Fdd's overnight brief

September 17, 2021

In The News


The Hezbollah militant group said it trucked more than a million gallons of Iranian diesel fuel into Lebanon from Syria on Thursday, celebrating the move as a way of spiting the United States while bringing much-needed aid to a country nearly paralyzed by fuel shortages. – New York Times  

Iran’s power market is bucking global trends and in the process revealing a key economic buffer that helps the country withstand international sanctions. – Bloomberg  

Iran on Thursday dismissed the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s work as “unprofessional” and “unfair” shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran. – Reuters 

China and Russia are bringing Iran and Pakistan further into their fold in a bid to elevate a regionwide strategy toward confronting the still-simmering crisis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is looking for international recognition for its rule. – Newsweek 

Two weeks ago, Iran announced it was planning to boost oil output and exports despite ongoing sanctions by the U.S. As we see continually increased output from Iran since the beginning of 2021, can the country overcome U.S. restrictions to regain its title as a major oil-producing state? – Oil Price  

Mohammad Hossein Ziya writes: Collectively, the factors highlighted above suggest a critical outlook for Iran. Some of these factors, such as sanctions, have external roots that have a significant impact on economic issues. Nonetheless, most of these crises are the outcome of mismanagement within Iran. – Middle East Institute  

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: How will Israel act if Washington and the West simply wilt under Iranian pressure and suffice with a slightly weaker JCPOA in which Iran permanently gets to keep its hundreds of advanced centrifuges – even if they are temporarily closeted? These are all open questions. But the blinking from all sides over the last few weeks and even days has started to reshape the geopolitics surrounding the issue, and it seems some more changes and surprises may not be far off. – Jerusalem Post 

Spencer Faragasso and Sarah Burkhard write: Iran continues to go to extensive lengths to acquire the necessary components for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and utilizes front companies and other schemes to deceive legitimate businesses and individuals. All suppliers should remain vigilant, exercising greater due diligence when fulfilling orders for sensitive commodities and reporting any suspicious activities to the relevant authorities. – Institute for Science and International Security

Alex Vatanka writes: All levers of power in Tehran are now in the hands of the hardline camp. Under the crushing weight of sanctions, business as usual is not an option, and Khamenei, his hand-picked president, and the IRGC that with force underwrites the regime’s survival have some tough choices to make about the best ways to preserve their power. – Middle East Institute 


Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy prime minister in the Taliban’s interim government, took to the airwaves Wednesday to assure his compatriots that he is alive and well, and that reports that he was harmed during an internal clash among the Taliban leadership are untrue. – Washington Post 

But in Afghanistan’s rural districts like Baraki Barak, where Taliban rules don’t differ that much from existing conservative customs, the calculation is different, particularly in the mostly Pashtun southern and eastern provinces. To villagers here, the collapse of the Afghan republic and the U.S. withdrawal mean, above all, that the guns have fallen silent for the first time in two decades. – Wall Street Journal  

Weeks after their dramatic escape from Kabul, tens of thousands of Afghans hoping to be resettled in the United States remain on military bases across the country and overseas as medical and security screenings slow the process. – New York Times  

Hugh Hewitt writes: The Taliban, al-Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan — these terrorist groups will not take care to indulge our amnesia. The bodies will pile up. The horrific executions will leak out. That’s on Biden. What has happened, though, over 20 years? That is on all of us. We promised so much more. Afghans relied on so much more. Then we got tired and left. It is that simple. – Washington Post 

Sarah Lyall writes: The term “Blob” is generally understood to describe members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment — government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like — who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen in this context as Blob-approved. – Foreign Affairs  

Thomas Spoehr writes: Apparently, the Bizarro World standard for success for overseas rescues of Americans is 90%. Proudly noting that “90% of Americans who wanted to leave were able to leave,” Biden was short on details how the remaining 10% would get home. When we speak of saving overseas Americans, when has 90% ever been acceptable? The military has a simple code: Don’t leave comrades behind. That’s an easy standard to remember. – Chattanooga Free Press  

Jonathan Schroden and Alexander Powell write: Today, the U.S. government confronts a different version of the same dilemma: Should the United States cooperate with the Taliban in order to counter the Islamic State in Afghanistan? When asked about prospects for that during a Sept. 1 press conference, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded, “It’s possible.” Given the 20-year U.S. war against the Taliban, Milley’s remarks made news and came as a shock to some observers. – War on the Rocks  

Amalendu Misra writes: Whatever peaceful demonstrations there have been—be it for the protection of women’s rights, against Pakistani interference in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, or in support of the Panjshir resistance—they have all been orchestrated and undertaken by Afghan women. Perhaps they are the last line of defense against the country sliding into the abyss and the only hope for its future. – The National Interest 

John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon writes: Whatever the specific military verdict on Afghanistan, this broader strategic benefit of the mission there is likely to continue to help deter the Taliban—and thus to protect the United States—for years to come. That is an enormous contribution by all who served for which they should be proud and for which we should all be deeply grateful. – The National Interest  

Hillel Frisch writes: Above all, a judicious US president should avoid the pitfalls of falling into the ideological traps of either neoconservative or liberal biases. Afghanistan is an excellent example why the most moral outcome is a strong United States true to its interests as the world’s leading maritime democratic power. – Jerusalem Post 

Ruth Pollard and David Fickling write: Afghan women’s number one fear is not being able to work, and losing access to education is a close second, says Heather Barr, the associate director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. With so many men killed in the conflict, or fleeing the country, a significant number of women have been left as both single parents and sole breadwinners supporting their parents and other relatives. – Bloomberg  

Eli Lake writes: The U.S. will be suffering the consequences of its defeat in Afghanistan for years. It has already paid a price in global reputation, among both allies and adversaries. If recent warnings are correct, Afghanistan will soon become a safe haven for international terrorism yet again. An independent commission would give future presidents a chance to learn from this blunder, and citizens a chance to hold their current leaders accountable. – Bloomberg  


Polarization of opinions in political issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being directly promoted and fueled by social media, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights said on Monday. – Jerusalem Post 

An armed group of men opened fire towards IDF soldiers at the Jalama checkpoint, located between Mount Gilboa and Jenin, Walla reported on Friday morning. – Jerusalem Post 

Liat Collins writes: The failings that led to the Gilboa breakout point to ineptitude if not criminal stupidity on the part of the Israel Prison Service. The establishment of a commission of inquiry is a positive step but if the findings are not acted upon it will be worth nothing. – Jerusalem Post 


Israel won’t move to stop Iran shipments of fuel to Lebanon, amid the serious economic and energy crisis plaguing the neighboring country, according to a senior military official and a television report on Thursday. – Times of Israel  

Lebanon’s finance minister Youssef Khalil on Friday signed a new contract with restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out a forensic audit at the country’s central bank, the ministry said in a statement. – Reuters

The European Union should still consider imposing sanctions on Lebanese politicians who block the progress of the new government, the EU’s parliament said on Thursday, calling Lebanon’s crisis a man-made disaster. – Reuters  

Lebanon’s cabinet on Thursday approved a policy programme that aims to tackle one of the worst financial meltdowns in history. With Lebanon in the throes of economic collapse, three quarters of its population have descended into poverty and the local currency has lost 90% of its value in the past two years. – Reuters  

Sarat Zehavi and Eric R. Mandel write: American administrations of both parties have been willfully blind to the reality in Lebanon. The American taxpayer should not have to finance a mission that has not improved Lebanon’s future or afforded peace to the residents of Israel or Lebanon. They would be better served by funding a more limited mission. – Times of Israel 

Arabian Peninsula

The U.S. State Department has approved a potential agreement covering up to $500 million in military support services for Saudi Arabia, and has sent the agreement to Congress for review, the Pentagon said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Investment bankers set aside a couple weeks to drum up interest in Saudi Arabia’s first $1 billion initial public offering since Aramco. They only needed hours before they had excess orders. – Bloomberg  

The Saudi-led coalition said late on Thursday that it thwarted and destroyed four Houthi explosives-laden drones and a ballistic rocket fired in the direction of the southern Saudi city of Jazan, Saudi state media reported. – Reuters 

Middle East & North Africa

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would bring surging prices under control and blamed “opportunists” for the rising cost of basic services. […]This comes as the government faces eroding support for Erdogan who is seeking re-election in less than two years. – Bloomberg  

The Japan-based Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group has left the Middle East after operating in the region since June, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News on Thursday. – USNI News 

Jim Townsend, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, David Shullman and Gibbs McKinley write: It is against this backdrop of competition that observers have questioned whether the Mediterranean will become a new arena for increased collaboration between China and Russia. In the last several years, the two countries have increased their presence and influence in the Mediterranean, creating opportunities for growing cooperation at odds with U.S. interests and objectives in the region. – Center for a New American Security  

Mohammed Soliman writes: To understand today’s Egypt is to acknowledge that Cairo is building its own civilization-state. And if global politics are nearing an era of multipolarity and the rise of the rest, then Egypt’s case is not unique, and civilization-states may in fact represent the new norm. – Middle East Institute  

Peter Dahl Thruelsen writes: NATO’s dreams of merging their two military intelligence services into one and their five military commands into three were abandoned. As a result, more emphasis could be given to institutional development. And this meant the things the Iraqi Ministry of Defense was waiting for, such as defense planning programs, human resource advising, and doctrine development. This progress shows what patience, understanding, and greater alignment can achieve. It should be a model for success — in Iraq and also for other missions to come. – War on the Rocks  

Sasha Toperich and Debra Cagan write: In fact, the U.S. Congress should seriously consider holding a hearing on Haftar’s destructive role in Libya and examining how a U.S. citizen can operate how he has without facing consequences. Haftar, with his hopes of becoming the next authoritarian leader of Libya, has seriously endangered U.S. national security and the security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s southern flank by aligning himself with the Russian military and paramilitary establishments—all while committing war crimes. – The National Interest  

Korean Peninsula

The missiles fired by North Korea on Wednesday were a test of a new “railway-borne missile system” designed as a potential counter-strike to any forces that threaten the country, state news agency KCNA reported on Thursday. – Reuters  

North Korea’s recent sword-rattling after months of relative quiet makes clear that leader Kim Jong Un is working on expanding his weapons arsenal. – Associated Press 

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Monday that the country had successfully developed and tested a new long-range cruise missile, ostensibly able to hit targets at a range of nearly 1,000 miles. – The National Interest  

South Korea plans to develop and start operating a new space launch vehicle by 2024 from its Naro Space Center in Goheung County, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Seoul disclosed on 16 September. – Jane’s 360 

While South Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) makes it only the eighth country—along with China, France, India, North Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—to declare that kind of underwater-launch capability, and the first non-nuclear armed state to do so. (Israel is also widely believed to have a nuclear SLBM capability.) – Foreign Policy  

Peter Suciu writes: However, the tests didn’t result in any major headlines in South Korea nor did they make the front page of North Korea’s state newspaper. China, North Korea’s closest ally, also didn’t seem to make much of the tests. While not inconsequential, when a missile test occurs and the world hardly notices—especially given all the other problems—does it really matter? In this case, it probably does, but it is far down on the list of concerns. – The National Interest  


China on Thursday moved quickly to counter an effort by the U.S., U.K. and Australia to contain its ambitions in the Pacific, saying it would apply to join a regional economic pact the U.S. had eschewed, as Washington and Beijing maneuvered for economic and military position in the theater that will define their great power competition. – Wall Street Journal  

China on Thursday slammed a decision by the United States and Britain to share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia, a move seen as a direct challenge to Beijing and its growing military ambitions. – Washington Post 

China’s communist state has made a show in recent months of supporting the lowest-level workers in the country’s bare-knuckle tech industry, an emerging plank in leader Xi Jinping’s campaign to shrink the country’s wealth gap and usher in a new era of “common prosperity.” – Wall Street Journal 

As Beijing seeks to tighten its grip over Hong Kong, it has a new mandate for the city’s powerful property tycoons: pour resources and influence into backing Beijing’s interests, and help solve a potentially destabilising housing shortage. – Reuters  

Fong is one of many teachers that left Hong Kong before the school year began in September, some saying they felt disillusioned and threatened by the authoritarian turn the city has taken since Beijing imposed a stringent national security law in June 2020. – Reuters  

A U.S.-backed Uyghur photo exhibit of dozens of people who are missing or alleged to be held in camps in Xinjiang, China, opened in Switzerland on Thursday, prompting Beijing to issue a furious statement accusing Washington of “low political tricks”. – Reuters  

Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) aircraft have taken part in a take-off and landing exercise in which they used highways as emergency airstrips for the first time. The drill, which was aimed at testing the ability of RoCAF pilots to operate from narrow and shorter runways, was held on 15 September as part of Taiwan’s annual ‘Han Kuang’ military drills. – Jane’s 360 

A July 9, 2021 article in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media outlet People’s Daily commented on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s July 1, 2021 speech marking the CCP’s 100th anniversary. Quoting Xi, the article referred to military modernization as a means to “safeguard the leadership of the CCP and China’s socialist system” and to project power regionally. – Middle East Media Research Institute  

Editorial: Talk of a Chinese “Lehman moment”—a financial collapse and recession akin to the failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008—is premature. But the credit correction that Beijing is launching may be harder to manage than the Party’s central planners think. – Wall Street Journal  

Charles Edel and David O. Shullman write: There is a legitimate debate to be had about whether China is acting offensively to forge a more illiberal world or defensively to make the world safe for China’s brand of autocracy. That distinction, however, may prove irrelevant if Beijing feels driven to reach into democratic societies, undercut their institutions, suppress and censor speech it deems offensive, and erode the foundations of liberal society the world over. – Foreign Affairs  

South Asia

Pakistan’s prime minister has met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry’s statement on Friday said the two leaders met on the sideline of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s meeting in Tajikistan’s city of Dushanbe. The discussion centered on Afghanistan and other bilateral issues, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan underscoring his country’s vital interest in a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. – Associated Press 

India has told China that their bilateral relations will only develop when both countries pull their troops back from a confrontation on their disputed Himalayan border, the Indian foreign minister said. – Reuters  

India wants closer trade links with Central Asia through the Chabahar port in Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a speech delivered via video link at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Tajikistan. – Bloomberg  

Editorial: If Pakistani leaders truly want the U.S. to ease its financial stranglehold over the Taliban and prevent the Afghan economy from collapsing, for instance, they should use their influence to ensure the Taliban allow vulnerable Afghans to emigrate, humanitarian aid to flow, and women to study and work. – Bloomberg  

Sadanand Dhume writes: Faced with an aggressive China on its borders, India still has reason to draw closer to the Quad. Nonetheless, this much is clear: You can’t neatly compartmentalize the threat from China by ignoring trouble spots like Afghanistan. Instead of ratcheting up pressure on Beijing, Mr. Biden may have eased it by endangering an important partner. – Wall Street Journal  


The Biden administration’s surprise decision to share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia brought a swift backlash from China on Thursday, and an angry charge of betrayal from France, which said the secretly negotiated deal reminded it of something President Donald Trump would have done. – Washington Post  

Taiwan plans to significantly increase military spending in the next five years, according to a draft bill that calls for new outlays on weapons systems that would better equip the island to repel an attack by China. – Wall Street Journal  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday rejected Chinese criticism of Australia’s new nuclear submarine alliance with the United States and said he doesn’t mind that President Joe Biden might have forgotten his name. – Associated Press 

Armenia filed a case at the World Court asserting that Azerbaijan has violated an international treaty on racial discrimination, the court said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Indonesia said on Friday it was worried about an arms race in the region after neighbouring Australia announced plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with the United States and Britain. – Reuters  

Candidates to become Japan’s next prime minister officially started their campaigns on Friday, promising to restore popular trust in their party by tackling issues such as income disparities, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. – Reuters  

Taiwan’s government called on the European Union to quickly begin trade talks after the bloc pledged to seek a trade deal with the tech-heavyweight island, something Taipei has long angled for. – Reuters  

Australia and the United States announced expanded military cooperation on Thursday, including rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, a day after announcing a submarine deal denounced by China as intensifying a regional arms race. – Reuters  

The Australian government has established a Future Nuclear Submarine Task Force which will work with U.K. and U.S. counterparts over the next twelve to eighteen months to determine the best way to acquire the boats. – Defense News 

Australia’s surprise move to procure nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) with U.S. and U.K. follows difficulties the country has experienced on its SEA 1000 Attack-class future submarine program and the realization that a conventionally powered submarine (SSK) will not meet its future needs, a regional defense expert told USNI News. – USNI News 

Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarines will not be allowed to enter New Zealand waters. – Jane’s 360 

Henry Olsen writes: This masterstroke is exactly what the United States should be doing to combat China. As powerful as China is, it cannot match the combined capabilities of the United States and its allies. U.S. diplomats should be directed to firm up those alliances and increase allies’ military capabilities. The more that Asian democracies are united in response to Chinese aggression, the less likely China is to embark on military adventures such as invading Taiwan. – Washington Post  

David Ignatius writes: Australia is a pivotal nation in the Sino-American competition for influence in Asia. Australia’s heart has been with the United States, but its wallet depended on China. Beijing sought to exploit this economic vulnerability and pressure Australia into distancing itself from the West. With the AUKUS pact, Washington pushed back hard, and showed it has Australia’s back. – Washington Post  

Bich T. Tran writes: If Vietnam could substantially substitute imports from China with those from the United States, it would reduce its supply chain vulnerabilities and possibly its surplus with the United States, insulating U.S.-Vietnam relations from the potential re-politicization of trade deficits by future administrations. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Richard Weitz writes: Presently, the Central Asian governments are eschewing policies that could antagonize the new regime while looking for indications whether the Taliban have genuinely turned over a new leaf and renounced international terrorism. If they have, then some Central Asian countries seem open to economic and perhaps other cooperation. If not, Central Asians will likely rely on Russia for enhanced security support. – Middle East Institute  


Russia’s parliamentary elections — taking place amid Putin’s withering crackdown on opposition — run Friday to Sunday and, to many Putin opponents, are another low-water mark for Russia’s post-Soviet democracy. – Washington Post 

Russia is a country in which nothing changes until everything changes. Ahead of the national parliamentary elections this weekend, President Vladimir V. Putin’s rule has reached a new apogee of authoritarianism, coated in a patina of comfortable stability. To many, Mr. Putin remains a hero, especially for his assertive foreign policy, while those who oppose him are retreating, as they put it, into their own oases or parallel worlds. – New York Times  

Russia took a step closer on Thursday to claiming another record in space when a commission of medical and safety experts approved a plan for an actress and a director to blast off early next month to film the first full-length, fictional movie in space. – New York Times  

Andras Toth-Czifra writes: Recent years have seen increasingly widespread falsification of elections across Russia, especially since the introduction of multi-day voting and online voting, which has reportedly led to forced voter registration and fraud that is mostly hidden from the eyes of independent observers (whom the authorities are trying to restrict in many other ways too.) – Center for European Policy Analysis  

Andras Toth-Czifra writes: Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that every region, every district has its own specifics: rigging is widespread, but not completely centralized; independent observers, who can make a significant difference, have varying degrees of access to polling stations; issues and personalities differ from region to region. And as long as the biggest swindle in the electoral system is also its weakest point — the single-member districts —  the Kremlin has not only one big crisis of legitimacy to deal with, but also, potentially many smaller ones. – Center for European Policy Analysis  


This is Germany’s first general election without Angela Merkel running for chancellor since 2002. For her conservative bloc, it is shaping up as a debacle. – Wall Street Journal  

The United States acknowledged on Thursday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, a move that French officials have denounced as a major betrayal by one of its closest allies. – New York Times  

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called France a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger after the United States, Australia and the UK clinched a deal to supply Australia with submarines. – Reuters  

The Dutch foreign minister, Sigrid Kaag, resigned Thursday after the lower house of parliament passed a motion of censure against the government over its handling of evacuations from Afghanistan amid the Taliban takeover. – Associated Press 

French President Emmanuel Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris Thursday to discuss international crises and European issues, days before elections that will determine who succeeds her after 16 years in office. – Associated Press 

Human rights and refugee groups are urging to the European Union to step up its protection for Afghans trying to flee their country following the Taliban’s takeover last month. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty  

French officials on Thursday canceled a gala at the country’s Washington, D.C., embassy over the Biden administration’s decision to scrap a $40 billion nuclear submarine deal that the European nation had signed with Australia, The New York Times reported. – The Hill 

The spread of a movement known as “Qui?”  poses a threat to the safety of French Jews, according to the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM). – Jerusalem Post 

Ukraine and the United State will start joint military exercises in western Ukraine next week, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Thursday, days after Belarus and Russian staged large-scale drills that have concerned neighbouring countries. – Reuters  

MBDA and BAE Systems have secured additional funding from the British and Italian governments to complete integration of key weapon systems destined to add capability to their F-35 combat jet fleets, the companies announced Sept 17. – Defense News 

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace admitted if he were French he would be extremely disappointed over the Australian decision to ax a $65 billion deal with Naval Group to build diesel electric-submarines, but he said the move was done for strategic, not industrial, reasons. – Defense News 

Marton Zsurafszky writes: The chessboard is set; the plans are in motion. All Washington has to do is see the signs, pay attention and treat Hungary and all of CEE as a strategic partner again. Seen from the perspective of a fallen Austro-Hungarian empire, we have lessons to teach: Unlike the U.S., we understand that there is no limit to how bad things can get. Your move, America! – Newsweek 


Nigeria’s air force confirmed that there was an airstrike targeting a branch of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the northeast part of the country where civilians were reported to have been killed, a spokesman said Thursday. – Washington Post 

West Africa’s main regional bloc on Thursday imposed sanctions against the junta in Guinea and those slowing Mali’s post-coup transition – its toughest response yet to a run of military takeovers. – Reuters  

South Africa’s top court ruled on Friday that former president Jacob Zuma had failed in his bid to have his 15-month jail sentence for failing to attend a corruption inquiry overturned. – Reuters 

In recent months, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria has embarked on a spree of opening “Windows on America,” U.S. cultural hubs in local communities across the country. […]The unstated but no less important aim of the centers is to create cultural inroads with Nigerian youth to counter China’s influence—especially the influence it exerts through its Confucius Institutes. – Foreign Policy  

The Americas

The World Bank canceled a prominent report rating the business environment of the world’s countries after an investigation concluded that senior bank management pressured staff to alter data affecting the ranking of China and other nations. – Wall Street Journal  

Rather than upholding civil rights, Venezuela’s judicial system has served as an instrument of repression at the hands of political leaders and the security services at their disposal, United Nations human rights experts said on Thursday. – New York Times  

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley faces intense scrutiny for phone calls he made to his Chinese counterparts about then-President Donald Trump. But it’s far from the first time Milley’s actions have sparked accusations of politicizing his role. – Washington Examiner 

El Salvador’s Court of Accounts, which oversees its public resources, will investigate a complaint about the government’s bitcoin purchases and the construction of kiosks for cryptocurrency ATMs, according to a document seen by Reuters. – Reuters  

El Salvador’s vice president has delivered the final proposal for constitutional changes to President Nayib Bukele, including the extension of presidential terms and a new electoral tribunal body, the government said on Thursday. – Reuters  

A group of leading Haiti-based diplomats met with Prime Minister Ariel Henry and said it backed his efforts to solve the country’s political crisis, an apparent vote of confidence as he faces off accusations of links to the slaying of President Jovenel Moise. – Reuters  

Daniel F. Runde and Ryan C. Berg write: Like the Alliance for Progress, increasing economic integration in the Americas should be a priority for any new partnership today. With the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a blueprint, the United States should push for more economic integration through increased trade agreements. Such agreements would diversify value chains, making them less risky and more resilient. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  


When problems have surfaced publicly, Facebook has said it addressed them by taking down offending posts. But it hasn’t fixed the systems that allowed offenders to repeat the bad behavior. Instead, priority is given to retaining users, helping business partners and at times placating authoritarian governments, whose support Facebook sometimes needs to operate within their borders, the documents show. – Wall Street Journal  

Alphabet’s Google and Apple have removed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their stores, his team said on Friday, after Russia accused the U.S. tech firms of meddling in its internal affairs. – Reuters  

Facebook on Thursday announced that it was implementing a new policy targeting “coordinated social harm” campaigns. – The Hill 

The Air Force Research Laboratory is marking the next step in the development of its space-related infrastructure at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, beginning construction on a facility dedicated to simulation and analysis last week. – C4SIRNET 

Editorial: Looking ahead, one hopes Xiaomi could address some of these inadequacies, with clarity about the comprehensiveness of their transparency, fuller reporting from more countries where they operate, and greater detail about the kinds of government queries and their responses. On top of all of this, one would hope that Xiaomi would issue future transparency reports not only in English but in Chinese as well. Otherwise, it gives the impression that these efforts are meant for foreign consumption and not the domestic audiences, both the Chinese government or its customers. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Will Oremus writes: For an approach that’s intended to avoid bad press, Facebook’s penchant for suppressing inconvenient internal research has itself generated a remarkable amount of, well, bad press. As the latest batch of leaked internal critiques continues to trickle out, the company faces a choice. […]Or it could carry on with the status quo, weathering this round of bad publicity and regulatory pressure as it has all the others before it — and likely continuing to rake in the enormous profits that have remained a constant through it all. – Washington Post 


President Joe Biden on Thursday said he intends to nominate Nickolas Guertin to serve as director of operational test and evaluation at the Department of Defense. – Defense News 

L3Harris Technologies has filed suit Sept. 7 in the Court of Federal Claims protesting a decision by the Government Accountability Office requiring the Navy to potentially reopen discussion and request revised proposals for the next increment of a powerful airborne jammer. – C4SIRNET 

American defense company Lockheed Martin is continuing to update its bid to build the Hellenic Navy’s new frigates and modernize its current ones, with Greece set to choose a path forward for its surface fleet by the end of the year. – Defense News 

L3Harris Technologies is providing robots to the U.S. Air Force to replace the service’s aging explosive ordnance disposal systems. – Defense News 

The Defense Department could be ready to jump into a performance-based logistics contract with Lockheed Martin to sustain the F-35 as soon as its recently inked agreement expires in fiscal 2023, the Pentagon’s program executive said Wednesday. – Defense News 

Washington needs to recognize and adapt to Indo-Pacific and European nations’ different security and economic interests in confronting Beijing, a panel of regional scholars said. – USNI News 

Brent Sadler writes: As the Navy looks to its future, it must get the balance right between capability (what’s carried), capacity (how much is carried), endurance (how long at sea), and survivability. Banking on a handful of large, irreplaceable warships puts all the fleet’s eggs in one, easier-to-target basket. On the other hand, an over-reliance on numerous smaller, limited, and less survivable warships risks operational irrelevance for enduring peacetime missions and sustained operations in contested waters. – Real Clear Defense  

John Rossomando writes: Biden should consider an officer such as Adm. Richard to replace Milley. The United States needs a competent strategist who comprehends the need to deter China and Russia and knows how to do so. Richard has been at the forefront of calling for stronger deterrents against Chinese and Russian nuclear modernization as well as China’s lack of treaty constraints and uncontrolled nuclear buildup. America needs a focused strategist in the top job, not a self-interested political hack. – The National Interest  

Jenna Biter writes: China and Russia have bonded over similarities. Both countries have chilly relationships with the United States and share strategic concerns about Central Asia, which are particularly relevant now that the Taliban has retaken control of Afghanistan, and the region’s security context is shifting. […]Russia and China might wield their alignment to poke at the United States, but they won’t wield it at the expense of vital national interests—and that is the West’s point of opportunity. – The National Interest  

Tara Murphy Dougherty and Jim Mitre write: The Defense Department can only craft a thoughtful SCRM strategy once it has a champion for SCRM empowered with an enterprisewide SCRM system that functions across the acquisition life cycle. Congress should move swiftly to create these necessary preconditions in the fiscal 2022 cycle. – Defense News 

Long War

France said Thursday it had killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the Islamic State leader who led the killing of four U.S. servicemen in Niger in 2017 and was the architect of one of the terrorist outfit’s most successful franchises following the group’s loss of its Middle East territories. – Wall Street Journal  

Even before France announced Wednesday that its forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, the terrorist group appeared to be struggling. – New York Times  

Shamima Begum, the 22-year-old woman who left Britain as a teenager in 2015 to join the Islamic State in Syria, has appealed to the public for forgiveness and offered to help the government fight terrorism if she is allowed to return home. – Washington Post 

The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on five al Qaeda supporters working out of Turkey to provide financial services and travel help to the militant group, the Treasury Department said on Thursday. – Reuters  

Police averted a possible Islamist attack on a synagogue in western Germany and arrested four people including a 16-year-old Syrian youth in connection with the threat, the regional interior minister said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: For too long, the State Department has run interference for Turkey and allowed the country figuratively to get away with murder. Unfortunately, in the case of the Grey Wolves, the murder is literal. Titus is right. Designate the Grey Wolves, or have Antony Blinken explain why the United States should turn a blind eye to the group’s noxious combination of ethnic and religious fascism and violence. – 19fortyfive  

Steven Groves writes: Since the Kabul Airport attack, President Biden has done exactly two things to retaliate. First, on Aug. 27, he claims to have killed two “high-profile” ISIS-K operatives in a drone strike. But who were they? Were they involved in the airport attack, or were they two mid-level schlubs who were at the wrong place at the wrong time? The lack of an official answer at this point in time suggests the latter. – New York Post