Fdd's overnight brief

September 20, 2021

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Convinced that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was leading Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb, Israel had wanted to kill him for at least 14 years. But there had been so many threats and plots that he no longer paid them much attention. – New York Times 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, during his weekly press conference on Sunday, denied a New York Times report describing the November assassination of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, according to Iran International TV. – Jerusalem Post 

Iran’s top leader has appointed a pilot of Russian fighter jets to command the nation’s air force, state television reported Sunday. – Associated Press 

Iran may hold talks on restoring the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week as the country looks to make further changes to its nuclear-negotiations team. – Bloomberg 

Iran on Saturday hailed its acceptance into a China and Russia-led bloc, an eastward turn it sees as opening access to major world markets and a counter to crippling Western sanctions. – Agence France-Presse 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian athletes that they must continue to refrain from playing competitive sports against Israelis, even if they are disciplined by international bodies for it. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Iran’s new Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, will leave on Monday on his first official trip to the United States where he will meet counterparts from countries party to the 2015 nuclear deal but not the US, AFP reported on Sunday. – Arutz Sheva 

Iran said Sunday it was willing to sell fuel to Lebanon’s government to help ease shortages, days after the first delivery of Iranian fuel arranged by the Hezbollah terror group entered the country. – Agence France-Presse 

Farzin Nadimi writes: The TF 59 initiative will give CENTCOM and its partners a concise naval combat and deterrent power with lower risk to human personnel. Yet the United States should prepare for the likelihood of repetitive threats directed at its unmanned assets, raising the need to draw clear lines beyond which it will take action against state and nonstate culprits alike. – Washington Institute 

Abraham Cooper and Johnnie Moore write: They must declare in a clear bipartisan voice: There will be no deals with Iran that endanger our allies. […]If there is an actual, attainable deal with Iran that really reduces terrorism, violence, and nuclear threats, share those details with the American people, but from where we sit all we see are American diplomats promising Tehran everything they’ve demanded and more for the privilege of a useless piece of paper and the privilege of being serially lied to. – Ynet 

Sebastien Roblin writes: Massed together, Iran’s air defenses provide Tehran with a degree of deterrence because they increase the difficulty, expense and time required to launch air attacks on Iran—particularly from regional actors. They pose a threat to non-stealth fighters unless suppressed, and can deny Iranian and Persian Gulf airspace to less agile aircraft like the RQ-4N drone shot down in June 2019. – The National Interest 


The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility Sunday for a series of blasts over the weekend in the country’s east that reportedly killed several people and injured tens more in another escalation of violence as the Taliban works to consolidate its control. – Washington Post 

Since celebrating the fall of Kabul a month ago, after years of waging a holy war to overthrow the U.S.-backed government, the 250 Taliban fighters under Abdulrahman Nifiz’s command have struggled to adjust to their new day job: the mundane task of securing a city. – Washington Post 

After month-long closures affecting many schools in Kabul and across Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to power, the group released a statement Friday ordering officials to oversee the reopening of “madrassas, private and public schools and other academic institutions of the country” on Saturday — for middle and high school boys, at least. The statement did not mention girls. – Washington Post 

After fleeing Afghanistan, Muhammad and his six children landed in their new hometown on the day the capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban. The family’s fortuitous escape marked the start of another difficult journey. – Wall Street Journal 

The only visible human activity, besides Taliban convoys driving up and down the valley’s main road, are the remaining families packing their belongings into trucks and minibuses as they abandon Panjshir for the relative safety of Kabul. – Wall Street Journal 

The Taliban have converted the Ministry of Women’s Affairs building into offices for the religious morality police, who once instilled dread in Afghanistan for their suppression of women and brutal enforcement of the militant government’s interpretation of Shariah law when it ruled two decades ago. – New York Times 

A Qatar Airways flight on Friday took more Americans out of Afghanistan, according to Washington’s peace envoy, the third such airlift by the Mideast carrier since the Taliban takeover and the frantic U.S. troop pullout from the country. – Associated Press 

China’s leader Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, on Friday pledged to join forces in an effort to prevent violence and instability spilling over Afghanistan’s borders into the wider region. – Financial Times 

A drone strike in Kabul last month killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, the U.S. military said on Friday, apologizing for what it called a “tragic mistake”. – Reuters 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said on Friday he found that the Taliban have space for discussion and engagement on human rights issues, including women and minorities rights. – Reuters 

Russia, China, Pakistan and other regional states called on the United States on Friday to engage with the Taliban and fund aid to Afghanistan, though they also urged the former insurgents to yield power to a more inclusive government. – Retuers 

The United Nations Security Council extended a U.N. political mission in Afghanistan on Friday for six months to allow for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work out what changes might be needed after the Taliban seized control of the country. – Reuters 

China’s President Xi Jinping urged “relevant parties” in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism and promised to provide more help to the war-torn nation, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday. – Reuters 

Relatives of the victims of a US drone strike that wiped out 10 members of an Afghan family in a “tragic mistake” demanded a face-to-face apology and compensation on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse 

The West’s war in Afghanistan is far from over. That was the central message from Afghanistan’s ambassador to Italy, Khaled Ahmad Zekriya, during a recent interview at the country’s embassy in Rome. – Politico 

The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital says many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers. – Associated Press 

Just after the US military launched a Hellfire missile to stop a white Toyota Corolla it believed to be an imminent threat to US troops leading the evacuation at the Kabul airport, the CIA issued an urgent warning: Civilians were likely in the area, including possibly children inside the vehicle, according to three sources familiar with the situation. – CNN 

Editorial: Remember when Bill Clinton sent cruise missiles against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1990s? Mr. Biden’s unwise withdrawal is leaving himself with the same limited options. The U.S. owes the Ahmadi family an apology and compensation, and Congress needs to dig further into the deadly Kabul mistake. – Wall Street Journal 

Kevin Carroll writes: Without the benefit of ground truth in Afghanistan, we’re left with the blunt instrument of airpower to prevent another 9/11. It is no criticism of the skill or bravery of our airmen and aviators to point out that airstrikes, even using precision-guided munitions, involve high explosives moving at hundreds of miles an hour. […]The American people, for better or worse, no longer have any appetite for such civilian casualties. So we are left to wait for the inevitable: another attack. Mr. Biden and his team should be more forthright about the stark choice he has made. – Wall Street Journal 

Max Hastings writes: This is not to advocate new Western invasions of Afghanistan, Iran or anywhere else. But it should cause us all to recognize that, while democracy seems in terrible shape, it still represents a better way to choose people to run your schools, law courts, hospitals and sewage plants than Mao Zedong’s method. […]But the Kalashnikov, now as for the past 60 years the revolutionary’s weapon of choice, can contribute nothing to building a decent society, as Afghanistan’s people are already discovering. – Bloomberg 

Michael Rubin writes: The State Department might also publish a list of individuals complicit in the destruction of cultural heritage and restrict their abilities to receive visas. They might further coordinate with like-minded states in Europe and around the globe to follow suit. Any official involved who destroys cultural heritage should become an international pariah, plain and simple. There should be no more Mehriban Aliyevas. History must triumph over money. – Washington Examiner 

Lisa Curtis writes: The most effective way to redeem Washington’s botched withdrawal and rebuild trust among U.S. partners is to closely coordinate with like-minded states on a diplomatic and security policy designed to shape Taliban behavior. The Biden administration must first work to understand why past U.S. negotiations with the Taliban went so wrong—and then begin dealing with the group from a position of strength. – Foreign Affairs 

Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills (ret.) and Erielle Davidson write: The immediate consequences of instability and violence, combined with the long-term consequence of casting doubt on America’s credibility, suggest the U.S. withdrawal will serve only to thwart its goal of checking Chinese expansionism by quickening Afghanistan’s descent into chaos and alienating historically committed U.S. partners and allies. “America is back” has frequently been touted when emphasizing that potentially fractured relationships with U.S. partners will be restored. But the overwhelming message of our Afghanistan withdrawal likely will be that America does not have its partners’ backs. – Defense News 


The Syrian city of Daraa is frequently dubbed “the cradle of the revolution” because it witnessed the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. – Washington Post 

Since January, officials report, more than 70 people have been killed inside northeast Syria’s al-Hol camp, which houses 62,000 family members of Islamic State fighters and others detained during the collapse of its self-declared caliphate more than two years ago. – Washington Post 

An attack with explosive devices laid along a natural gas pipeline southeast of Syria’s capital knocked out power in parts of the country before it was quickly restored, the electricity minister said Saturday. – Associated Press 

Ido Levy writes: The SDF’s remarkable performance this year is further evidence of how even a small, sustained U.S. footprint can substantially boost a partner force’s capabilities. In Syria, 900 American troops effectively support over 100,000 SDF personnel. […]In the wake of the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Biden administration should put to rest any notions of pulling troops out of Syria; instead, it should continue reassuring the SDF loudly and publicly that America has no plans to leave the AANES. – Washington Institute 


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he would meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York. – Reuters 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday Turkey was an important partner in tackling any new migration challenge to Europe and needed support, and that Europe itself has not delivered on a common policy in addressing the migrant issue. – Reuters 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia later this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin about the violence in northwestern Syria, where Moscow and Ankara back opposing sides, two Turkish officials said on Friday. – Reuters 

Michael Rubin writes: The lasting damage, however, will not only be political and diplomatic but also cultural. Erdoğan’s policy now subordinates and suffocates the population whose protection was the justification for the Turkish invasion in the first place. Simply put, Erdoğan today poses a greater threat to Turkish Cypriots than the irredentist Greek junta did prior to 1974. – The National Interest 


The remaining two Palestinians who escaped an Israeli prison early this month were recaptured Sunday in a predawn raid, concluding a dramatic manhunt that spurred rocket fire from Gaza and raised threats of a widespread escalation in violence. – Washington Post

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nation Gilad Erdan slammed US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s legislative effort to block specific US weapons sales to Israel. – Algemeiner 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Anne Linde in the first conversation between Israeli and Swedish Foreign Ministers in seven years, Lapid said on Twitter Monday. – Jerusalem Post 

The recapture of the last two prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison on Saturday night shows that Israel has very good intelligence sources in the West Bank, residents of Jenin said Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen mocking US President Joe Biden in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post 

A group of protestors from a coalition of left-wing organizations marched to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in midtown Manhattan on Friday, wielding Palestinian flags and a banner reading “globalize the intifada.” – Jerusalem Post 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for the resumption of Israel-Palestinian talks, which have been frozen since 2014, after he met this past week with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. – Jerusalem Post 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on Friday that the Biden administration would actively work to support and expand the growing diplomatic ties between Israel and Arab nations. – Times of Israel 

David M. Weinberg writes: Alas, it indeed seems that Israel prefers the illusion that its enemies can be deterred by defensive strength alone (through platforms like Iron Dome); or by pinprick strikes on (usually empty) enemy training grounds and weapons depots; or by sporadic and slack spot-checks in what are supposed to be maximum-security prison cells where hardened terrorists are neutered, not pampered. – Jerusalem Post 

Anna Ahronheim writes: Thousands of Palestinians cross into Israel on a daily basis through the holes that are cut along various sections of the security barrier. It’s such a popular way for Palestinians to get into Israel that some even upload TikTok videos showing themselves making their way through the holes. […]This issue needs to be fixed. Unlike the warnings about the prison break, this cannot be ignored. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: For Israel, this is important because Israel is confronting Iranian threats in places like Syria and Iranian proxy threats that include Hezbollah and also Tehran-backed groups in Yemen and Iraq. These groups now have advanced Iranian drone technology. A shift in European and French relations with the US and UK in the region could have ramifications for Israel if those states appear keener on dealing with Iran and its militias. – Jerusalem Post 

Moshe Dann writes: This is their “holy war” against Israel and anyone who stands in their way – Muslims and non-Muslims. Any recognition of Israel and its right to exist is considered a betrayal of Islam. […]Radical Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, are one of the greatest threats not only to America and Israel, but to our society and our civilization. Understanding this matters. It’s about survival. – Jerusalem Post 


Karbala, the southern Iraqi city whose gold-domed shrines attract Shiite pilgrims from around the world, has become a flash point in Iraq’s internal conflict over the presence of dozens of powerful Iranian-backed militias. – New York Times 

Katherine Lawlor writes: Iran will likely revert to its ban on large-scale attacks on US forces until after Iraq’s October 10 elections and possibly until the end of 2021 unless US or Israeli retaliations trigger an escalation cycle that continues to spill into Iraq. Iran and its proxies are managing a regional conflict with Israel that could force Iran to re-evaluate its preferred plan for managing violence in Iraq through the end of the year. […]Israel’s decision to retaliate inside Syria indicates that a larger-scale escalation in the Iraqi theater before October 10 remains unlikely. – Institute for the Study of War 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran has also bragged about its support for the Houthis in Yemen, who have achieved long-range ballistic missile and drone capabilities. They have used drones and missiles to target Aramco and other energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Tehran also used a drone to target the oil tanker MT Mercer Street in late July, and the Houthis may have Iranian drones capable of threatening Israel as well. – Jerusalem Post 

Yasir Kuoti writes: A coalition of like-minded parties with a vision for reform would bring a number of benefits. […]So long as the country’s elites remain suspicious of each other and afraid of losing out on the spoils of being in government, this outcome is highly unlikely. But at some level these elites realize that if they do not allow any room for reform, the public will conclude change can only come through revolution and violence. Hopefully they will act on this realization before it’s too late. – War on the Rocks 


Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office. – Reuters 

A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday. – Reuters 

Lebanese officials expressed outrage on Saturday after a gas field service company announced last week that it had been awarded a contract to execute a drilling campaign for Greek energy producer Energean off the coast of northern Israel. – Jerusalem Post 


The Biden administration is trying to send a message to both Egypt and the Democratic Party by partially withholding and restricting a portion of military aid to Cairo. – Haaretz 

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Saturday spoke on the phone with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. A statement from Lapid’s office said that the two expressed great satisfaction with the successful recent meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. – Arutz Sheva 

Editorial: If Mr. Sissi rebuffs the administration, it will be even more clear that stronger measures are needed. If Mr. Sissi agrees to the demands to secure the $130 million, the next step is to press harder to improve democracy and human rights more broadly. Mr. Biden did break from past practice, but what’s crucial is getting results. The only acceptable outcome is a marked, sustained improvement in human rights and democratic principles for all Egyptians. – Washington Post

Arabian Peninsula

Israel’s foreign minister said Friday that he will visit Bahrain later this month, the first such visit by an Israeli minister to the Gulf country following a diplomatic agreement reached last year. – Associated Press 

The United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom on Sunday condemned the executions of nine Yemenis by the country’s Houthi rebels over allegations that they were involved in the killing of a senior Houthi official in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago. – Associated Press 

Yemen’s Houthi rebels executed on Saturday nine people they said were involved in the killing of a senior rebel official in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition more than three years ago. – Associated Press 

Andrew England and Simeon Kerr write: As the first senior United Arab Emirates official to visit the Biden administration touched down in Washington, the message the Gulf state sought to promote was “the strength and continuity” of the partnership between the two countries. Yet when Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE’s president, sat down with his American counterparts it was another of the Gulf state’s relationships that was the focus of much of the discussions: China. – Financial Times 

Middle East & North Africa

Several hundred demonstrators gathered in Tunis on Saturday to protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers in July, which triggered a constitutional crisis and prompted accusations of a coup. – Reuters 

Syria’s defense minister met on Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman, the Jordanian capital, after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported. – Associated Press 

A former Liberian military commander who supervised the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed civilians at a church during that country’s civil war in 1990 is liable under U.S. law for participating in extrajudicial killings and torture, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled. – Associated Press 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday meets with Algerians who fought for France in their country’s war of independence in a fresh attempt to come to grips with a dark chapter in French colonial history. – Agence France-Presse 

Mohamed Chtatou writes: The ball is now in the camp of the RNI to conduct negotiations for the formation of the next government coalition. […]The party’s electoral program will be the basis for negotiations with other political parties to build a strong and homogeneous majority. According to Akhannouch, the present government formation needs to make a “break with the past. – Washington Institute 

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Monday condemned a new defense partnership between the United States, Australia and Britain and a plan to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, saying the deal could trigger a nuclear arms race and upset the balance in the Asia-Pacific region. – Washington Post 

A North Korean military think tank on Monday dismissed South Korea’s recently tested submarine-launched ballistic missile as clumsy and rudimentary but warned its development would rekindle cross-border tension. – Reuters 

Recent satellite images show North Korea is expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a sign that it’s intent on boosting the production of bomb materials, experts say. – Associated Press 

North Korea’s state media accused the United States on Friday of double standards over military activities and pursuing a hostile policy towards Pyongyang that was hampering the restart of talks on the country’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes. – Reuters 

Sue Mi Terry writes: Even if a unified, democratic Korea decided to keep a nuclear arsenal, it would still not pose the kind of threat that the world currently faces from the tyrannical regime in Pyongyang. Ultimately, the North Korean nuclear crisis is a reflection of North Korea’s government. Until that regime either dramatically reforms itself or collapses, the nuclear threat will remain. – Foreign Affairs


U.S. envoy John Kerry’s diplomatic quest to stave off the worst scenarios of global warming is meeting resistance from China, the world’s biggest climate polluter, which is adamant that the United States ease confrontation over other matters if it wants Beijing to speed up its climate efforts. – Associated Press 

Warning of a potential new Cold War, the head of the United Nations implored China and the United States to repair their “completely dysfunctional” relationship before problems between the two large and deeply influential countries spill over even further into the rest of the planet. – Associated Press 

China’s top regulators defended their market-roiling crackdown on various industries in a meeting with Wall Street executives, while reassuring them the stricter rules aren’t aimed at stifling technology companies or the private sector. – Bloomberg 

Chinese membership in a US-inspired transpacific trade group appeals to conservative nationalists in the country eager to embarrass President Joe Biden, as well as liberals who see it as a way to force through difficult domestic economic reforms. – Financial Times 

Japan has said China’s “readiness” to join a transpacific trade pact originally designed by Washington to limit Chinese influence in the region would need to be judged on its merits after Beijing filed a surprise formal application to join the group. – Financial Times 

Kevin Rudd writes: In his overriding quest for re-election to a record third term at the 20th Party Congress in fall 2022, Mr. Xi has apparently chosen to put the solidification of his own domestic political standing ahead of China’s unfinished economic reform project. While the politics of his pivot to the state may make sense internally, if Chinese growth begins to stall Mr. Xi may discover he had the underlying economics very wrong. And in China, as with all countries, ultimate political legitimacy and sustainability will depend on the economy. – Wall Street Journal 

James Roberts and Brett Schaefer write: A properly focused Development Finance Corporation could play a useful role in serving U.S. strategic interests and foreign policy goals and efforts to counter China. However, to ensure this focus, Congress needs to instruct the DFC to concentrate on countering investments by U.S. adversaries, particularly China, and prioritize investment sectors in which China has gained ground. – Heritage Foundation 

South Asia

For years, Pakistan has been accused of secretly backing Taliban insurgents in next-door Afghanistan. Now leaders here, reluctant to criticize the new Afghan rulers, find themselves facing pressure from the West to help keep their neighbors in line. – Washington Post 

Michael Rubin writes: Iranians would be the first to admit that the MOIS is not as organized as Pakistan’s ISI, but the ambition is there. […]The question for Iranians now is whether the MOIS will be able to fulfill its ambition in any vacuum or if Iranians will be vigilant enough to sidetrack its goals. Certainly, a more proactive, less solicitous American policy would aim to undercut and undermine not only prominent IRGC generals, but MOIS ambitions as well. – The National Interest 

Kashoon Leeza and Zahid Shahab Ahmed write: Pakistan’s new Afghanistan policy is shaped by a combination of geo-economic and geopolitical realities in which China’s Belt and Road Initiative plays a key role. Both Beijing and Islamabad realize that they have a lot more to gain from peace and stability in Afghanistan in terms of fully utilizing the potential of the Gwadar Port in Pakistan. As neighboring countries, they also have shared concerns in relation to the spillover of extremism and terrorism from Afghanistan into their countries and, therefore, have no other option but to enhance their engagement with the Taliban. – The National Interest 


Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, said Sunday that it had “deep and grave” concerns about the diesel-powered submarines it planned to buy from France — and that Paris knew that well before Canberra abruptly canceled the deal in favor of sharing nuclear submarine technology with the United States and Britain. – Washington Post 

Until this week, the so-called “pivot to Asia” by the United States had been more of a threat than a reality for Europe. But that changed when the Biden administration announced a new defense alliance against China that has left Europe facing an implicit question: Which side are you on? – New York Times 

The Hong Kong police have forced one of the city’s best-known activist groups to scrub its online presence, in the latest sign of how officials may use a powerful national security law to restrict online speech and impose mainland Chinese-style internet censorship. – New York Times 

Australia’s move to own and operate nuclear-powered submarines with help from the U.S. reflects an increasingly prevalent view in the country that Canberra has misjudged China’s rise and now needs to adopt a much more muscular strategy to counter Beijing’s influence. – Wall Street Journal 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken deleted a tweet that said the United States would “stand with the people of Hong Kong”, a post in which he accused Beijing of weakening the city’s long-term political stability. – South China Morning Post 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday departed for Washington to meet with leaders of the Quad grouping amid criticism over his government’s decision to abandon a $40 billion submarine deal with France. – Reuters 

Taiwan threatened to take China to the World Trade Organization on Sunday after Beijing said it would suspend sugar apple and wax apple imports from the island on pest concerns, in the latest spat between the two over fruit. – Reuters 

Malaysia on Saturday expressed concerns that Australia’s plan to build nuclear-powered submarines under a new pact with Britain and the United States could catalyze a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region. – Reuters 

Taiwan’s air force scrambled on Friday to warn away 10 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defence zone, Taiwan’s defence ministry said, the day after the island announced a $9 billion boost to military spending to counter the threat from China. – Reuters 

French and Australian officials said Monday that France’s anger over a canceled submarine contract will not derail negotiations on an Australia-European Union free trade deal. – Associated Press 

Australia has been thrust into the limelight after signing a trilateral defence partnership with the US and the UK that is set to provide its navy with nuclear-propelled submarines. – Financial Times 

Australia — China has lashed out at plans by Australia to forge a closer alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom, which includes the sharing of nuclear-powered submarine technology. But other Indo-Pacific nations are reacting more cautiously. – Defense News 

Editorial: Also potentially impactful would be serious U.S. re-engagement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, involving numerous Asian and Latin American nations as well as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That deal promised to knit together the United States and its friends in the region, until Mr. Trump, with the support, alas, of Democrats, abandoned it. Pacific Rim countries proceeded with their own version of TPP, and now China — as part of its response to AUKUS — has applied to join. The United States needs an answer to that, too. – Washington Post 

Sam Roggeveen writes: The fact that China is authoritarian and bullies its neighbors should not be reason enough. Nor should the threats against U.S. allies like Australia, as alliances exist to further the aims of both partners — not just the junior one. […]That doubt should be nagging at the minds of Australian decision makers who just staked their future on the alliance, and it should be on the minds of Americans, too. Why should the United States commit itself to a contest with China when the stakes are less than existential? – New York Times 

Dan Slater writes: To be sure, prospects for U.S.-China partnership, Chinese democratization, and a strong alignment of American foreign policy with its democratic ambitions in Southeast Asia are all distant hopes for the time being. But one key lesson of America’s growing engagement with Singapore and Vietnam might be that none of these things has to remain true forever. – The National Interest 

Tom Rogan writes: China would be enraged by such a deal, seeing it as a means of dramatically strengthening Vietnam’s Navy and thus the strategic depth of the PLA’s South Sea Fleet . Macron would face a choice: accept an economic boon and support the international values he so eloquently salutes, or show that his rhetoric is paper-thin. Either way, Biden should make the offer, then let us know what Macron decides. The stakes in the South China Sea demand it . – Washington Examiner 

Nicholas Nelson writes: In the longer run, Aukus is well overdue. All three allies have a close intelligence sharing and operational relationship from the Global War on Terror and from long-established historical ties; however, technology sharing and joint-prioritization of EDTs have lagged behind. For the U.S. and UK, both of whom are increasingly confronting an antagonistic China, this provides an additional opportunity to better integrate with arguably their most critical ally in the region, while providing a key tool to contain Chinese aggression. – Center for European Policy Analysis 


Russia’s ruling party appeared on course to maintain its majority in parliament, early results showed, in an outcome that would cement President Vladimir Putin’s control over his country’s main levers of power. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine will impose sanctions against dozens of organisers and participants in Russian parliamentary elections taking place in occupied territories in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, a top Ukrainian security official said on Friday. – Reuters 

Telegram, the social media platform used by protesters from Iran to Belarus, blocked a “smart voting” channel with recommendations for candidates in Russia’s parliamentary elections aimed at defeating ruling party nominees. – Bloomberg 

Even though the Russian authorities no longer allow the public to see the live video feeds from polling stations as the country votes, many videos from polling stations across the country have emerged that seem to show flagrant ballot-box stuffing. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Russia’s elections commission said Saturday that it had recorded foreign interference in its ongoing three-day parliamentary elections. – Agence France-Presse 

Editorial: Why else was the Kremlin spooked into mounting so public a pressure campaign? The silent capitulation by some of the United States’ most prominent businesses sends a message to authoritarians: You can get away with this, in Russia and anywhere else politicians are worried about the people having too much information — and too much sway. – Washington Post 

Ilya Yablokov writes: The situation, though bleak, is not lost. Independent journalists and outlets continue to find a way to operate, inventively sidestepping the constraints cast on them by the Kremlin through canny crowdfunding and humor. […]Even so, Mr. Putin’s media method — propaganda on one hand, repression on the other — continues to bear fruit. Faced with a stagnant economy, an aging population and simmering discontent, it surely can’t go on forever. But, for now, it’s working. – New York Times 


France stepped up its opposition to a security agreement the U.S. crafted with Australia and the U.K., criticizing the Biden administration’s failure to keep its allies apprised of sweeping foreign policy initiatives after the pact led to the loss of a lucrative French submarine deal. – Wall Street Journal 

France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations Friday, underscoring simmering French anger over a secretly negotiated submarine technology deal between the United States, Australia and Britain. – Washington Post 

When the governments of France and Britain had differing opinions in recent months, the French rarely held back — be it on migration, fishing rights or coronavirus quarantine requirements. But as the French faced one of their biggest fights among allies in years — which was prompted at least in part by Britain — French ire at their neighbors to the north was curiously limited. – Washington Post 

After a majority of the Dutch parliament affirmed this week that the government had mishandled evacuations from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, Sigrid Kaag said she had only one option: resign as foreign minister. – Washington Post 

As relations between France and the United States sink to their lowest level in decades, Britain has emerged as the unlikely winner in a maritime security alliance that has sowed anger and recrimination across three continents. – New York Times 

France has cancelled a meeting between Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart planned for this week after Australia scrapped a submarine order with Paris in favour of a deal with Washington and London, two sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters 

The prime ministers of Poland and Lithuania said Friday that tighter security at their borders with Belarus was the best way to ease pressure from migrant inflows there, as they expect what they called a “hybrid attack” from Belarus to continue. – Associated Press 

French President Emmanuel Macron will speak in the coming days with President Joe Biden in their first contact since a major diplomatic crisis erupted between France and the United States over a submarine deal with Australia, an official said Sunday. – Associated Press 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that Britain’s relationship with France is “ineradicable,” despite fury in Paris over a U.S.-U.K.-Australia submarine deal. – Associated Press 

Paris denied Swiss media reports Sunday that a long-planned meeting between the countries’ presidents in Paris had been called off due to French anger about Bern’s decision to purchase US, not French, fighter jets. – Agence France-Presse 

When Antony Blinken came to Paris on June 25, French leaders told the US secretary of state that France attached the “utmost importance” to its strategic submarine deal with Australia — a deal now sunk by the new Aukus pact, according to senior French officials. – Financial Times 

The United States wants to see the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union accelerate from its snail-like pace and will push to reinvigorate the process, a senior U.S. State Department official said. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Romania became the most recent country boycotting the Durban IV conference taking place on Wednesday, joining a list of a total of 20 nations who have pulled out of the 20th anniversary of the UN event. – Algemeiner 

Congress is keen to support Ukraine as the country tries to fill an air and missile defense capability, and lawmakers want to know how the Pentagon can help the ally. – Defense News 

William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz write: Invitations to the mid-tiers might be coupled with cautions that the U.S. and the West expect continued progress in return for their support. Even as we in the U.S. will do well to recognize our shortcomings, we can nudge post-Soviet states to do more to achieve their democratic potential. – The Hill 

Thibault Muzergues writes: America has scored an important diplomatic victory with the signing of the AUKUS alliance. It now needs to build on it to strengthen its larger partnerships. Otherwise it will hand China an opportunity to weaken its remaining alliances. The telephone conversation between President Biden and President Macron (requested by the United States, a clear sign of opening) is a first step towards that. – The National Interest 

Dov S. Zakheim writes: In any event, this latest controversy is unlikely to do any lasting damage to France-American relations. That was the case when France refused to support America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, much to Washington’s anger. […]Just as the split over Iraq healed relatively quickly, so too will this crisis pass. – The National Interest 


The disappearance of a young intelligence officer in Somalia has led to a rapidly escalating power struggle between the president and prime minister that has torn the government apart and potentially gives new openings to al-Qaeda-linked militants. – Washington Post 

President Biden signed an executive order on Friday threatening sweeping new sanctions that aim to stop the escalating war in northern Ethiopia and allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to flow into the region. – New York Times 

For months, the United Nations has warned of famine in this embattled corner of northern Ethiopia, calling it the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Now internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government in June imposed what the U.N. calls “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade.” – Associated Press 

The U.N. Security Council urged Somalia’s feuding government leaders on Saturday to resolve their disagreements through dialogue and give top priority to holding long-delayed national elections this year – Associated Press 

France’s Armed Forces Minister arrived in Mali on Sunday to pressure the military junta to end talks to bring Russian mercenaries into the country and push it to keep a promise to return the country to constitutional order in February. – Reuters 

Mali’s ruling junta dismissed warnings by Western governments not to hire “mercenaries” from private Russian security firm Vagner, saying it will do as it sees fit. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The Americas

The first Haitians deported from a makeshift camp in Texas landed in their home country Sunday amid sweltering heat, anger and confusion, as Haitian officials beseeched the United States to stop the flights because the country is in crisis and cannot handle thousands of homeless deportees. – New York Times 

Mexico’s government said on Friday it would only discuss a possible shake-up of the Organization of American States (OAS) at a weekend summit if the issue is put on the table, tempering expectations for a more aggressive review of the body. – Reuters 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrived in Mexico City on Friday, Mexico’s foreign ministry said, ahead of a summit of a recently elected “pink tide” of leftist Latin American leaders. – Reuters 

United States

President Biden has promised to strengthen U.S. alliances, but some of his high-profile moves in the early months of his administration have rankled allies. – The Hill 

Michael Rubin writes: There may be some differences between a Biden foreign policy and that which Sanders would have embraced, but these are mostly of speed and style. Biden’s team all harbor career ambitions beyond their present positions and recognize that their agenda is more radical than that with which most Americans are comfortable. Unlike Sanders and Duss, they are loathe to stating openly where they stand or to where they want to steer, but the evidence today shows that Sanders won. If not the presidency, then control over the Democrats’ foreign policy agenda. – Washington Examiner 


Telegram has exploded as a hub for cybercriminals looking to buy, sell and share stolen data and hacking tools, new research shows, as the messaging app emerges as an alternative to the dark web. – Financial Times 

The world’s largest technology companies have snapped up smaller rivals at a record pace this year in a buying spree that comes as US politicians and regulators prepare to crack down on “under the radar” deals. – Financial Times 

Editorial: For its part, Congress should consider measures to reduce the frequency and duration of lawsuits filed by companies that lose out on government contracts. Though fewer than 10% of all such protests are successful in court, the litigation consumes significant time and attention and delays the adoption of new military and intelligence capabilities. While the government’s effort to transition to cloud computing is welcome, the U.S. has yet to reap its full benefits. – Bloomberg 


In a future war against a technologically advanced peer like China or Russia, U.S. Air Force special operations forces will need aircraft that is faster, more survivable and capable of traversing longer ranges than the aircraft currently available, while still being able to launch from austere locations without a runway. – Defense News 

Lockheed Martin on Friday unveiled the LMXT aerial refueling tanker, which will go head-to-head with Boeing’s incumbent KC-46 in the U.S. Air Force’s upcoming bridge tanker competition. – Defense News 

U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s first Multidomain Task Force was activated on Sept. 16, but the new unit has already cut its teeth in the theater at a long-range, precision-fires exercise in Norway, where officials experimented with high-altitude balloons for targeting, the new task force’s commander told Defense News. – Defense News 

Michael Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Sunday said there was nothing abnormal about the reported conversations between Gen. Mark Milley and his counterparts in China. – Politico 

Kori Schake writes: Some argue that military leaders interposing themselves between the president and a politically motivated war is the least bad choice. Even in the extreme circumstances of a wildly erratic president attempting to use the military to prevent the transfer of power, it’s dangerous to have military leaders subvert civilian control of the military in the way a chairman of the Joint Chiefs “pulling a Schlesinger” implies. An unsound president is a danger to democracy, but a military that considers itself the arbiter of elected leaders’ lawful authorities is also a danger to democracy. – New York Times

William G. Boykin and Mary Beth Waddell write: Women already serve honorably in the military and are free to volunteer for just about any post they desire. Women have unique skills and perspectives that are invaluable to our military. They should be welcomed and respected, as they are just as valuable as their male counterparts. But there is simply no military or national security reason to require women to register for the draft. Most people agree: Randomly selected women should not be required to enlist ahead of able-bodied men. – Washington Examiner 

Peter Huessy writes: Nuclear modernization is the most important part of America’s future deterrent requirements, which means the current bipartisan consensus supporting such modernization is a national asset worth both keeping and sustaining especially in the face of an unprecedented dual Chinese and Russian nuclear buildup. In that light, unilateral U.S. concessions make no sense. Better would be a combination of nuclear, missile defense and conventional strike modernization and if possible a smart, supportive verifiable arms deal. - The National Interest 

Long War

The Pentagon’s admission of having made a “tragic mistake” in the killing of an Afghan aid worker, and seven children from his extended family in a drone strike, added one more incident to the long, grievous list of U.S. military mistakes in Afghanistan. – New York Times 

Against the backdrop of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the top U.S. military officer is meeting in Greece with NATO counterparts this weekend, hoping to forge more basing, intelligence sharing and other agreements to prevent terrorist groups from regrouping and threatening America and the region. – Associated Press 

Indonesian security forces have killed the leader of militant group East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), which has ties with Islamic State, police said on Sunday. – Reuters