Fdd's overnight brief

September 2, 2022

In The News


Prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal appeared to take a step backward Thursday as the Biden administration said that Tehran’s latest proposals, submitted through the European Union, were “not constructive.” – Washington Post 

As Russia squeezes Europe on supplies of natural gas and Europe readies an embargo on Russian oil, some are looking for help from Iran. That is, of course, if and when Tehran and Washington agree to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, lifting tough economic sanctions on Iran that have limited its ability to export energy. – New York Times

Iran and Syria are reportedly weighing the possibility of forming a joint cooperation venture in the fields of oil and gas, according to Tehran. The Islamic Republic News Agency, a state-funded media company, reported Thursday that high-level officials in either country have discussed the prospects of “mutual cooperation in the field of oil and gas.” – Fox News

A group of 50 House Democrats and Republicans is calling on President Biden to share with Congress text of a potential agreement with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal before any papers are signed. – The Hill

Eric R. Mandel writes: Unfortunately, this bad deal with Iran will not be better than having no deal. Providing financial support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will feed the regime’s appetite for expansionism and terrorism, increasing the potential for a regional war. In a few years, any nuclear restrictions will expire, and a Middle East nuclear arms race inevitably will follow. How would any of this advance America’s national security interests? – The Hill

Mike Rogers writes: The region and the United States cannot afford a nuclear Tehran, but it also cannot afford to be left behind as these historic political and diplomatic developments take place — developments which are wholly in the United States’ interests — even if they come about because of America’s seeming lack of attention. If we fail to stay engaged, we risk having to respond to a more serious conflict in the region. The best insurance for a safer and stable region won’t be a fatally flawed JCPOA 2. It will be a continued engagement with our Middle East allies looking to build a better future for the region. – The Hill

Giulio Meotti writes: There was a time when Amnesty defended victims of ideological repression, such as the wife of Soviet writer Boris Pasternak, Olga Ivinskaya, who spent years under arrest and was persecuted for her husband’s refusal to bow in the Kremlin. Now, as the Times documented, it has ties to Islamists (the same ones who attacked the life of Salman Rushdie’s publisher in Norway) and represses women who do not want to be replaced by an absurd and grotesque ideology. Don’t we live in wonderful times? The West has become as thin as that cloud into which Rushdie disappeared for ten years after the fatwa. – Arutz Sheva

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine’s military has kept Ukrainians and the world guessing about the counteroffensive it claims to have launched in this Russian-occupied territory, but Oleksander Skovorodka already feels a shift. – Washington Post 

A team of U.N. nuclear experts made an initial inspection at the embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday after traversing a contested stretch of southeastern Ukraine besieged by mortar shelling and small weapons fire. – Washington Post 

As Russian forces swept into town and artillery shells exploded outside last winter, residents of this village about 30 miles northwest of Kyiv cowered in fear in the basement of the local school. On Thursday, the Russian invaders who failed to seize the Ukrainian capital were a memory, and the school was the scene of a much more tranquil and joyous occasion: the official opening of the academic year, which takes place annually on Sept. 1. – Washington Post 

A Russian shipping line with ties to the country’s Defense Ministry has been ferrying weapons and supplies through the Bosporus to ports on the Black Sea in support of Moscow’s war effort, according to Ukrainian officials who have urged Turkey to block their access. – Wall Street Journal

In much of the West, Mikhail S. Gorbachev is hailed as the farsighted visionary who brought the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion. But for autocratic leaders in other parts of the world, his legacy stands as a cautionary tale of power discarded quickly and, by some estimates, cavalierly, with little or nothing in return. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration said on Thursday it cannot hold talks with Moscow on a treaty to replace the last U.S.-Russian pact limiting strategic nuclear arms until inspections of the two countries’ nuclear weapons sites, which are currently paused, resume. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moldova on Thursday that threatening the security of Russian troops in the breakaway region of Transdniestria risked triggering military confrontation with Moscow. – Reuters

One of the six reactors at a Russian-held nuclear plant in southern Ukraine was shut down Thursday as an emergency protection measure after shelling in the area, Ukraine’s nuclear agency said. The shutdown came as a team of UN experts was en route to inspect the plant — Europe’s largest atomic facility — that is located on the frontline in an area repeatedly hit by shelling. – Agence France-Presse

As Ukrainian forces continue to use Western-supplied weaponry to execute precision strikes on Russian military targets, the Russian response remains largely limited to the rhetorical realm. Military experts tell Newsweek that the reason behind the Kremlin’s seeming restraint is simple: the Russian military is no longer able to deploy significant numbers of additional conventional forces to Ukraine in the short term – Newsweek

Ukraine’s military says it killed 102 Russian soldiers and destroyed six tanks as well as other armaments as Ukrainian forces press forward with a counteroffensive in the country’s southern region. – Newsweek

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly given his troops a September 15 deadline to push to the administrative borders of the eastern Donetsk region in the ongoing war, according to a Ukrainian military official. – Newsweek 

The leader of a group that claimed responsibility for the death of Darya Dugina predicted that the end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reign will happen “quietly and fearfully.” – Newsweek 

Videos circulating online appear to show the moment a Russian missile launch went spectacularly wrong. Ukrainian military officials said that on Wednesday night, the Russian army launched six S-300 air defense missiles in the direction of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine, however, one of the missiles deviated off-course, and hit a district in the Russian city of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border. – Newsweek 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said he expects Israel to join international sanctions against Russia, following his first conversation with Prime Minister Yair Lapid. – Times of Israel 

Iranian Brig. Gen. Seyed Hojjatollah Qureishi negotiated a deal with Russia over the past several months to send drones to assist the country in its war with Ukraine, the Washington Post reported on Monday citing US officials. The acquisition was completed a few weeks ago. – Jerusalem Post   

Tom Rogan writes: Over the longer term, Putin wants to foster the populist belief — always brewing in the key EU powers of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — that the costs of opposing Russia for the sake of a relatively distant democracy outweigh any benefits, that keeping Putin happy is always preferable to making him mad. The U.S. would normally be a reliable bulwark against this agenda. However, with President Joe Biden focused on the approaching midterm elections, Putin’s cold gambit may well succeed. – Washington Examiner

Chris Miller writes: Nevertheless, the costs of the war and sanctions are adding up, even if the initial impact was less dramatic than the West hoped or Russia feared. For now, Russia’s leaders are happy to have survived six months of Western sanctions. Over the coming year, however, Russian industry will continue to struggle to adapt to a world without imported Western components. Barring an upswing in oil prices, Russia’s government will face tougher tradeoffs between continuing social spending and tolerating budget deficits and high inflation. Russia’s economy is not going to collapse in a way that forces a halt to the Kremlin’s war effort. The country does, however, face a sharp recession, a long grind of lower living standards, and little hope for a quick rebound. – Foreign Affairs

Quill Robinson writes:  It’s now well-documented that shuttering nuclear plants results in higher greenhouse gas emissions, and not only is nuclear energy carbon-free, it is also a source of baseload power, meaning it is reliable and better suited to replace fossil fuels. Yet, unjustified fears over the safety of nuclear power remain. Overall, nuclear is considered one of the safest forms of energy, causing fewer deaths annually than even wind energy. Any high-profile accidents are the exception to the rule; nuclear is incredibly safe and getting safer. – Newsweek


Two Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the official Palestinian news agency said. It initially blamed both deaths on Israeli troops conducting arrest raids, but later reported that Palestinian gunmen were suspected in one of the deaths. – Associated Press

Israel will buy four Boeing Co KC-46A refuelling tankers for its air force, the Israeli government and the U.S. defence contractor said on Thursday, a $927 million deal with delivery of the first planes expected in 2025. – Reuters

President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog will depart for a state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany on Sunday, 4 September, at the invitation of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. –  Arutz Sheva 

Israel and Japan signed a defense agreement allowing for greater military equipment and technology cooperation on Tuesday in a sign of closeness as they mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year. – Arutz Sheva 

U.S. President Joe Biden pushed Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid to come to terms with Lebanon over the two countries’ disputed maritime border in a phone call Wednesday evening, Israeli news site Walla reports. – Haaretz

Jonah Shrock, Gabriel Epstein, and David Makovsky write: In any case, the parties need to act soon given the troubling rise in Palestinian dissatisfaction with the PA, which could boil over if the fiscal crisis becomes a full-blown economic crisis. Some observers argue that Israel would never let this happen because it understands the adverse effect on its own security and will extend as many emergency “loans” as necessary. Yet the potential consequences for Palestinian social stability and political succession should not be underestimated. – Washington Institute

Avi Issacharoff writes: In the early years of the Second Intifada, Hezbollah invested quite a lot of funds in an attempt to incite the West Bank by supporting Fatah and Tanzim operatives in the Nablus area. Such a scenario is also possible now. Above all, the current escalation in the West Bank makes it clear for the umpteenth time that despite the Israeli attempt to lavish the Palestinians in the West Bank with economic benefits and bury its head in the sand in the process. Since 2009, the Palestinians continue to oppose Israel’s wild dream of truce through “deluxe occupation.” – Ynet


U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is stopping – with a few exceptions – the temporary relocation of Afghans to the United States and focusing on reuniting immediate family members with pathways to permanent residence, according to a senior administration official. – Reuters

An Afghan woman accused a senior Taliban official of forcing her into marriage and raping her repeatedly in a video that appeared on social media this week. In the video, the woman, who identified herself only by her first name Elaha, wept as she described being beaten and raped by former Taliban Interior Ministry spokesman Saeed Khosti. – Associated Press

Mirwais Parsa writes:  A long-term solution to Afghanistan’s instability lies in all sides’ submission to the will of the people through a legitimate process. The international community should hold the Taliban accountable for their behavior and pressure them to jointly negotiate with other Afghans to decide the future course in Afghanistan. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Four militants were killed in reprisal attacks between rival Shiite militia groups in southern Iraq, two security officials said Thursday, after violent clashes in Baghdad brought the country to the precipice of street warfare. – Associated Press

Iraqi paramilitary forces killed in heavy clashes with the supporters of a powerful Shiite cleric were laid to rest on Wednesday as Iraq’s parliament speaker announced three days of mourning. – Associated Press

Gunmen killed a judge on Yemen’s Supreme Court in the capital Sanaa, officials said Thursday, and a senior official in the internationally recognized government accused militias allied to Houthi rebels in the slaying. – Associated Press

On August 25, 2022, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the Israeli air force had attacked targets near the cities of Hama and Tartous in the northwest of the country. According to the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel and the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, affiliated with the Syrian opposition, the attack targeted a military research facility in the town of Masyaf in the western Hama Governorate, which is operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and a facility for the production and storage of Iranian missiles. According to the reports, the strikes caused extensive fires and explosions were heard for many hours. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Michael Rubin writes: The world pays lip service to Yezidi suffering but still ignores that the Islamic State was simply the tip of the iceberg in the betrayal of this community. As Yezidis suffer in refugee camps, the Barzanis purchase estates worth tens of millions of dollars in Los Angeles, McLean, Paris, London, and Dubai, and Erdogan builds a palace more than 30 times the size of the White House. This is perverse. It is time to demand Erdogan and Barzani pay reparations to the Yezidis. The Yezidi genocide did not occur in a vacuum. It is time to stop pretending that the Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish leaders were anything but willing collaborators. – Washington Examiner

Efraim Inbar writes: Turkey will have parliamentary and presidential elections in June 2023. Erdogan and his Islamist party have lost most of their popular support, and the battle for Turkey’s soul continues. These elections could be critical for Turkey’s future. Only if the Islamization process is delayed or stopped can Ankara and Jerusalem have friendly ties. – Times of Israel

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s national security adviser has said he and his counterparts from the United States and Japan have agreed there will be no soft response if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday. – Reuters

North Korea’s foreign ministry criticised a new United Nations human rights expert as “biased”, saying the country will not tolerate what it called U.S.-led efforts to topple the isolated regime, state media KCNA reported on Friday. – Reuters

North Korea has increased its repression of the rights and freedoms of its people and the U.N. Security Council should consider referring the country to the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a new report circulated Thursday. – Associated Press

China and Russia’s reluctance to toughen U.N. sanctions on North Korea is “the biggest challenge” facing efforts to eliminate the North’s nuclear arsenal, a top South Korean official said Thursday, as the North remains ready to conduct its first nuclear test in five years. – Associated Press

South Korea’s CVX aircraft carrier program received no funding in the latest budget proposal released this week, a move that puts the future of the programming in serious doubt. […]The budget reflects the priorities of the new administration under President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has downplayed the importance of CVX and emphasized that of the so-called “three-axis system” — a defense strategy aimed at deterring North Korea. – USNI News


Fourteen Chinese fighter jets flew on Thursday across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which usually serves as an unofficial territorial barrier, Taiwan’s defence ministry said, as China continues military activities near the island. – Reuters

China has been simulating attacks on U.S. Navy ships and is aiming to prevent foreign forces from coming to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a war, Taiwan’s defence ministry said in a strongly worded report raising the alarm on Beijing’s military designs. – Reuters

Chinese military aircraft are ramping up pressure on Taiwan with near-daily incursions across the halfway point in the waters between China and the self-governing island. And the White House is watching nervously as Beijing tests Washington’s resolve to defend Taiwan. – Politico

A September 1, 2022 article published by the Chinese media outlet China Daily stated that Taiwan has become “a catwalk” on which U.S. politicians want “to strut” to put themselves in the “spotlight.” The article, titled “U.S.’ Aggressive Playing Of The ‘Taiwan Card,'” stated: “No matter how many U.S. politicians visit Taiwan, and how many military exercises the U.S. stages in the region with its allies… they will not change the island’s status, since it is an unalterable fact that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, of which the government in Beijing is the sole legal representative.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

An article published August 24, 2022 by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, titled “Some Facts About Pelosi’s Visit To Taiwan,” listed “eleven facts” reaffirming China’s “sovereignty” over Taiwan. Commenting on the article, Zhu Guilan, an expert at the Tsinghua University’s Institute of Taiwan Studies, told the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times that the “eleven facts” illustrate “the legal, theoretical and historical facts of the one-China principle” and highlight the image of the U.S. as a “belligerent and destroyer of regional peace and stability.” – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Editorial: The U.S. can’t stop the horrors of Xinjiang, but it can learn from what those horrors say about the nature of this Chinese government. One lesson is to prevent this nightmare from spreading elsewhere—such as Taiwan. –  Wall Street Journal

Josh Rogin writes: The Biden administration appears to be torn between its desire to do the right thing on human rights and its efforts to manage rising tensions with China. But Beijing is counting on Washington’s complacency to let it evade responsibility and continue perpetrating these injustices. There’s never a convenient time to try to stop a genocide. – Washington Post 

Dennis Kwok and Sam Goodman write: All and all, the agreement looks to be little more than window dressing. It may allow Chinese companies to remain on U.S. stock exchanges, but there’s no reason to think they’ll be rigorously audited. This may please some large institutional investors, but the signal to the Chinese Communist Party is that U.S. regulators, and by extension the Biden administration, are still unwilling to challenge the governance issues endemic to Chinese companies—despite the serious financial risks they pose to investors and shareholders in the Western financial system. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: At both Western popular and political levels, Beijing is viewed with far greater skepticism. These trend lines are not positive for China. And the Communist Party doesn’t know how to respond. And for a political culture that views obedience as its exigent value, the impulsive response to perceived Western disobedience is anger. But the risk of this impulsive response is equally clear. Wang offered another telling example of this on Thursday. Because it wasn’t just the U.N. and the U.S. who found Wang’s ire. He also lashed out at Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and the state of Arizona. Those that Wang says exemplify China’s friendship? Venezuela and Russia. – Washington Examiner

Klon Kitchen writes: I couldn’t agree more with each senator, and I hope Republicans and Democrats will finally work together to pass the ASDA and to confront China’s technological espionage and cynical manipulation of local law enforcement. Look, China is doing what China does and at some point, we must stop complaining about them playing the game and simply stop letting them win. – The Dispatch

Collin Fox, Trevor Phillips-Levine, Kyle Cregge write: The thesis could nevertheless encourage dangerous over-confidence: If the People’s Liberation Army has no chance of taking Taiwan, then why double down on its defense? An equal error in the opposite direction, however, is only as expensive as unused insurance. Concerned allies and partners should therefore hedge towards deterrence by denial. Initial operational failure would likely compel President Xi to go all in, not quit. Good execution at the start of a war is nice, but the capacity to simply keep going and learn from failure is necessary for eventual victory. China has the manpower and industrial capacity to start with an imperfect operation, amphibious or otherwise, and possibly muddle through to victory. – War on the Rocks


A court in Myanmar on Friday sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years’ imprisonment with labor after finding her guilty of election fraud, adding more jail time to the 17 years she is already serving for other offenses prosecuted by the military government. – Associated Press

Taiwan’s premier said the military acted in self-defense when it shot down a drone near an offshore outpost, and indicated the practice would continue. – Bloomberg

A Pakistani court on Thursday extended former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s pre-arrest bail for two weeks on terrorism charges relating to a speech after Khan appeared in court amid tight security, his lawyer said. – Reuters

Soldiers from the Indian army have landed in Russia for a week-long military exercise, India’s defence ministry said on Thursday, days after the United States said it had concerns about any country exercising with Russia now. – Reuters

The British international trade secretary on Friday promised wide-ranging support to Australia in developing and maintaining a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Anne-Marie Trevelyan was speaking in the Australian city of Adelaide at the end of a nine-day tour of Britain’s two new free trade partners, New Zealand and Australia. – Associated Press

Gearoid Reidy writes: Even though Seoul needs no reminders of the threat on its border, Yoon is demonstrating a more clear-eyed approach to Pyongyang’s provocations than Moon’s clumsy attempts at reunification. Polls show more than 70% of South Koreans want to country to develop its own nuclear weapons, which it currently doesn’t possess. Likewise, having for years warned of the threat of Chinese expansion but done little to contain it, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it clear to Tokyo the neighborhood it’s living in. After essentially abandoning diplomatic efforts to resolve a long-standing territorial dispute with Russia, Japan must be prepared for relations to turn frostier still. – Bloomberg


Four days after Russian forces rolled into Ukraine, Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor whose robotic style had earned him the nickname “Scholz-o-mat,” did something out of character: He surprised people. In a Feb. 27 speech, Mr. Scholz proclaimed a “Zeitenwende,” or turning point, and announced German plans to play a more ambitious role in military defense in response to the first land invasion of Europe since World War II. – New York Times

Dozens of U.S. NATO peacekeepers patrolled northern Kosovo on Thursday to preserve calm after Pristina announced that around 50,000 ethnic Serbs in the region would have to switch their car license plates to local ones within two months. – Reuters

Australia and France are strengthening their defense cooperation and deepening their diplomatic ties, officials said Thursday, as the two countries seek to heal wounds from a controversy over a secret submarine contract that infuriated France a year ago. – Associated Press

Mark T. Kimmitt writes: The military often talks about the ability to see things clearly and comprehensively. Looking into a future of protracted war, diminishing high-tech systems and mounting casualties, Mr. Zelensky and NATO must face up to tough decisions before those decisions are forced on them. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Tugendhat writes: For both countries, strong British support could enhance the reach of such efforts and help them deliver for their own people as well as for the United Kingdom. By backing other similar initiatives, the British government could strengthen its allies and encourage stability and democratic values. – Foreign Affairs

Ilya Timtchenko writes: The West should offer Lukashenka a deal – either cooperate with the West, and benefit from a progressive lifting of sanctions, or continue down the current path and risk everything. Cutting off Russia’s access to Ukraine via Belarus might well help to end Putin’s war. If Russia’s only committed Eastern European ally decided to withhold cooperation, it would demonstrate Putin’s weakness. That’s if he doesn’t act first. – Center for European Policy Analysis


U.S. President Joe Biden and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa will hold talks at the White House on Sept. 16 to discuss trade, investment, climate and energy, the White House said on Thursday. – Reuters

Allied Ethiopian and Eritrean government troops attacked Tigrayan forces on Thursday inside the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, a Tigrayan military spokesperson said, as the latest flare-up in the conflict entered its second week. – Reuters

David Pilling writes: Still, Alex Vines, director of the Africa Programme at the UK think-tank Chatham House, sees an opportunity for the continent. “This is Africa’s moment,” he says of the multinational engagement. However shaky, the US with its deep well of wealth, innovation and democratic ideals is a partner worth courting, he says. If diplomacy is transactional, then the countries of Africa should get ready to deal. – Financial Times

The Americas

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would “follow up” on allegations that one of its spies smuggled three British schoolgirls to join Islamic State militants in Syria in 2015. – Washington Post

A man pointed a gun at the head of Argentine Vice President Cristina Kirchner at close range Thursday night and appeared to pull the trigger, video of the incident replayed on Argentine television showed. – Wall Street Journal

Taiwan and Guatemala have signed an agreement to boost diplomatic cooperation and reaffirmed mutual support during a visit by the Central American country’s foreign minister to the Asian island, the Guatemalan government said on Thursday. – Reuters

United States

Federal agents searched properties allegedly linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg Thursday, according to a new report from NBC New York. The FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the New York Police Department were seen searching two New York properties linked to the billionaire ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, NBC New York reported. – The Hill

Avraham Shama writes: Another is a complementary strategy designed to reduce the country’s needs for human assets in favor of using more technology to collect intelligence. Computer deep learning, artificial intelligence, big data and drones can do some of the tasks of human agents, thus reducing the number of spies whose information can be compromised. Fundamentally, however, human assets who put their lives in danger every day must be promised protection by America’s leaders. And that promise must be kept. – The Hill

Hal Brands writes: And while Moscow, Tehran and Beijing are not eager to fight one another’s battles, they surely realize there is strength in numbers when it comes to challenging a superpower: They can put American power under strain on multiple fronts at once. Conversely, the regimes in Russia, China and Iran all understand that if any of them is decisively defeated by Washington or its allies, those revisionists that remain will become more lonely and vulnerable. That’s reason enough for the world’s leading autocracies to pull together, whether they — and we — call it an alliance or not. – Bloomberg


Although politicians and cybersecurity experts have warned about the potential for widespread hacks in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new study finds that attacks linked to the conflict have had minor impact and are unlikely to escalate further. – The Record

The Ragnar Locker ransomware gang is likely to continue targeting critical infrastructure with attacks, according to a new study from researchers at cybersecurity firm Cybereason. – The Record

Google says it took additional steps in the past week so that brands would no longer see their ads on Russian state-owned websites that are a regular source of Ukraine war propaganda. – CyberScoop


A shifting landscape of national security hazards coupled with constant technological advancement is pushing U.S. Army electronic warfare and situational awareness officials to focus on future flexibility. – Defense News

Defense industry associations are laying the groundwork for a lobbying blitz next week when Congress returns from its summer recess to seek relief for contractors from inflation. – Defense News

Incidents of sexual assault in the military grew 13 percent in fiscal year 2021, according to a report from the Pentagon released Thursday. – The Hill