Fdd's overnight brief

September 29, 2022

In The News


The protests that have erupted across Iran in the past two weeks are rooted in anger at the country’s morality police, an unpopular vestige of the 1979 revolution that represents a weak point for the government, according to protesters and human-rights advocates. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday said that the death of a young woman in custody had “saddened” everyone in the Islamic Republic, but warned that “chaos” would not be accepted amid spreading violent protests over Mahsa Amini’s death. – Reuters

The young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody triggered nationwide protests, was a shy, reserved resident of a small town who never challenged the country’s clerical rulers or its Islamic dress code, sources close to the family said. – Reuters

There’s a small word that protesters in Iran are using on social media to show their anger goes far beyond the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died in mid-September after being in the custody of the country’s morality police. – Bloomberg

Mahsa Amini’s parents have filed a complaint against the police who arrested their daughter for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code before she died in custody, their lawyer said Wednesday.- Agence France-Presse

Spain summoned the Iranian ambassador Wednesday to express its opposition to the heavy-handed crackdown on mass demonstrations across Iran that has claimed dozens of lives, a diplomatic source said. – Agence France-Presse

SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s effort to provide internet to Iranian citizens via SpaceX subsidiary Starlink may be moving forward, after receiving backing from the Treasury and a diverse group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. – Jewish Insider

Israel’s nuclear chief told the International Atomic Energy Agency conference on Wednesday that Iran is “the leading factor” in instability in the Middle East, and that Israel will not accept Tehran obtaining a nuclear weapon. – Times of Israel

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi condemned Wednesday the “chaos” sparked by a wave of women-led protests over the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the Islamic republic’s morality police. – Agence France-Presse

Circumstantial evidence suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is at least temporarily unable to perform his normal duties. Khamenei has been unusually absent in recent days amidst countrywide, anti-regime protests, which began on September 16. Rumors have circulated that Khamenei’s health has deteriorated significantly since early September.[1] CTP cannot verify these rumors about Khamenei’s health, and such reports should be treated with skepticism. […]President Ebrahim Raisi—a prominent frontrunner to succeed Khamenei—is positioning himself to become the next supreme leader with support from senior officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). – Institute for the Study of War

Editorial: Just as in past protests, though, much more can be done to support the grassroots Iranian protests and the majority of Iranians who oppose the strict Islamic laws imposed in the country since 1979. This may, in fact, be an opportunity for most of the civilized world to stand together and show the Iranian people that they do not stand alone in their quest for freedom against the brutal regime that oppresses them. – Jerusalem Post

Jason Rezaian writes: And once dissidents settle here, the government and policy institutions should convene them to help establish a course for the future of our Iran policy. This is one national security discussion that would benefit tremendously from honest public discourse. Besides, there is no longer any need to be covert about an attempt to destabilize Iran. Just look at the country now: It’s already happening. – Washington Post

Firoozeh Dumas writes: These brave, determined women marching in the streets want the chance to live unencumbered and to regain rights taken by a government that treats them as second-class citizens. Their level of determination, their hunger, can lead to great things. I have no doubt that Iranian women, if given the opportunity to fully become who they are meant to be, could be making even greater contributions to society that would benefit all Iranians. Instead, they are asking not to be killed for showing their hair. – New York Times

Eric R. Mandel writes: Regime change should be an American foreign policy goal, and we should not give in to tyrants’ threats. In their world, disengagement is seen as a weakness, an invitation to continue aggressive behavior that will come back to bite us over time. – The Hill

Shukriya Bradost writes: Even in the face of these crackdowns, this wave of protests has already proven to be distinctly inclusive and unified. People of different classes, ages, religions, and ethnicities are coming together in protest, and they have shown resilience and determination in the face of the regime’s armed troops. If Iranian citizens can continue these demonstrations into the coming days, the regime in Tehran will find itself struggling to resist a revolution—not just a protest. – Washington Institute

Emily Schrader writes: The world and the West specifically has failed the Iranian people in overthrowing the totalitarian terrorist regime which controls Iran – but the war isn’t over, and many voices in the West are finally awakening to the truth about Iran. May these protests be a final turning point for international, universal support for regime change in Iran. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Russian leaders have been quick to welcome the outcome of the referendums that pave the way for occupied regions of Ukraine to be incorporated in the Russian Federation, escalating the conflict with Kyiv and Western governments, which have dismissed the votes as a sham. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union’s executive said it would push through legal changes to allow for an international price cap on seaborne Russian crude and proposed a new sanctions package against Russia following the Kremlin’s latest move to annex new parts of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

In the early-August heat, Vitaliy Boroviy fished a pair of bloated bodies from the river bisecting this eastern Ukrainian town. From their bound hands, the municipal funeral director surmised that they had been detained, tortured and killed by occupying Russian forces. – Wall Street Journal

The United States will more than double its commitment of long-range rocket artillery systems for Ukraine, the Pentagon said Wednesday, part of a long-term strategy by the United States and its partners to ramp up weapons production in response to Russia’s invasion. – Washington Post

In a sign that the United States and its allies believe that the fighting in Ukraine will last years, military officials from more than 40 countries gathered at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how their governments can ramp up production of arms and ammunition. – New York Times

In a display of pageantry intended to give Moscow’s land grab a veneer of legitimacy, Russian proxy officials in occupied areas of Ukraine appealed to President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday to annex the regions. – New York Times 

After months of being hammered on Ukraine’s battlefields by US kamikaze drones and longer range rocket systems, Russia is striking back with a new capability if its own, attacking the southern port city of Odesa almost daily with winged missiles from Iran. – Bloomberg

The first batch of Russian reservists whom President Vladimir Putin called up last week has reached Ukrainian territory, according to a senior U.S. military official. – Washington Examiner

Fearing the border may close “forever” after President Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation order for the war in Ukraine, Russians are rushing to flee across Finland’s Vaalimaa crossing. – Agence France- Presse

Since Russia first launched its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has been peeling military forces away from its bases in Northern Europe to plug gaps in its forces suffering high losses and battlefield setbacks against Ukrainian troops. – Foreign Policy

Long lines of Russians trying to escape being called up to fight in Ukraine continued to clog highways out of the country on Wednesday, and Moscow reportedly set up draft offices at borders to intercept some of them. – Associated Press

Seth Weinberger writes: The odds of such an agreement ending the current conflict are low indeed. But unless Ukraine thinks it can crush the bulk of the Russian Army, it is not clear on what other grounds the war will end any time soon. It is, at the very least, worth a shot for American and Western diplomats to reach out to the leaders of both countries to find out whether some form of compromise is within reach. The alternative is months or years of grinding war—and, in the end, quite possibly, the identical outcome. – The Hill

Nina Srinivasan Rathbun writes: Putin has explicitly claimed that his threat to use tactical nuclear weapons is not a bluff precisely because, from a strategic standpoint, using them is not credible. In other words, under any reasonable strategy, using the weapons is unthinkable and so threatening their use is by definition a bluff. – Times of Israel


Four Palestinian militants were killed on Wednesday during an Israeli Army raid in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian health officials, in one of the deadliest confrontations in the territory this year. – New York Times

Israel continued its defiance of a 2016 U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate halt to all settlement activity in lands the Palestinians want for their future state, advancing plans for construction of nearly 2,000 housing units in the last three months, the U.N. Mideast envoy said Wednesday. – Associated Press

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has given the green light to commanders in the West Bank to use armed drones in order to carry out targeted killings. – Jerusalem Post

The absence of any Israeli-Palestinian peace process is fueling West Bank violence and creating a situation of perpetual conflict, United Nations envoy Tor Wennesland told the Security Council on Wednesday after four Palestinians were killed in a gun battle in Jenin with the IDF. – Jerusalem Post

Israel may share aspects of its nuclear technology and knowledge with countries that are part of the Abraham Accords, Israel Atomic Energy Commission Director-General Moshe Edri said Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

The Biden administration took the opportunity to voice its concern regarding the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank on three separate occasions Wednesday at the State Department, the United Nations and the White House. – Times of Israel

“Our rockets in Gaza are readied for attack in response to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” This was the essence of the belligerent message given over by the Palestinian terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Israel, via Egyptian and Qatari officials who are attempting to serve as intermediaries between the two sides. – Arutz Sheva

Israel will open the Allenby Bridge border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan to allow around-the-clock access for a pilot period beginning October 24, nearly one month after the target date announced by U.S. President Joe Biden during his July visit to Israel. – Haaretz

Anna Ahronheim writes: The IDF has been entering Palestinian cities out of exasperation with what officials have described as a failure to maintain order by the PA. Despite the displeasure, the security coordination between the IDF and PA remains in place, and the military has seen an increase in PASF activity. – Jerusalem Post

Amos Harel writes: The growing Israeli sensitivity to military casualties in these operations must be taken into account. In recent weeks, the government and the IDF have been attacked from the right for risking the lives of soldiers in operations in densely populated areas. There is a demand to use attack drones instead. As a result of this pressure, drones have been used to provide air cover for the forces, but not to fire payloads. – Haaretz


The Taliban have signed a provisional deal with Russia to supply gasoline, diesel, gas and wheat to Afghanistan, Acting Afghan Commerce and Industry Minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi told Reuters. – Reuters

A senior U.N. official warned Tuesday of a possible internal conflict and worsening poverty in Afghanistan if the Taliban don’t respond quickly to the needs of all elements of society, saying their crackdown on the rights of girls and women signals indifference to over 50% of Afghanistan’s population and a willingness to risk international isolation. – Associated Press

The US pointman on Afghanistan on Wednesday predicted that conflict would reignite in the war-battered nation, saying the Taliban have failed to build bridges since returning to power last year. – Agence France-Presse


Turkey will re-inforce its military presence in northern Cyprus after the United States lifted defence trade restrictions on Cyprus, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Turkey’s booming wartime trade with Moscow took a giant step back on Wednesday with confirmation that the last three banks still processing Russian payments were pulling out under pressure from Washington. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not mince his words as he responded to the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations between Turkey and Greece. – Financial Times


Iran attacked northern Iraq on Wednesday with more than 40 ballistic missiles and armed drones, one of which was shot down by a U.S. warplane as it headed toward the city of Erbil where American troops are based, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. – Wall Street Journal

Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified. – Reuters

Four Katyusha rockets landed in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone government area Wednesday, wounding four security officers, Iraqi state news reported. – Associated Press 

United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander met with top Iraqi officials last week to underscore America’s commitment to its alliance with the country and to defeating the Islamic State terrorist organization, the Department of Defense confirmed on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

The US scrambled an F-15 jet to shoot down an Iranian drone that appeared to be heading towards US forces in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday, a US official told CNN. – CNN 

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s use of missiles, drones and artillery illustrates not only its new way of war, using precision drone and missile attacks, but also its sense of impunity that it can strike in Iraq, close to centers of power in Erbil, and destabilize the region. Iran knows that the Kurdistan Region is among the most wealthy and stable in Iraq and that it is close to US forces’ facilities. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

The U.N. envoy for Yemen warned that the risk of a return to fighting “is real,” urging warring parties to accept a longer extension of the current ceasefire due to expire next month. – Associated Press

David Ignatius writes: But Khashoggi wouldn’t. He walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago determined to write the truth as he saw it and to hold powerful people accountable for their lies. His death galvanized anger against MBS and the murderous Saudi regime. But Jamal would be the first to tell us that press freedom is a global problem — and that truth-tellers everywhere need our support. – Washington Post

Simon Henderson writes: In the decades since the United States led the coalition that secured the ruling family’s return and the revival of the National Assembly after Saddam Hussein’s invasion, Washington has maintained a significant military presence in Kuwait […]. A so-far elusive prize for U.S. diplomacy is to get Kuwait more involved in the military and intelligence cooperation that other GCC states have conducted with Israel because of shared concerns about Iran. Yet opinion polls suggest minimal public support for contacts with Israel, and Kuwaiti law formally prohibits relations with Israeli citizens, though discreet contacts exist. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Israel had a number of chances to assassinate Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah over the years but chose not to, former Israel Navy commander Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Eliezer Marom claimed on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Morocco has purchased 150 drones from Israel’s BlueBird Aero Systems to use in a variety of military operations. – Jerusalem Post

In a September 9, 2022 interview with the Saudi London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Samy Al-Gemayel, the president of Lebanon’s Kataeb (Phalanges) Party, known as an opponent of Hizbullah, stressed that the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon are of crucial importance for the country’s future. He expressed concern that an ally of Hizbullah will once again be elected for president, as happened in 2016 with the election of Michel ‘Aoun, and warned that, if this happens, Lebanon will pay the price for years. He called on all the opposition forces in the country to unite and reach understandings in order to prevent this from happening. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

Korean Peninsula

The first-ever free trade agreement (FTA) between Israel and an Asian country is set to go into effect on Dec. 1, Israel’s Economy Ministry announced on Wednesday. – Times of Israel

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to condemn North Korea’s weapons tests in Seoul ahead of her first visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the Koreas on Thursday, just hours after the isolated country test-fired missiles. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is capping her four-day trip to Asia with a stop at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she tries to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the security of its Asian allies. – Associated Press

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Wednesday, its neighbors said, a day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is to visit South Korea. – Associated Press

John Bolton writes: The tempo of Indo-Pacific challenges is increasing, with threat levels rising. But as the U.S. confronts critical tactical decisions, such as how to arm Taiwan effectively to deter Chinese belligerence, it must be careful not to ignore larger strategic issues. South Korea and its new president are ready for regional defense cooperation beyond the existing hub-and-spoke bilateral alliance with the U.S. All the concerned countries in the Indo-Pacific would benefit. Let’s not miss this opportunity. – Wall Street Journal


China signalled on Thursday no let-up in its combative approach to foreign policy in a third term for Xi Jinping as leader despite criticism from many Western diplomats that the so-called Wolf Warrior stance has been counterproductive. – Reuters

The US’s top envoy to China called on the nation to reopen dialogues it halted after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan almost two months ago, as Washington tries to get ties back on track. – Bloomberg

The Chinese military held a major exercise to prove how the People’s Liberation Army Navy could use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan. – USNI News

South Asia

Police in the southern city of Karachi are investigating if the attacker who opened fire at a well-known dental clinic, killing one person and injuring two others, was targeting members of the city’s Chinese community. – Wall Street Journal

India is articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter criticism that it is soft on Russia, but it still has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion and will not alter its policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal. – Reuters

India declared the Popular Front of India (PFI) Islamic group and its affiliates unlawful on Wednesday, accusing them of involvement in terrorism and banning them for five years, after authorities detained more than 100 PFI members this month. – Reuters


President Biden this week is welcoming to the White House for the first time more than a dozen Pacific island leaders whose countries are receiving fresh attention and resources as China asserts its own influence in the region. – Washington Post

Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to Myanmar’s imprisoned civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted alongside her of violating an official secrets act on Thursday and sentenced to three years in prison. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi also received a sentence of three years, the latest in a series of convictions that already has her serving 23 years in prison. – New York Times

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday it was important to take bilateral relations in a positive direction as the two leaders marked 50 years of normalised diplomatic ties amid rising tensions. – Reuters

Political allies have hailed Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first visit to the US as Philippine president as a “home run”: he secured one of the few bilateral meetings with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. – Financial Times

Standing on the deck of an American destroyer at a naval base here on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris directly challenged China by accusing it of “disturbing behavior” and “provocations” around Taiwan. – Associated Press

President Biden is pushing the boundary of the United States stance on Taiwan in the face of China’s threats to retake the territory by force, despite efforts by senior advisers to soften the president’s message. – The Hill

Editorial: Since World War II the U.S. has thought of the Pacific as a relatively safe and stable region for U.S. interests, but that is changing with China’s ambitions. The Biden Administration’s summit sends an important signal that the U.S. is paying attention to the region again, and this should be a bipartisan effort no matter which party controls the White House. – Wall Street Journal


European policymakers pointed Wednesday to sabotage as they launched investigations into breaches of three major underwater natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, blasts that experts said could result in the largest-ever single release of methane into the atmosphere from the energy sector. – Washington Post

Thousands of protesters flocked into Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the government of the Czech Republic as an energy crisis stoked popular unrest that will be closely watched in other European capitals. – New York Times

Two days after a pair of explosions under the Baltic Sea apparently ruptured giant natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany, the consensus hardened on Wednesday that it had been an act of sabotage, as the European Union and several European governments labeled it an attack and demanded an investigation. – New York Times

Sweden’s coast guard discovered a fourth gas leak on the damaged Nord Stream pipelines earlier this week, a spokesperson told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper. – Reuters

Norway will deploy its military to protect its oil and gas installations against possible sabotage after several countries said two Russian pipelines to Europe spewing gas into the Baltic had been attacked, the prime minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke with his Danish counterpart to offer potential U.S. assistance following explosions and leaks at the Nord Stream pipeline, according to a senior defense official. – The Hill

Nicaragua has asked the European Union’s ambassador to leave the country, three diplomatic sources told Reuters on Wednesday, after officials deemed the representative “persona non grata.” – Reuters

Anthony B. Kim writes: The coming months likely will be the crucial period when America and its allies will decide whether the Three Seas Initiative remains just a diplomatic agenda driven and shaped by the Left’s environmental, social, and governance standards, or can become a serious, pragmatic project. – Washington Examiner

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Instead, the new world order that George H.W. Bush had promised has turned into an authoritarian world order. Democracies are finally understanding that hitching their economies to Moscow or Beijing can have catastrophic consequences. The damage to Nord Stream is important, symbolic and also will likely usher in a new global economic world order, amid a rise in tensions between the West and Russia. – Jerusalem Post


New satellite imagery of one of the world’s most reclusive nations shows a military buildup inside Eritrea near the border with Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, backing up witness accounts of a new, large-scale offensive. – Associated Press 

Mali does not respect and will not apply sanctions imposed by West Africa’s main political and economic bloc on neighbouring Guinea in the wake of last year’s coup, Mali’s interim prime minister said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Eleven soldiers have died and 50 civilians are missing in Burkina Faso following a suspected jihadist attack, the government says. – BBC


The National Reconnaissance Office awarded study contracts today to six commercial space companies to explore the potential of satellite radio frequency detection to meet military intelligence needs. – Defense News

US Coast Guard (USCG) Legend-class National Security Cutter (NSC) USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756) sighted Chinese and Russian naval vessels on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea about 75 n miles north of Kiska Island, Alaska, on 19 September, USCG officials confirmed on 26 September. – Janes

US President Joe Biden’s administration plans to publicly release an unclassified version of its new National Defense Strategy (NDS) “shortly”, a White House official said on 27 September. – Janes

Rep. Rob Wittman writes: The Pentagon has proven that the only way it will begin to adopt the necessary best practices in acquisition and procurement is if Congress meaningfully holds it accountable for doing so. The 118th Congress must act to empower DoD decision makers prepare for long-term strategic competition. The sooner Washington realizes that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge against China and that “business-as-usual” will unequivocally lead to defeat, the sooner we can course correct. – Defense News