Fdd's overnight brief

September 22, 2022

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi dismissed Western criticism over women’s rights after a young Iranian woman died in police custody, as the death toll rose amid growing unrest over the Islamic Republic’s morality laws. – Wall Street Journal

The protests started small, outside the Tehran hospital where a 22-year old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini died last week after being detained by the “morality police” for an untold violation of the country’s harsh strictures on women’s dress. – Washington Post

Antigovernment protests in Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody are intensifying, and dozens of cities are embroiled in unrest that has been met with a crackdown by the authorities, according to witnesses, videos posted on social media and human rights groups. – New York Times

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Biden criticized the governments of Iran and China for their human rights records, while vowing that the United States would always stand up for those rights. – New York Times

Iranian authorities and a Kurdish rights group reported rising death tolls on Wednesday as anger at the death of a woman detained by the morality police fuelled protests for a fifth day and fresh restrictions were placed on social media. – Reuters

Iran curbed access on Wednesday to Meta Platforms’ (META.O) Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks said. – Reuters

Iran’s president insisted Wednesday that his country is serious about reviving a deal meant to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear bomb but questioned whether Tehran could trust America’s commitment to any eventual accord. – Associated Press

The United States on Wednesday urged the International Court of Justice to throw out a case brought by Iran seeking to claw back around $2 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets that the U.S. Supreme Court awarded to victims of a 1983 bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to Tehran. – Associated Press

Iran’s military moves in recent weeks have captured worldwide attention, stoking concern among rivals in the US and across the Middle East. – Business Insider

The US Special Envoy on Iran Robert Malley said Wednesday that if Iran continues to insist that the International Atomic Energy Agency end a probe of mysterious traces of uranium, there will be no possibility of a return to the nuclear deal. – Times of Israel

Several thousand Iranian anti-regime activists gathered outside the United Nations on Wednesday to protest Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s speech to the General Assembly, call for regime change and show support for widespread demonstrations that have rocked Iran in recent days. – Times of Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz stressed on Wednesday that Israel will not receive any dictates from Iran or its terrorist proxies in the region. – Arutz Sheva

Israel’s official Twitter account took the opportunity of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaking at the United Nations General Assembly to bash the leader vocally on Twitter over the recent uprisings against the regime relating to the death of Mahsa Amini. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: Hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi decided to repeat a despicable and long-standing canard of Iranian leaders, expressing doubts about the Holocaust on the eve of attending the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. Iran’s rulers are out of touch with a society that yearns for more — and deserves better. – Washington Post

Morgan Ortagus writes: It’s time for the Biden administration and Europe to decide: Do they stand with Ukraine in their fight against Russia, or with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism—the Islamic Republic of Iran? They can’t have it both ways. – Wall Street Journal

Najmeh Bozorgmehr writes: At Amini’s funeral on Saturday, women took off their headscarves in solidarity. On her grave was the simple message: “You won’t die. Your name will become a code name”. – Financial Times

Joel C. Rosenberg writes: Aside from the aging and infirm Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, no one in the Iranian regime more accurately represents the face of evil than Ebrahim Raisi. It is time for Biden to stop treating Tehran like a would-be ally and start treating them like the dangerous enemy that they are. The world is watching. – Jerusalem Post

Lahav Harkov writes: “America cannot accept that certain countries have the right to stand on their own two feet, and they keep equating militarism and security.” The Iranian president also mourned former Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani as a “freedom-seeking man who became a martyr,” and called for Trump, who ordered his killing in 2020, to be put on trial. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Israel will need to be on its guard to make sure that Iran does not use this “dead period” to break out the nuclear weapon that Raisi pretended his country has no interest in. – Jerusalem Post

Zvi Bar’el writes: In the past, the government forbade television newsreaders and presenters from wearing one, since the authorities saw the hijab as an expression of support or identification with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Even today, wariness about the “political hijab” discourages hotels, restaurants, and cafés in wealthy areas from letting hijab-clad women from entering. – Haaretz

Kasra Aarabi and Saeid Golkar write: No matter how carefully Khamenei engineers this masterplan, his death will create a sense of uncertainty for the elite and inject a strong dose of hope among the Iranian people that changing the system is possible, and now is the moment. In short, while Khamenei may be able to control his own elites through this grand plan, he simply cannot do the same for the Iranian people. His demise could very well bring the collapse of the entire system. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

President Biden accused Russia of “shamelessly violating” the United Nations charter during an address before the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, decrying the war in Ukraine and excoriating Russian President Vladimir Putin for hinting that he could use nuclear weapons in the conflict there. – Wall Street Journal

The United States signaled Wednesday that it wouldn’t be cowed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest steps to escalate his war effort in Ukraine, vowing to continue to arm Kyiv for its advancing counteroffensive, even as Putin ordered up more forces for battle and threatened to use nuclear weapons. – Washington Post

Confronted by serious battlefield losses in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin did what he has often done before when facing setbacks: doubled down. In a nationally televised speech early Wednesday, an angry-sounding Mr. Putin said he would call up 300,000 reservists to bolster the war effort and hinted he would consider a nuclear strike, saying he would use “all the instruments at his disposal” to prevail. – Wall Street Journal

Within hours of President Vladimir Putin’s speech declaring a partial military mobilization on Wednesday, men all over Russia — including some who had tried for months to ignore the messy war in Ukraine — suddenly found their lives thrown into chaos as they were summoned to duty. – Washington Post

Two U.S. military veterans, held captive for months by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, were released Wednesday as part of a sprawling prisoner exchange between Moscow and Kyiv brokered with involvement from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, officials in multiple countries said. – Washington Post

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Wednesday to prepare new sanctions on Russia and increase weapons’ deliveries to Kyiv after President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s first wartime mobilisation since World War Two to fight in Ukraine. – Reuters

Western experts predicted Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new troop mobilization would prolong the war but not change the balance on the ground, and warned against downplaying his renewed nuclear threat. – Agence France-Presse

In a harsh warning, President Vladimir Putin declared that he won’t hesitate to use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory, a threat that comes as Moscow is poised to annex swaths of Ukraine that Moscow has taken over after hastily called referendums there. – Associated Press

Russia’s security service said it thwarted a planned terror attack on infrastructure delivering energy to Turkey and Europe, raising concerns over supplies to the region. – Bloomberg

An unexploded rocket sticks out of a field, and another is embedded in the ground of the farm compound. Workers found a cluster bomb while clearing weeds, and there’s a gaping hole in the roof of the shrapnel-scarred livestock barn. – Associated Press

President Biden on Tuesday formally nominated a veteran foreign service officer with years of experience in Russian affairs to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia. – New York Sun

Editorial: A truce is possible if Russia abandons its invasion and cedes the territory it has taken. Short of that, this is a moment to accelerate arms deliveries to Ukraine, including tanks, fighter jets, and the longer-range ATACMS missiles. This is the fastest route to persuading Mr. Putin that his invasion has failed and he needs to cut his losses. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: There was no sign of that in Mr. Biden’s remarks to the United Nations, in which he decried Mr. Putin’s “irresponsible” language and pledged: “We will stand in solidarity to Russia’s aggression.” That was and is the winning policy, as Mr. Putin’s desperate words and deeds backhandedly — but unmistakably — confirm. – Washington Post

David Ignatius writes: As the world’s leaders gather in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, there’s a growing demand — from Johannesburg to New Delhi to Beijing — that Putin end his war. The Russian leader is choosing to respond with new provocations that could widen and prolong this crisis. But it becomes clearer by the day that, however long this war lasts, Putin will not emerge as the winner. – Washington Post

Marlene Laruelle writes: Even amid such difficulties, it would be a mistake to foresee a collapse of the regime, ensconced for two decades. But Mr. Putin, like any leader, depends on legitimacy to ensure his rule. And in the weeks and months ahead, he may discover that the ground beneath his feet has started to shift. – New York Times

Hal Brands writes: It is sobering to realize that we are now in the gravest great-power nuclear crisis in a half-century. It is more sobering still to think that avoiding nuclear escalation may require Putin to show more prudence and caution in ending this war than he did in starting it. – Bloomberg

Ronald Marks writes: The war in Ukraine will not be won by optimism alone nor with the desire to see facts as we want them to be. We are in a false spring. And, I fear, winter is definitely on the way. – The Hill

Alexei Bayer writes: A major escalation of the war, and more war crimes by Russia, will only bring more weapons – and more advanced weapons – to Ukraine. Ukrainians are getting better at using them and are learning to fight a modern war. Things are going to get even worse for Putin’s soldiers, and infighting in Russian society will intensify with each new defeat. – Jerusalem Post

Holmes Armstead writes: The West has taken the lead in developing international law, together with the leading juridical and deliberative institutions of our time. It may well be time to consider a Special International Tribunal  for Ukraine to protect our future before it is too late. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Max Bergmann writes: Instead of getting out of this quagmire, Putin, by announcing a military mobilization, has bet the future of his regime that he can successfully wade through it. That is a bet he is likely to lose. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


It is a routine that both Israeli military forces and the Palestinian Authority see as a growing danger—young, armed militants in the West Bank who have no affiliation with known groups such as Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Leaderless and angry, they have proved difficult for Israeli and Palestinian authorities to suppress, resulting in one of the bloodiest years in the West Bank in a decade and threatening to undermine the fragile Western-backed Palestinian rulers. – Wall Street Journal

The head of the International Olympic Committee apologized Wednesday for the organization’s longtime failure to commemorate 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Munich Olympics. – Associated Press

Palestinian security forces and militants agreed to a truce on Wednesday to end violent clashes in a flashpoint West Bank city, local officials said. The violence highlighted deep disenchantment with the internationally backed Palestinian leadership. – Associated Press

The United Kingdom is considering relocating its embassy to Jerusalem, British Prime Minister Liz Truss told her Israeli counterpart when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. – Jerusalem Post

Israel remains committed to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prime Minister Yair Lapid is expected to tell the General Assembly when he delivers his first ever address here on Thursday morning. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Yair Lapid went head to head with his chief political rival, Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, over the almost completed negotiations to set a maritime border with Lebanon to allow for the peaceful production of natural gas from the Karish rig. – Jerusalem Post

Jack Khoury writes: One Nablus merchant said the clashes were a worrying glimpse of what could happen throughout the West Bank if the PA did lose control. “A vacuum and an absence of governance could lead to the rise of militias, and it would be impossible to know who’s behind them or what their agenda is,” he warned. – Haaretz

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Ankara will now have to see if it can refrain from a return to the bad experience of 2009-2020. Unless there is new leadership in Turkey, it’s unclear how a regime built on opposition to Israel over the last decade can suddenly shift gears so easily. – Jerusalem Post

David Makovsky writes: The tightness of this year’s race will only magnify the role of individual incidents on the ground and maneuvers by small parties. Accordingly, even minor developments could have major electoral consequences. – Washington Institute


The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said the Lebanese government’s slowness to implement desperately-needed reforms was exacerbating the country’s economic meltdown, even as officials met to discuss an urgent and long-delayed bailout. – Associated Press

Lebanon’s banks will remain closed “indefinitely” following a spate of armed robberies by angry depositors desperate to gain access to their savings. The beleaguered country’s banking association said on Thursday that banks would stay shut “in the absence of assurances” about security from the state. – Financial Times

Israel’s military and defense chiefs on Wednesday both warned against Hezbollah’s continued entrenchment in Lebanon, saying its activities ultimately pose a grave threat to that country’s citizens. – Algemeiner

As the maritime deal between Lebanon and Israel is in its final stages, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Iran is trying to buy Beirut with fuel, and in turn establish bases on Lebanese soil. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

When three Iraqi artists were invited to exhibit their work at this year’s Berlin Biennale, the organizing themes — decolonization and repair — promised to give voice to a subject the trio understood more than most. – Washington Post

Turkish defence firm Baykar has delivered 20 armed drones to the United Arab Emirates this month and could sell more, two Turkish sources said, as a diplomatic detente between the former regional rivals expands into military contracts. – Reuters

Edward Luce writes: The headaches the Gulf’s ruthless young autocrat create for Biden’s America are specific to him and generic. Prince Mohammed stands out as one of the world’s most single-minded absolutists. Yet he also puts a face on the once-pliable areas of the world that no longer pretend to like America’s rules. – Financial Times

Middle East & North Africa

Amnesty International accused Egypt on Wednesday of attempting to cover up a decade of “unrelenting violations of human rights” in order to improve its international standing ahead of hosting the world climate summit. – Associated Press

So fraught are relations between some Turkish opposition parties, which in theory are united against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that they refuse to even have tea together. – Financial Times

A decade into their experiment in self-rule, Syria’s Kurds fear an apparent rapprochement between Damascus and their foe the Turkish government could cost them their hard-won way of life. – Reuters

Editorial: We earnestly hope, however, that Lapid took Abdullah to task in private for his outrageous remarks, and urged him to carefully weigh his words regarding Jerusalem, especially at a time of increased tension. Improving the atmosphere between Jerusalem and Amman is a Jordanian interest as much as it is an Israeli one. We hope Lapid made this clear. – Jerusalem Post

David Schenker writes: The new strategic architecture made possible by the Abraham Accords is an important element of burden sharing, but it is not a Plan B for when Iran truly becomes a threshold nuclear state. Even if regional strategic cooperation achieves its full potential in defending against the missile and drone challenge, the United States will remain the indispensable ally of its regional partners in countering the Iranian nuclear threat. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Thursday denied an American intelligence report ​that it was selling millions of artillery shells and rockets ​to Russia, accusing the United States of spreading a “reckless” rumor. – New York Times

North Korea may be preparing to launch a new submarine believed to be capable of firing ballistic missiles, a U.S.-based think tank reported on Thursday, citing commercial satellite imagery. – Reuters

The leaders of South Korea and Japan agreed to accelerate efforts to mend ties frayed over Japan’s past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as they held their countries’ first summit talks in nearly three years on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, both governments announced Thursday. – Associated Press


China’s cooperation with Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chinese comments against NATO enlargement show why the Western defense alliance should regard Beijing as a security challenge, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. – Reuters

China’s foreign ministry urged all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation and find a way to address the security concerns of all parties after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West over what he described as “nuclear blackmail”. – Reuters

A former Chinese justice minister was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve on charges of taking bribes and helping criminals including his brother hide illegal activity, state TV reported Thursday. – Associated Press

China toned down its rhetoric on Taiwan on Wednesday, saying it is inevitable that the self-governing island will come under its control but that it would promote efforts to achieve that peacefully. – Associated Press

The United States intelligence community is unprepared to deal with the aggressive intelligence infiltration efforts by the Chinese government and other foreign adversaries, a bipartisan report concluded. – Washington Examiner

Victoria Coates and Bonnie Glick write: A Ukrainian parliamentarian recently sounded the alarm about the “strategic partnership” Ukraine formed with China 2011, given the PRC’s predatory role in the conflict with Russia. The U.S. Congress should heed the clarion call, and make sure that any reconstruction aid flowing to Ukraine does not wind up in the pockets of Xi and his cronies. – FOX News


Top U.S. bankers came under pressure from lawmakers on Wednesday to take a tougher stance on doing business with China amid growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan’s sovereignty and China’s human rights record. – Reuters

Taiwan will never allow China to “meddle” in its future, the government said on Wednesday, after a Chinese government spokesperson said Beijing was willing to make the utmost effort to strive for a peaceful “reunification” with the island. – Reuters

Leaders of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup have committed to complying with any US government demand to pull out of China if Beijing were to attack Taiwan. – Financial Times

Clara Ferreira Marques writes: Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation and the most populous in Southeast Asia, has long punched below its weight in international politics and this year should have been a moment to begin to rectify that. More to the point, its foreign policy has long rested on the idea of bebas-aktif — a role in world affairs that is both independent and active. By sitting on the sidelines during a moment of global crisis, Jokowi falls short. – Bloomberg

William Overholt writes: Before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia could sustain the fiction of long-term dominance of Central Asia. No longer. Before the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s priority for the military and for kleptocracy, rather than for building a diversified, competitive economy, condemned Russia to a future as a quarry for China and Germany. Now China can manage its convenient neighborhood quarry with minimal competition. – The Hill

Ethan Brown writes: Taiwan just became the locus of American security cooperation interests, and both Congress and the Defense Department are at a critical juncture in responding if the United States truly wishes to deter Beijing from upending the security status quo in the Pacific. – The Hill


About 250 police officers have raided two dozen properties across Germany linked to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in connection with alleged breaches of sanctions and money laundering rules, officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Liz Truss met in person for the first time on Wednesday and said they want to ensure the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland is protected. – Reuters

European Parliament members investigating the use of surveillance spyware by European Union governments sharply criticized Israel on Wednesday for a lack of transparency in allowing the sale of powerful Israeli spyware to European governments that have used it against critics. – Associated Press

UK prime minister Liz Truss has left open the door to joining a new European grouping proposed by France’s president Emmanuel Macron, intended to bolster regional co-operation in the face of Russian aggression. – Financial Times

Anthony Grant writes: It is certainly no secret that Mr. Putin has plenty of axes to grind, but a nascent Russo-Turkish axis in this fractious part of the world is a potentially perilous turn of events. Rockets are roaring in Ukraine, but Moscow and Ankara are literally playing with fire in Cyprus. Washington should be aware that while it is an island redolent with citrus groves it is also generally quite warm, even in winter, and a place where not just airplanes but also sparks tend to fly. The latter, history has shown, can be harder to control. – New York Sun

The Americas

The Biden administration said Wednesday that the U.S. Embassy in Cuba will begin processing full immigrant visas in early 2023, making it easier for Cubans to reunite with family members in the United States. – Associated Press

Mexico’s state-run power utility on Wednesday filed a breach of contract lawsuit in a Texas state court against two former executives of its U.S. arm, alleging they improperly awarded a lucrative gas supply deal. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: The United States cannot involve itself in wars globally but it has an interest in preventing wide-scale destabilization or enabling aggressors to triumph at the expense of the liberal order. The fact that adversaries, aggressors, and even nominal allies surprise Washington should either raise questions about the validity of intelligence or about White House competence and willingness to betray allies by silence in the face of an imminent attack. Either way, it is time for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to demand answers. – American Enterprise Institute


Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, is urging the Senate to pass the Cyber Diplomacy Act, one of the key recommendations his commission has been pushing for as part of its strategic approach to defend the U.S. against cyberattacks. – The Hill

NATO sent a senior-level delegation to Albania on Wednesday to help the tiny Western Balkan country cope with the consequences of recent cyberattack that the government blamed on Iran. – Associated Press

The IDF’s Cyber Defense Directorate has thwarted close to two dozen cyber attacks against the Israeli military in the past year. – Jerusalem Post

The website of Iran’s Central Bank was briefly taken down on Wednesday as the Anonymous hacking group claimed it had targeted the websites of several Iranian state agencies. – Associated Press


Air Force Special Operations Command plans to replace components of its CV-22 Ospreys following a deep dive into a potentially fatal propulsion issue that has persisted for more than a decade. – Defense News

The Senate Armed Services Committee has reached an agreement aimed at advancing Pentagon nominees who would oversee acquisitions and defense industrial-base policy following controversy over a road in an Alaskan mining district. – Defense News

Less than a third of the Navy’s attack submarines have made it out of maintenance on time in the last decade as demand for the boats remain high, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command said on Wednesday. – USNI News

A Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Halifax-class frigate has conducted a joint transit through the Taiwan Strait with a US Navy (USN) Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. – Janes

Long War

A Bosnian national living in the United States illegally who attacked New York City Police Department officers was sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by deportation. On June 3, 2020, Dzenan Camovic stabbed two officers before taking one’s service weapon and firing at more, wounding several, according to the indictment. Camovic was reportedly inspired by and possessed propaganda material from several Islamic terrorist groups, including ISIS, according to CNN. He was also said to have repeatedly screamed, “Allahu akbar!” during the attack. – Washington Examiner

Militia members in central Somalia have helped kill scores of al-Shabab militants in an ongoing operation against the Islamic extremist rebels that is receiving air support from the United States, Somali authorities said. – Associated Press

President Isaac Herzog addressed an event in Tel Aviv on Wednesday marking 50 years since the Munich Olympics massacre, holding the “same dark hatred” responsible for both the killing of Israeli athletes and the recent alleged murder of an elderly woman in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon. – Associated Press