Fdd's overnight brief

September 7, 2022

In The News


Families of European nationals held in Iran have sent a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell demanding answers over the fate of their loved ones, which they feel are being neglected as the bloc tries to revive a nuclear deal. – Reuters

The Biden administration is continuing its efforts to reenter the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, but there are “still gaps” between the negotiating parties. – Washington Examiner

Prime Minister Yair Lapid visited an the F-35 fighter jet squadron at an Air Force base in southern Israel on Tuesday and issued a stern warning to Iran standing next to the imposing warplanes. – Ynet

A new nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is off the table and will not be signed in the foreseeable future, The Times of Israel’s sister site Zman Yisrael has learned. This is the message that was conveyed to Prime Minister Yair Lapid in his recent conversations with US President Joe Biden and other administration officials. – Times of Israel

​​The Iranian Foreign Ministry insisted on Monday that Iran’s response to the US viewpoints on the European Union’s proposed final draft of a potential nuclear agreement was “constructive, clear and legal”, the Xinhua news agency reported. – Arutz Sheva

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: In fact, if there is any rule about Mossad chief visits to Washington at critical moments on Iran policy, it is that there are no rules. […]This does not mean that he will not be able to improve some terms of the deal or achieve some additional military or intelligence assistance from the US as consolation for the deal. But he is not expected to get a meeting with Biden or nix or even delay anything significantly. In fact, it seems Lapid is mostly sending Barnea to be the “bad cop,” so he can be the “less-bad cop,” and talk about criticizing the deal but maintain good relations at a time when Netanyahu would be breaking all the dishes or taking a jack hammer to them. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Shelling at a nuclear plant in Ukraine has “gravely concerned” international monitors who believe a security protection zone should be established immediately, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency said in a report on Tuesday after inspectors visited the embattled Zaporizhzhia facility. – New York Times

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog on Tuesday called for a no-fire zone around an embattled Ukrainian nuclear generator, but like the plant itself, the agency was quickly caught up in the war between Russia and Ukraine. – New York Times

On a recent evening in Red Square, a corps of elite paratroopers dressed in camouflage performed a battle-like dance with pyrotechnics. […]That detachment is exactly what President Vladimir V. Putin is counting on as he executes a domestic strategy of shielding Russians from the hardships of war — no draft, no mass funerals, no feelings of loss or conflict. Much of Russia’s effort on the battlefield has not gone as Mr. Putin had planned, but at home, he has mostly succeeded in making Russian life feel as normal as possible. – New York Times

Scores of people were trying to evacuate from villages near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power plant, Ukrainian officials said, as an explosion cut off access to electricity and water at a nearby town. – Wall Street Journal

The United Nations atomic agency detailed damage done to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and warned of the high-stress environment for staff there in a report Tuesday that pointed to dangers posed by the Russian occupation of the site. – Wall Street Journal

In dimly lit hospital rooms in southern Ukraine, soldiers with severed limbs, shrapnel wounds, mangled hands and shattered joints recounted the lopsided disadvantages their units faced in the early days of a new offensive to expel Russian forces from the strategic city of Kherson. – Washington Post

One week into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the operation’s limited scale and goals in the south are becoming clearer, together with Russia’s response as the two sides head toward a long and difficult winter. – Bloomberg

Russia sent significantly more oil and coal to India and China over the summer compared with the start of the year, while European countries that long relied on Russian energy have cut back sharply in response to the war in Ukraine, said a report published Tuesday. – Associated Press

Nuclear experts say while the buildings housing Zaporizhzhia’s reactors are protected by reinforced concrete that could withstand an errant shell or rocket, a disruption in the electrical supply could knock out cooling systems essential for the reactors’ safety. Emergency diesel generators can be unreliable. – Associated Press

Russia’s Vostok-2022 military exercises are taking place in Russia’s Eastern military district. They commenced on September 1, 2022 and will conclude on September 7, 2022.  On September 6, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a working visit to Vladivostok to get acquainted with the course of the exercises and meet with the leaders of some of the participating countries. – Middle East Media Research Institute 

The Kremlin said that President Joe Biden’s refusal to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism “can hardly be a reason” to believe that the United States has softened on Russia overall. – Newsweek

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military is failing to make progress in Donetsk as his September 15 deadline to take the region approaches, Kyiv officials said Tuesday. – Newsweek

James A. Baker, III writes: No world leader has a bigger place in the history of the late 20th century than Mikhail Gorbachev, for the pivotal role he played in the peaceful end of the Cold War. The free world will be forever grateful to him, even if many of his fellow citizens are not. – New York Times

Jane Harman writes: In the event of an ‘accident,’ some think that the winds would blow any radiation towards Russia. Maybe so. But what if they blow in other directions, toward NATO members? What if power loss causes nuclear matter to burn through the structure and straight into the groundwater? These are plausible events. Regardless of how an accident unfolds, nuclear radiation — like cyber — knows no borders, and it is clear that large swathes of Europe’s population could be in harm’s way. – The Hill

Elisabeth Braw writes: The tremendous loss of one of Russia’s few remaining areas of excellence is made all the more tragic by the fact that it’s caused by an entirely preventable war. Sanderling’s departure is particularly poignant. He was born in Novosibirsk because his Jewish father had been forced to leave Nazi Germany. Kurt Sanderling instead applied his formidable skills to Soviet orchestras. As the Duma’s secretary, Shchelkalov, sings in Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov: “Right has been wronged in this country.” – Foreign Policy

Jens Stoltenberg writes: Our unity and solidarity will be seriously tested, as families and businesses feel the crunch of soaring energy prices and costs of living caused by Russia’s brutal invasion. We face a difficult six months, with the threat of energy cuts, disruptions and perhaps even civil unrest. But we must stay the course and stand up to tyranny — for Ukraine’s sake and for ours. – Financial Times


A Palestinian man was killed during clashes with Israeli forces who were conducting an arrest raid early Wednesday in the northern West Bank, Palestinian health officials said. According to the Israel Defense Forces, troops entered the Far’a refugee camp, between Jenin and Tubas, to arrest a wanted Palestinian. – Times of Israel

The US said it would continue to pressure Israel to reexamine its military’s rules of engagement Tuesday, after an IDF probe into the killing of Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh determined that errant fire from an Israeli soldier was likely responsible. – Times of Israel

The US State Department is assessing the IDF’s ultra-orthodox Netzah Yehuda infantry battalion due to concerns over inappropriate behavior by unit members toward Palestinians in the West Bank, Haaretz reported on Tuesday. – Times of Israel

The United Kingdom’s decision not to back a 2017 international statement in support of a two-state solution in Israel was a watershed moment in the country’s Israel policy — part of a rightward shift after Johnson’s predecessor, Teresa May, assumed power. Previously, the UK had typically voted with other European countries to back policies and statements that were more critical of Israel. – Times of Israel

Editorial: The new technology that the military is absorbing as part of Momentum, especially the increased work with digitization and artificial intelligence, should help pinpoint journalists and civilian areas so that defense forces can be careful in the future and direct their fire in the most efficient, precise and safe way toward threats. In addition, the way the IDF operates in Gaza, by calling civilians to warn them to evacuate targets, is a tactic that can be drawn on when operating in other places, such as the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

Ehud Eilam writes: The IDF fought more or less the same as it did in previous confrontations. Israel also had to restrain its actions, among others, in order to reduce collateral damage. Furthermore, Hamas and certainly Hezbollah are more powerful than the PIJ, which is quite weak and isolated in the Gaza Strip. The IDF’s biggest test might be in the future. – Jerusalem Post

Nimrod Palmach writes: The clear conclusion is that social and political leaders must invest in the talents of these promising immigrants to cultivate potential leaders among immigrants from the US. Every effort must be made to promote inclusion in research centers, training centers for social action, and engagement in mainstream political and social forums, including a focus on the new waves of young American immigrants. These immigrants have tremendous contributions to make to the fulfillment of the Zionist vision and the future of the Jewish people. – Jerusalem Post

Assaf Orion writes: Jerusalem must realize that the Taiwan issue will continue to affect relations between the powers, and more importantly, events in Taiwan could have a significant impact on Israel’s national security. The latest crisis is a strategic warning for Jerusalem of the shrinking space for maneuver between the powers. – Jerusalem Post


An Israeli air attack on Syria’s Aleppo airport on Tuesday has damaged the runway and taken the airport out of service, the Syrian defence ministry said. – Reuters

The Military Intelligence Directorate had assessed that Syria is attempting to build a nuclear reactor over 20 years ago, about five years before an Israeli airstrike at the facility that was eventually built. – Haaretz

Seth J. Frantzman writes: The importance of this claim is that it points an accusing finger not only at the US but also at the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Iran has used proxies in Syria to attack US bases in Syria in the past, including the US base at Tanf near the Jordanian border, and also US bases near the Euphrates. This area of the Euphrates river valley includes many Iranian bases on the western side of the river. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that France-based oil and gas company, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), could help his country solve maritime demarcation issues with Israel, according to a post from the presidency office on Twitter. – Reuters

Al Qaeda militants killed some 20 Yemeni security force members in an assault in the southern Abyan province on Tuesday, a southern military spokesperson said, before all eight attackers were killed. – Reuters

Salem Alketbi writes: The sixth consequence of the Abraham agreement is that Emirati diplomacy will continue to expand its cooperation with various regional parties, especially Iran and Israel, within the framework of a flexible diplomatic approach that focuses on development, economic and trade interests, without falling into the cycle of polarization and tensions that affect international relations at the current stage. – Jerusalem Post


Chinese law enforcement’s use of house arrests or “residential surveillance” has risen sharply under President Xi Jinping, according to research by Safeguard Defenders, a nonprofit focused on rule of law in China, released Tuesday. The group’s estimates suggest over a quarter of a million officially approved instances of house arrest take place each year, up from fewer than 10,000 in 2013. – Washington Post

US tech companies that receive federal funding will be barred from building “advanced technology” facilities in China for 10 years, the Biden administration has said. – BBC

Michael O’Hanlon writes: There will not be an easy answer to the challenge of China’s rise, and its consequences will be with us for all of our lifetimes. The goal must be, first and foremost, avoiding war so that those lifetimes can run their natural course rather than being risked in hegemonic conflict. – The Hill

Cai Xia writes: If Xi were to attack Taiwan, his likeliest target, there is a good chance that the war would not go as planned, and Taiwan, with American help, would be able to resist invasion and inflict grave damage on mainland China. In that event, the elites and the masses would abandon Xi, paving the way for not only his personal downfall but perhaps even the collapse of the CCP as we know it. – Foreign Affairs

Tom Rogan writes: Truss will also advocate increased European military activities, especially in the naval and air domains, which can free up U.S. military assets for redeployment to the Pacific. The U.S. military’s present overstretch threatens America’s ability to prevail against China over Taiwan. And that matters because China is likely to conduct an invasion of Taiwan within the 2024-2028 timetable. Put simply, on the matters of exigent U.S. foreign policy concern, Truss is likely to be a close ally. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

The United States will support the restructuring of Sri Lanka’s debt and extend financing assurances, the media office of the crisis-hit island nation’s president said on Wednesday, citing the U.S. treasury secretary. – Reuters

India is keen to boost cooperation with Russia, particularly in the areas of energy and coking coal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Sayed Madadi writes: These trends stemming from the centralization of power will eventually push away those who were key to the Taliban’s success — similar to how President Ghani’s exclusionary politics alienated the republic’s natural allies. The Taliban have long prioritized their cohesion over any other political objective. Now, unable to govern and unwilling to share power with other political forces, the centralized regime’s disintegration becomes increasingly inevitable — and arguably has been expedited — as it fails to incorporate even its own senior political and military leadership into decision-making processes. – Middle East Institute


The Solomon Islands government has accused Australia of “interference”, after an offer to fund its next election was made as parliament considered a bill to change the constitution to delay the vote. – Reuters

The combat skills of Taiwan’s military are now “more mature” and it is better able to fight thanks to having to repeatedly scramble to see off Chinese forces during their recent drills, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A delegation of five French lawmakers and another group from the U.S. Congress will visit Taiwan this week, in a show of support for the island amid rising tensions with China, officials and sources said. – Reuters

North Korea is “always welcome” at the negotiating table, Japan’s nuclear envoy Takehiro Funakoshi said on Wednesday as he prepared to meet with his U.S. and South Korean counterparts to discuss their strategy to deal with Pyongyang. – Reuters

President Joe Biden ’s fear of political backlash against trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership undercuts his strategy to counter China and support Taiwan , according to Taiwanese analysts and policymakers. – Washington Examiner

Japan’s Ministry of Defence is proposing to build a pair of ballistic missile defense ships – the among largest warships in the Japanese inventory since World War II – government officials said last week. – USNI News

Joseph Bosco writes: It is time to return to the “old normal,” when the 7th Fleet kept the peace in the region, operating fully not only in the Taiwan Strait but also in Subic Bay in the Philippines. That country knows from firsthand experience how an aggressor nation can use Taiwan to engulf the region in war. When planes from Japanese carriers in the Pacific bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, aircraft from Formosa, “the unsinkable aircraft carrier,” launched Japan’s attack on the Philippines. – The Hill

Mick Ryan writes: The final implication is that in addition to procuring weapon systems, sensors, and command and control capabilities, this review should drive the development of new forms of thinking about modern war that more comprehensively consider time. Much of the ADF’s doctrine is derivative of U.S. thinking. While this is useful to ensure interoperability, the Australian military also needs to develop new warfighting ideas that exploit the means that it possesses as a medium-size, nonnuclear organization. These new ideas will be welcomed by Australian allies and can build on the lessons from Ukraine in its struggle against Russia. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


Germany is trying any range of measures to combat an energy crisis that is only expected to worsen this winter. Public buildings can be heated to just 66 degrees and most private pools not at all. Starting this month, billboards and other landmarks go dark at 10 p.m. The government has even extended the lives of two of the country’s last nuclear reactors. – New York Times

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to not activate the so-called “Article 16” emergency measures in the Northern Ireland Protocol in the coming weeks, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing her allies. – Reuters

With Liz Truss as the new UK prime minister, the “special relationship” with the US is on course for redefinition with a conservative leader who is more of a Brexit hard-liner than her predecessor. – Bloomberg

The man they wanted answers from was Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor. In power for less than three months when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened Europe’s energy security, he must now figure out how to keep the lights on this winter while staving off a cost of living crisis that could plunge millions into poverty. – Financial Times

Ukraine has launched a drive to attract foreign investment of up to $400bn in projects across the economy even though it is facing a protracted war with Russia and a slump in output. The government in Kyiv has identified hundreds of initiatives in technology, the agro-industry, clean energy, defence, metallurgy and natural resources where it hopes to entice international investors backed up by loan guarantees and insurance from western donors. – Financial Times

European Union (EU) countries are running out of weapons, Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said on Monday. – The National Interest

Editorial: Mr. Habeck’s nuclear half-step may help his party in that state vote, but opinion polls suggest it could be a loser nationally. This year has seen a rapid shift in German public opinion regarding nuclear energy, with large majorities of voters now recognizing it’s an indispensable and low-carbon alternative and supporting its use potentially for years to come. Maybe one day politicians will finally catch up to the public’s wisdom. – Wall Street Journal

John Bolton writes: Because Ms. Truss is freed from EU parochialism, she appears up to confronting China’s aspirations for Indo-Pacific and then global hegemony. […]Iran’s nuclear menace also remains a challenge to Britain and America. As a party to the 2015 nuclear deal, London has a key role, and there are signs Ms. Truss is more skeptical of the failed agreement than prior U.K. governments. Her vocal supporters certainly are. No longer part of the “EU-3” negotiating group with France and Germany, Britain can play a truly independent role. If Ms. Truss used the occasion of her first phone call as prime minister with Mr. Biden to urge that he scrap the deal and emphasize that all options are on the table, her government would be well-launched. – Wall Street Journal

Kojo Koram writes: The problem is that none of these prescriptions are likely to work. The economic cycle begun by Ms. Thatcher has long exhausted itself, and tax cuts have been consistently shown to increase inequality while having a negligible effect on growth or unemployment. And yet a plausible solution to the country’s woes lies close at hand: a price cap on energy bills, increased taxation on profits and state investment to rebalance the economy. – New York Times

Martin Wolf writes: “Europe will be forged in crisis and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.” These words from the memoirs of Jean Monnet, one of the architects of European integration, echo today, as Russia closes its main gas pipeline. This is surely now a crisis. Whether Monnet’s optimistic perspective prevails, we do not know. But Vladimir Putin has assaulted the principles on which postwar Europe was built. He simply has to be resisted. – Financial Times

Toby Greene writes: Liz Truss enters 10 Downing Street at a difficult moment for the UK. The British public’s priorities are growing economic challenges and the cost of living, especially the cost of energy. However, having served for the past year as Foreign Secretary, Truss knows how much these domestic challenges are linked to the international situation, especially the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as the importance of the longer-term geopolitical challenges, including the growing power of China. – Fathom Journal


At least one person was killed in the eastern Congolese city of Beni on Tuesday when shots were fired during another protest against the United Nations’ MONUSCO peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, a police spokesperson and the mission said. – Reuters

The U.N. humanitarian chief predicted Tuesday that at least $1 billion will be needed urgently to avert famine in Somalia in the coming months and early next year when two more dry seasons are expected to compound the historic drought that has hit the Horn of Africa nation. – Associated Press

Around 380 people were killed in tribal clashes in Sudan between January and August, most of them in the conflict-wracked Darfur region, the U.N. said Tuesday. – Associated Press


​​A previously unknown cyberespionage group has been using undocumented tools to go after high-profile Asian companies and local governments, researchers with cybersecurity firm ESET said Tuesday. – CyberScoop

The race to secure political campaigns from hackers is about to pick up steam ahead of the upcoming midterm elections and the 2024 race for the White House. Defending Digital Campaigns, which was granted permission by the Federal Election Commission in late 2019 to provide campaigns with free digital help, has been working with eligible candidates during the heated primary season. – The Record

Andrey Baranovich, who is known online as “Herm1t,” spent much of the ’90s and ’00s chronicling the history of malware development on a site known in the hacking community as VX Heaven. […]Baranovich talked to Recorded Future analyst and product manager Dmitry Smilyanets about the war in Ukraine and fending off pro-Kremlin hackers. – The Record

Japan is investigating the possible involvement of a group supporting the Russian government in a denial-of-service cyberattack on government websites on Thursday, public broadcaster NHK reported. – Jerusalem Post


The U.S. military will test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, a Pentagon official said Tuesday. – Washington Examiner

When the U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman developed the T-38 training jet in the mid-1950s, they lacked access to digital engineering tools. There were no advanced virtual models of the aircraft’s design, nor high-speed computing technology to test aerodynamic characteristics early in the development process. – C4ISRNET

The State Department on Friday announced a $1.1 billion arms package for Taipei after weeks of mounting tension with China in the Taiwan Strait following an August visit from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The bulk of the package includes logistics support for Taiwan’s Surveillance Radar Program. It also includes 60 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 100 Sidewinder tactical air missiles. – Defense News