unravel a cease-fire brokered by the Kremlin and testing its support for traditional allies during the war in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey said on Tuesday it continued to back Azerbaijan and called on Armenia to “cease its provocations” after clashes erupted between the two South Caucasus countries that resumed decades-old hostilities. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to reach a peace settlement in calls to their leaders after the neighbors’ worst fighting since their 2020 war. – Agence France-Presse

Taiwan’s de facto ambassador in Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, on Tuesday hosted dozens of international lawmakers who back sanctions on China for aggression toward the island, a show of support for Taipei amid military pressure from Beijing. – Reuters

One Tajikistan border guard was killed and two wounded in clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan overnight, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing the Tajikistan border force. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet in Uzbekistan on Friday and discuss trade as well as sales of Russian fertilizers and mutual food supplies, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Emil Avdaliani writes: There is now a contradictory cluster of competing considerations at work in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan’s nationalist leader, Ilham Aliyev, seems — perhaps opportunistically — determined to press the advantage it has held since 2020. Russia is supposed to be Armenia’s defender. The ultimate result of these differing factors will determine not only the outcome of these clashes, and perhaps another war, but also Russia’s future influence in its borderlands. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Thomas J. Duesterberg and Abby Fu write: The U.S., preferably working with its close allies in East Asia, can enhance Taiwan’s ability to maintain energy security and independence by blunting the ability of China (or its ally Russia) to pressure the island with blockades or otherwise weaken its access to energy supplies. Taiwan remains the world’s center of advanced semiconductor production, and its fall to PRC control would be disastrous. Taiwan cannot easily move to a non-fossil fuel energy economy, and the U.S.—especially in concert with energy-rich ally Australia—can enable Taipei to remain secure and well supplied with energy for the decades required for any transition to any semblance of renewables-based energy independence. – RealClearEnergy


Germany will step up lending to energy firms at risk of being crushed by soaring gas prices, it said Tuesday, as Europe readied proposals to help households and industry cope with an energy crisis. – Reuters

The European Union presidency said Tuesday it would convene another round of talks for the bloc’s energy ministers to discuss the energy crisis linked to the Ukraine war. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: The prospect of mounting discord over sanctions in a key euro-zone economy might be Russia’s best chance to blunt the sanctions and improve its flagging fortunes. Italians should think twice before handing Mr. Putin such a gift. – Washington Post

Editorial: The higher gas demand remains and the tighter the availability of alternative supplies, the stickier high inflation will be and the deeper the economic costs for the whole bloc. Joint demand and supply management will now be crucial; proposals for common efforts to cut power use and facilitate liquidity to energy companies are laudable. – Financial Times

Dominic Green writes: The losers of the left alliance view the triumph of the Sweden Democrats much as the Romans viewed the arrival of Attila’s hordes. Really, Sweden was exceptional in holding off this moment for so long. Their neighbors in Denmark have already domesticated their new right party into government. The Danish People’s Party served in a right-liberal coalition government from 2001 to 2011, and the 2015 elections made it Denmark’s second-largest party. It seems Sweden is no longer an exception to Europe’s new rule. – Wall Street Journal

Tony Barber writes: The Sweden Democrats differ from insurgent rightwing parties in Norway or Finland whose traditions lie more in libertarianism or agrarian populism. Under Akesson, who took over as party leader in 2005, the Sweden Democrats have expelled their most extremist members and changed their logo from a flame to a flower. Yet it may take more than that to persuade the political establishment that the Sweden Democrats deserve a spell in power. – Financial Times


At least 10 people were killed on Wednesday in a second day of air strikes against Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, a hospital official said. – Reuters

Nigeria’s Court of Appeal on Tuesday reserved judgment after separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu sought to have charges of terrorism and broadcasting falsehoods against him dropped, his lawyers said. – Reuters

Sabina Henneberg writes: The United States should continue signaling to Algiers that it is a valued partner, in order to balance Washington’s current position on the Western Sahara. In addition to expanding its involvement in the UN-led process, continued high-level engagement with Algiers will be important to discourage it from taking an even more assertive external posture and compromising the independence of countries like Tunisia. – The National Interest

Latin America

U.S. officials wound up a day of high-level meetings with their Mexican counterparts optimistic that they can bring their southern trade partner on board with multibillion-dollar plans to boost regional production of semiconductors and renewable energy. – Wall Street Journal

An Argentine judicial chamber has allowed 12 of 19 crew members of a Venezuelan plane to leave Argentina, local media reported on Tuesday, after the plane was detained in June due to suspicions the aircraft of Iranian origin had terrorism ties. – Reuters

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday hailed U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo for her attitude in talks this week, saying she gave no indication of wanting to punish Mexico over an energy dispute between the two countries. – Reuters

North America

A growing number of Canadians do not want a foreign monarch to represent them despite deep historical ties to Britain and affection for the queen, but risks that come with constitutional reform mean there is little political will for change. – Reuters

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr writes: Of course, this is the eternal problem of intelligence: the use of unverified, perhaps apocryphal information to justify whatever officials intend to do anyway. By rights, the FBI’s actions in both the Clinton and Trump matters should enter the textbooks as a paradigmatic case. The punch line in the Clinton case is that Mr. Comey’s machinations had the opposite of the desired effect, helping to tip the race to Mr. Trump when the email probe was reopened shortly before Election Day. – Wall Street Journal

Patty-Jane Geller writes: Moving forward, the U.S. needs to reject nuclear coercion by demonstrating the will to defend ourselves if necessary. Following through with routine missile tests to prove that U.S. nuclear missiles will work as intended is essential to this effort. Second, the U.S. needs to develop the capabilities that would backstop this strong stance against aggression. We must field regional or tactical nuclear weapons in a way that would fill the perceived deterrence gap between the U.S. and both Russia and China. – Heritage Foundation


Twitter’s former security chief told Congress Tuesday there was “at least one agent” from China’s intelligence service on Twitter’s payroll and that the company knowingly allowed India to add agents to the company roster as well, potentially giving those nations access to sensitive data about users. – Associated Press

Hackers associated with the Chinese military are leveraging a wide range of legitimate software packages in order to load their malware payloads and target government leaders across Asia, according to the Symantec Threat Hunter team. – The Record

Pro-Ukrainian hackers on Sunday took credit for breaching Russian TV channels and broadcasting anti-war messages comparing Russia’s attack on Ukraine to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. – The Record

Hackers connected to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are allegedly using multiple personas in phishing emails to target organizations and people with information on Israel and several Gulf States, the Abraham Accords, and nuclear arms control, according to new research. – The Record

Former Twitter security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatko testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, alleging infiltration of Twitter by foreign agents, widespread lack of data controls and ineffective U.S. regulation.  – The Record

Hackers are using a clever new phishing technique to create email threads with multiple responses to trick potential victims into thinking bogus messages are legitimate. The cybersecurity firm Proofpoint has identified the group deploying these so-called “multi-persona impersonation” emails as TA453. The company previously linked TA453 to Iran and says their activities overlap with other groups called Charming Kitten, Phosphorous and APT42. – CyberScoop

Six current and former social media executives will testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee Wednesday at a hearing that committee officials say will focus on how algorithms and targeted ads can amplify harmful content and threaten homeland security. – CyberScoop

A grim future awaits the United States if it loses the competition with China on developing key technologies like artificial intelligence in the near future, the authors of a special government-backed study told reporters on Monday. – USNI News


In the coming weeks, Congress will be sending President Joe Biden the final version of the National Defense Authorization for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23 NDAA). – Business Insider

U.S. Army officials tasked with revamping the service’s networks and information-sharing tools are tackling a question intrinsic to the Pentagon’s preparations for possible conflicts against both China and Russia: how to ensure communications are reliable and secure in radically different environments. – Defense News

Adam Yang writes: There are also many opportunities related to external partnering. A maritime cavalry could even serve as military ambassadors as they engage or participate in maritime operation centers and other governing bodies throughout the Indo-Pacific. Given the various challenges China and Russia pose to American interests, the U.S. military would greatly benefit from having highly visible marine units that can operate in gray zones, maintain a presence in littoral regions, and use its presence to create operational openings for friendly forces in high-end conflict. – War on the Rocks

Long War

Five people were killed in a blast in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, including an influential anti-Taliban tribal leader, police said, in the fist major bombing in over a decade in an area that was once a battleground between security forces and militants. – Reuters

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups are reportedly offering cash incentives for shooting attacks on Israelis, on condition that a video of the assault is published on social media. – Times of Israel

On September 13, 2022, Al-Furqan, the media arm of the Islamic State (ISIS) Central Command released an audio message by the group’s spokesman, Abu ‘Umar Al-Muhajir. Titled, “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah [i.e., Quran], and be not divided among yourselves,” the speech praised recent prison breaks conducted by ISIS operatives in Nigeria on July 5 and another in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on August 10, highlighting that these raids were carried out based on directives issued by ISIS leadership. Lauding ISIS operatives, particularly in West and Central Africa provinces, the spokesman called on freed prisoners to “return to righteousness” and join the ranks of ISIS. – ​​Middle East Media Research Institute