Fdd's overnight brief

September 25, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Authorities in Iran have neutralised 30 bombs meant to go off simultaneously in Tehran and detained 28 terrorists linked to Islamic State, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Sunday, citing the intelligence ministry. – Reuters

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said in a U.S. television interview on Sunday that U.S.-sponsored efforts to normalize Israeli relations with Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, “will see no success”. – Reuters

Iran’s decision to bar some U.N. nuclear inspectors suggests it is not interested in being a responsible actor on its atomic program, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday. – Reuters

Iran on Friday paraded its military hardware on the anniversary of its 1980s war with Iraq, including “the longest-range drone in the world” along with ballistic and hypersonic missiles, Iranian state media said. – Reuters

Western powers are behind the protests in Iran against mandatory head scarfs for women, President Ebrahim Raisi said in an interview that aired Sunday. – Politico

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is not at all clear whether the administration could have negotiated a lower or even no ransom for the release of the hostages. Now that the deal is done, however, America may ultimately find that it must pay an even higher price to preserve the Middle East’s relative stability in the face of an almost certain increase in Iranian-funded militia and terrorist activity throughout this still troubled region. This is not a price that America can easily afford. – The Hill

Goli Ameri writes: Once united on a long-term Iran policy, our leaders in Washington might offer the Islamic Republic a taste of its own medicine. They can give the “divide and conquer” strategy — on the different branches of the Iranian government — a try. – The Hill

Eric R. Mandel writes: American policy should be pro-Iranian, meaning supporting the Iranian people, not enabling the regime with sanctions relief for a time-limited nuclear deal that will still guarantee Iran will have a nuclear weapon when they choose to. The Iranian revolutionary theocracy is unreformable, analogous to the North Korean regime. They will do almost anything to survive, and any moderate gestures they make are simply tactical decisions to fool gullible Western negotiators. – Jerusalem Post

Avigdor Haselkorn writes: Upgrading these defenses would not only provide better protection for the country’s vital strategic sites and the population at large, but is a sine qua non for Israel taking the strategic initiative against the looming Iran-Hezbollah threat. Otherwise the military stalemate imposed by the local MAD balance will continue to enable Iran to pursue its multi-front proxy strategy unhindered. – Ynet

Maia Golzar Anderson writes: To build enough good will to encourage debt relief or the lifting of international sanctions, the Iranian leadership will need to adopt a new, less bellicose foreign policy approach, both toward the region and the U.S. Emphasizing climate diplomacy as an area of mutual interest and benefit with Iran can facilitate regional trust, the achievement of the SDGs, and shared climate resilience goals. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian cruise missiles Friday slammed into the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the occupied city of Sevastopol, in the latest of a series of strikes that aim to dent Russia’s naval power. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he is willing to provide advanced long-range, surface-to-surface missiles to help Kyiv with its counteroffensive, U.S. officials say. – Wall Street Journal

More than a year after Moscow failed in its goal of a lightning victory in Ukraine, the Russian military has steadily adapted on the battlefield as it shifts to a strategy of wearing down Ukraine and the West. – Wall Street Journal

Over the past two weeks, the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet has been conducting drills in the Chukchi and Bering Seas and the Chukchi Peninsula of Eastern Siberia, some of which have been observed by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. Meanwhile, Royal Australian Navy ships have set out for a regional presence deployment to Southeast and Northeast Asia. – USNI News

Harley Lippman writes: The silence in the face of Russian atrocities in Ukraine runs contrary to Elie Wiesel’s oft mentioned maxim that the Holocaust must make us sensitive to the plight of others. To be silent at false historical equivalences created between the Holocaust and Russia’s conflict in Ukraine in which Putin advances ethnic cleansing and genocide for his own imperialistic ambitions is to do the exact opposite. – Jerusalem Post

Alexandra Chinchilla and Sam Rosenberg write: If advisers begin working from inside Ukraine and at multiple levels of the country’s defense apparatus, they will strengthen the country’s democracy and fully prepare it for NATO membership. Advisers will, in other words, help bring about the war’s endgame: a free Ukraine integrated into the institutions at the foundation of Europe. – Foreign Affairs


Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, including a fighter of the Islamist Hamas group, during a raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Sunday, emergency workers and Hamas said, while in Gaza Israeli strikes hit security posts for a second day. – Reuters

A Saudi delegation is due to visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah this week, a Palestinian official said, amid diplomatic efforts to secure an accord between Israel and Saudi Arabia that could involve concessions for the Palestinians. – Reuters

The Biden administration is poised to admit Israel this week into an exclusive club that will allow its citizens to travel to the United States without a U.S. visa despite Washington’s ongoing concerns about the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinian Americans. – Associated Press

With Gazans launching explosive-laden balloons at southern Israel and with a throng of noisy anti-Bibi Israelis protesting at New York’s First Avenue, Prime Minister Netanyahu is calling on the United Nations to choose a blessed “new Middle East” over the Iranian curse. – New York Sun

Israeli security forces said Sunday they had arrested eight Palestinian students suspected of planning a terror attack in the immediate future. The students, from Birzeit University near Ramallah, were nabbed following an investigation into Hamas cells in Palestinian educational institutions, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet said. – Times of Israel 

Thomas L. Friedman writes: It was a master class in how a U.S. president puts a fateful decision to an Israeli leader — one that poses to that Israeli leader the most excruciating challenge of his political career. That is: either blow up the extremist cabinet you’ve built to keep yourself out of jail — and replace it with a national unity coalition — or blow up the chance for peace with Saudi Arabia, which could pave the way for Israel’s acceptance across the whole Muslim world. – New York Times 

Abraham Rabinovich writes: For Egypt, the war was a towering accomplishment. For Israel, it was an existential earthquake but one whose repercussions were ultimately healthier than those of the Six Day War. The trauma of the war’s opening was not a trauma suppressed but a national memory perpetuated, a standing reminder of the consequences of shallow thinking and arrogance. – Jerusalem Post

Zion Evrony  writes: This is a rare and critical window of opportunity for another reason. There will probably not be in the near future an Israeli leader, on the right of the political spectrum, as strong politically as Netanyahu who is able, if interested, to make significant concessions toward a solution of the conflict with the Palestinians. On the Palestinian side, when Mahmoud Abbas retires from office, his successor may take years to establish himself and be capable of making any concessions. At a certain point in the negotiations, it would be prudent to involve the Palestinians more actively so that in return for Israel’s concessions in the West Bank, they will commit to specific concessions. – Times of Israel


China’s President Xi Jinping called on the West to lift sanctions on Syria and offered Beijing’s help in rebuilding the war-shattered country on Friday during rare talks with Syria’s long ostracised leader Bashar al-Assad. – Reuters

China and Syria announced the formation of a strategic partnership on Friday as Chinese leader Xi Jinping kicked off a series of diplomatic meetings ahead of the upcoming Asian Games. – Associated Press

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces imposed a curfew after clashes erupted again on Monday in eastern Syria, where their fighters had battled for weeks with rival Arab militiamen, Syrian media and activists reported. – Associated Press

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, has visited Syria to oversee a joint military drill, media outlets in the Islamic Republic said. – Agence France-Presse


Lebanon’s army said it fired tear gas at Israeli forces over the border on Saturday in response to smoke bombs fired at its troops, though Israel said Lebanon started the confrontation. Tensions have flared along the frontier this summer, with rockets fired at Israel during flare-ups of Israeli-Palestinian violence, and members of the heavily armed Lebanese group Hezbollah or its supporters facing off with Israeli forces. – Reuters

U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea on Friday said the embassy was “not intimidated” by a gunman’s shots towards its entrance earlier this week and that Lebanese authorities were investigating the incident. – Reuters

The Lebanese military on Saturday rescued 27 Syrian migrants from drowning after their rubber boat capsized off the country’s northern coast, the armed forces said. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf States

The US urged its Gulf allies to work together on efforts to end a years-long conflict in Yemen that has bolstered Iran’s clout. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he does not care about allegations of “sportswashing” against the kingdom and that he will continue funding sport if it adds to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). – Reuters

Most stock markets in the Gulf rose in early trade on Monday, tracking oil prices higher, amid a tighter supply outlook after Moscow issued a temporary ban on fuel exports. – Reuters


The catastrophic loss of life is the latest example of how corruption and neglect are fueling a wave of anger at governments across the Middle East. It also raises questions about how infrastructure in the region can withstand extreme weather events such as this month’s Storm Daniel, which scientists say was exacerbated by the forces generated by climate change. – Wall Street Journal

In the war-battered north African country that has long been divided between two rival governments, the tragedy that killed thousands has sparked a nationwide sense of solidarity. “Our centre was already helping needy families, so you can imagine our mobilisation when it involves a disaster of this magnitude,” said Mohamed Kamour, the director of the centre that trains women to become dressmakers. – Agence France-Presse

Jason Pack and Verity Hubbard write: As the waters recede and misinformation spreads, a truth is nonetheless being revealed: Most Libyans want a united country. Some Derna residents have issued a powerful communiqué calling for more international institutional involvement. They rightly decry the East-West divide and the rhetoric against international institutions being promulgated by Libya’s political elite and their regional backers. As rival unaccountable elites each peddle a narrative to avoid accountability, residents of Derna are calling for better governance of their city and coherent, collective action. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday he believed his country was on the cusp of peace with Saudi Arabia, predicting it could be clinched by U.S. President Joe Biden and reshape the Middle East. – Reuters

Thousands of Armenians streamed out of Nagorno-Karabakh after the Azerbaijani military reclaimed full control of the breakaway region while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set to visit Azerbaijan Monday in a show of support to its ally. – Associated Press

Egypt said it had agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to merge the fund’s first and second reviews of its economic reform programme, after the first review was repeatedly delayed amid questions over Egypt’s progress in meeting the IMF’s terms. – Reuters

The head of Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council, an umbrella group of heavily armed and well-financed militias, said Friday that he will prioritize the creation of a separate country in negotiations with their rivals, the Houthi rebels. – Associated Press

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem commented on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the opening of the 78th United Nations General Assembly. Qassem said, “Netanyahu practiced a state of unprecedented bullying against our Palestinian people in his speech, as a result of the normalization agreements that were concluded, or those that are underway to be concluded.” – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Monday slammed South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for criticising its cooperation with Moscow following leader Kim Jong Un’s Russia visit, saying it is “natural” and “normal” for neighbours to keep close relations. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to promote cooperative relations with China in a letter to President Xi Jinping, the North’s state media KCNA reported on Sunday. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping on Saturday said he will seriously consider visiting South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported, as part of efforts to support peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. – Reuters

Following a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a top Defense Intelligence Agency official said it “wouldn’t surprise us” if the two nations had spoken “in detail about weapons transfers.” – Breaking Defense


Rahile Dawut, a prominent Uyghur academic who disappeared six years ago at the height of the Chinese government’s crackdown in Xinjiang, has been given a life sentence in prison, according to a human rights group that has worked for years to locate her. – Washington Post

The European Union has no intention of cutting ties with China even as the bloc takes steps to lower economic dependencies and de-risk, but China “could do a lot” to help reduce the perception of risk, the EU trade chief said on Monday. – Reuters

China and East Timor have upgraded bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership, potentially giving Beijing more influence in the region while satisfying the young half-island nation’s desire for stronger ties with major economies. – Reuters

Justin Ling writes: Other countries are reckoning with similar problems. The United Kingdom has just been shocked by the revelation of an alleged Chinese spy inside the ruling Conservative Party—just as London was trying to rebuild a relationship with Beijing. But Canada has a unique opportunity to bring the messy ties of politics, money, and espionage into the open—if it doesn’t waste it. – Foreign Policy

Jo Inge Bekkevold writes: In the long term, the world may indeed become multipolar, with India being the most obvious candidate to join the ranks of the United States and China. Nevertheless, that day is still far off. We will be living in a bipolar world for the foreseeable future—and strategy and policy should be designed accordingly. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Canadian intelligence agencies intercepted communications among Indian diplomats indicating that New Delhi was involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia earlier this year, a Western official familiar with the matter said. Those intercepts, combined with a stream of intelligence shared by the U.S., led Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to publicly accuse India of playing a role in the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down in the parking lot of a Sikh temple. – Wall Street Journal

The United States made clear on Friday that it expected the Indian government to work with Canada on efforts to investigate the possible involvement of New Delhi agents in the murder of a Canadian citizen in June. – Reuters

The Taliban has been celebrating since the Islamist group that rules Afghanistan signed seven mining contracts promising to attract more than $6.5 billion in investments late last month. But experts are skeptical about whether the contracts, signed on August 31 with Afghan-based companies aligned with foreign partners from China, Iran, Turkey, and Britain, can be implemented. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Mihir Sharma writes: The West is still struggling to do both. The concerns India is raising would not justify the actions of which it’s accused. Nonetheless, Canada and others should examine those concerns for their own sake, not India’s. – Bloomberg

Michael Rubin writes: The United States embraces India as a counter-terror partner. If this is to extend beyond rhetoric, it is time Washington (and Ottawa) realize such partnerships are not one-way. The United States cannot demand New Delhi’s support against anti-Western terror groups while ignoring New Delhi’s concerns about terror groups targeting India. – American Enterprise Institute

Michael Rubin writes: Trudeau’s broadside against India is likely no different. The U.S.-India relationship is simply too important to sacrifice for the venality of a Canadian politician who increasingly shows himself to be shallow and unserious. – The National Interest


Ethnic Armenians living in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh began evacuating from the enclave Sunday, just days after Azerbaijan launched a rapid offensive to retake the territory, prompting local fighters to agree to a cease fire. – Washington Post

President Joe Biden will host a second summit with Pacific island leaders this week, part of a U.S. charm offensive to block further Chinese inroads into a strategic region Washington has long considered its own backyard. – Reuters

The Philippines on Sunday accused China’s coast guard of installing a “floating barrier” in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying it prevented Filipinos from entering and fishing in the area. – Reuters

The U.S. is disappointed Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will not attend a Pacific Islands summit with U.S. President Joe Biden next week, the White House said on Saturday. – Reuters

The Biden administration is in talks with Vietnam over an agreement for the largest arms transfer in history between the ex-Cold War adversaries, according to two people familiar with a deal that could irk China and sideline Russia. – Reuters

Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said China had given an assurance that it would continue to negotiate with Southeast Asian countries over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, and avoid actions that risked escalation. – Reuters

The increased frequency of China’s military activities around Taiwan recently has raised the risk of events “getting out of hand” and sparking an accidental clash, the island’s defence minister said on Saturday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean, Japanese counterparts expressed “serious concern” over the discussion of military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, including possible arms trade, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. – Reuters


A German plan to finance charities helping migrants in the Mediterranean causes difficulties for Italy, defence minister Guido Crosetto said on Sunday, as Rome tries to enforce tougher measures to stem the flow of sea arrivals. – Reuters

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called for restraint after a shootout in Kosovo between armed Serbs and police left four dead in the country’s bloodiest clash in almost two decades, including an ethnic Albanian policeman. – Bloomberg

Alexander J. Motyl writes: The real solution to Ukraine’s, and Eastern Europe’s, security problems is not Ukrainian (or Belarusian) neutrality. The real solution is Russian neutrality and, preferably, disarmament. Naturally, the Kremlin would never go for something this obvious and easy. That would require realizing that Russia’s domestic problems will never be solved as long as Russia aspires to and pursues empire. And to abandon the goal of empire is, at least for Putin, to commit political suicide. – The Hill

Luke Akehurst writes: Between 2015 and 2019, the UK showed how deep into mainstream politics extreme, antisemitic, anti-Zionism can seep. This looked like the culmination of decades of patient work by anti-Israel activists across civil society, in unions, the Labour Party, and other left parties, on campus, in some churches, in the arts and cultural sector, and in local government. Now, the UK has shown that this tide can be reversed by grassroots political mobilization by the Jewish community and its allies, both within the center-left and across the wider political spectrum. – Jerusalem Post


France will withdraw nearly 1,500 troops from the West African nation of Niger by the end of the year, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, a decision that could upend the West’s security footprint in the region, including the future of 1,100 American forces based in Niger. – New York Times 

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met on Friday with African leaders seeking to restore Niger’s democratically elected government to power, capping a week at the United Nations in which the Biden administration worked to deliver on promises of support amid high-profile crises elsewhere, like the war in Ukraine. – New York Times 

The Biden administration pledged $100 million on Friday to support a proposed Kenyan-led multinational force to restore security to conflict-ravaged Haiti and urged other nations to make similar contributions. – Associated Press

Uganda said on Saturday it would mediate between Somalia and the breakaway region of Somaliland to facilitate reunification after a more than three-decade split. – Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday he held an impromptu meeting in Ireland’s Shannon airport with the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and that they discussed Russia-funded armed groups. – Reuters

The Americas

Venezuela’s National Assembly has green-lighted a referendum regarding a territorial dispute with Guyana, Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said on Saturday in an address to the United Nations. – Reuters

The United States on Friday unveiled $65 million more in help for Haiti’s police and urged the U.N. Security Council to formally back the deployment of a multinational security mission to help the Caribbean country fight crippling gang violence. – Reuters

Roy Mathews writes: To counter this authoritarian dominance, the U.S. government must build stronger ties with Guyana by ensuring that U.S. energy companies invest the profits gained from this oil boom into the nation’s economy, public education, and standard of living. In this way, the United States can keep Guyanese profits from getting tied up in Chinese debt schemes and ensure that they are instead used to improve the standard of living in Guyana. Championing anti-corruption and closer collaboration with Guyana’s government will benefit both Guyana’s future and America’s diplomatic and security interests. – The National Interest

United States

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Friday it had formally established two new working groups to discuss China-U.S. economic and financial issues, a tentative sign that communication is improving between the two countries following a trip to Beijing by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen this summer. – Washington Post 

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Russians are already ‘adept at interfering’ in elections and could strike again. Clinton appeared for an interview on Inside with Jen Psaki that aired Sunday to warn that Russian election interference needs to be discussed more. She offered her own explanation for why Russian President Vladimir Putin does it, saying he hates America and democracy as a whole. – Washington Examiner 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Saturday that he will keep Ukraine aid in the Pentagon funding bill, a reversal from his announcement one day earlier that he would strip the money out due to opposition from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). – The Hill

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) office announced Friday the suspension of school choice scholarships to four schools over their alleged “direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party.” – The Hill

The Pentagon said this week that its war aid to Ukraine will continue if Congress is unable to pass defense spending in the coming days and avert a shutdown of the federal government at the end of the month. – Military.com


The Biden administration on Friday issued final rules that would prohibit chip companies vying for a new infusion of federal cash from carrying out certain business expansions, partnerships and research in China, in what it described as an effort to protect United States national security. – New York Times

The premier of Bermuda said the island and another Caribbean government are currently dealing with a cyberattack that prompted several announcements about damaged internet and phone infrastructure. During a press conference on Thursday, Bermuda Premier David Burt confirmed that a cyberattack from actors based in Russia was the cause of widespread internet outages affecting all government agencies and more. – The Record 

Rand Paul writes: However, in the hands of an unchecked government, AI can be weaponized as a tool to suppress the fundamental values our country was founded upon — the open exchange of ideas, the freedom to question, and the right to dissent. As AI continues to develop, I remain committed to conducting extensive oversight on this issue and working diligently to protect the First Amendment rights of American citizens. – Washington Examiner 

Nick Danforth writes: Overall, the 2023 Cyber Strategy’s pragmatic frame is apparent throughout the document. In its treatment of cyber operations as one tool among many, its focus on the utility of cyber below the threshold of armed conflict, and its deliberately narrow discussion of the role of the U.S. military in cyberspace, the strategy brings a dose of realism to a field that quite literally emerged out of science fiction. The Pentagon’s thinking about the cyber domain, once abstract and speculative, has become grounded in real-world lessons and examples. And the cyber enterprise itself, having won its seat at the table, must now consider how to use that seat most effectively. – War on the Rocks


The Defense Department plans to start transferring its extremely precise data about the whereabouts of satellites and dangerous space debris to the Department of Commerce (DoC) next year to help underpin the latter’s effort to establish a space traffic advisory service, according to a senior Space Force official. – Breaking Defense 

Sometimes, when the Defense Intelligence Agency implements strict zero-trust-aligned protocols, “things just stop working,” according to the agency’s chief information officer. […]It’s good, he said, because the malfunction means that whatever application or device that was trying to access the agency’s network did not meet the DIA’s new compliance standards. Under what’s known as the “comply-to-connect” paradigm, only applications using approved security measures can hook in. – Breaking Defense

A lack of spare parts and technical data, poor training of maintainers, and a lagging effort to expand repair depots are dragging down the U.S. military’s ability to keep the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the air, a government watchdog said in a report released Thursday. – Defensee News

Democrats are deliberating ways to confirm the hundreds of remaining military nominees held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. They hope to capitalize on this week’s momentum to confirm the nearly 300 other nominees in the relatively near future after the Senate confirmed three joint chiefs this week. – Defense News

Long War

Turkish police detained 10 people believed to be linked to Islamic State and have arrested five of them, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Friday. – Reuters

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said on Saturday an air strike by the east African country’s military had killed members of an Islamic State (IS)-allied rebel group including a key person responsible for bomb attacks in Uganda’s capital. – Reuters

The death toll from a bombing attack at a government checkpoint in central Somalia has reached 21, authorities said Sunday. […]There has been no immediate claim of responsibility. East Africa’s al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab often carries out such attacks in Somalia.- Associated Press

Aaron Y. Zelin and Devorah Margolin write: While it is true that the organization’s insurgency has been degraded in recent years, only focusing on the Islamic State’s attack claims and propaganda misses an important trend happening at the local level: despite the best efforts of the global coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Islamic State has continued attempts to govern as shadow actors in eastern Syria. – Washington Institute