Fdd's overnight brief

April 22, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel and Iran backed away from the brink Friday. After a small-scale Israeli overnight strike on Iran—a response to Iran’s far broader missile and drone assault on Israel last week—leaders in Tehran signaled it was time to de-escalate. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli leaders thanked the United States after the House passed a foreign aid bill Saturday that provides $26.4 billion in military aid to Israel and humanitarian assistance, including some for Gaza. – Washington Post

A flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza Strip is preparing to sail from Turkey in the coming days, organizers say, on a mission aimed at breaching Israel’s naval blockade and highlighting the lack of aid reaching Palestinians in the besieged enclave. – Washington Post

Israel abandoned plans for a much more extensive counterstrike on Iran after concerted diplomatic pressure from the United States and other foreign allies and because the brunt of an Iranian assault on Israel soil had been thwarted, according to three senior Israeli officials. – New York Times

An Israeli airstrike on Iran on Friday damaged an air defense system, according to Western and Iranian officials, in an attack calculated to deliver a message that Israel could bypass Iran’s defensive systems undetected and paralyze them. – New York Times

Israel’s State Attorney on Sunday indicted the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on charges of incitement and showing solidarity with a terror group, after she allegedly praised Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that sparked the six-month old war in Gaza. – Reuters

The head of Israel’s military intelligence directorate resigned on Monday over the failures surrounding Hamas’ unprecedented Oct. 7 attack, the military said, becoming the first senior figure to step down over his role in the deadliest assault in Israel’s history.-  Associated Press

European leaders “don’t get” the danger posed by Iran in the Middle East and beyond, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said in an interview on Sunday. – Politico

Israel will summon ambassadors of countries that voted for full Palestinian UN membership at the Security Council on Thursday to lodge protests with them, a foreign ministry spokesman said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

The IDF, Shin Bet, and Israel Police arrested the suspected terrorist who murdered 14-year-old shepherd  Binyamin Achimair in the West Bank on April 12, during an overnight operation the security bodies announced in a joint statement on Monday. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian political faction Fatah charged on air that Hamas had deliberately killed aid workers, stolen aid and manufactured a food crisis in Gaza, according to a Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) investigation published on Sunday.  – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority will reconsider bilateral relations with the US after Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership this week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday in an interview with the official WAFA news agency. – Times of Israel

Timothy Head writes: Since their exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people have overcome unending persecution from every direction. If a second presidential term is indeed Biden’s goal, then his administration must stop equivocating and pandering to far-left constituencies, ignore those pushing for indulging Generation Z, and instead show America’s pro-Israel majority that the Jewish state can count on the United States for protection in times of emergency. – Washington Examiner


President Biden and his national-security team watched with mounting alarm on April 13 as monitors in the White House Situation Room showed 30, then 60, then over 100 Iranian ballistic missiles streaking toward Israel. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will make an official visit to Pakistan this week, Islamabad said on Sunday, as the two Muslim neighbours seek to mend ties after tit-for-tat missile strikes in January. – Reuters

Iran’s foreign minister on Friday said Tehran was investigating an overnight attack on Iran, adding that so far a link to Israel had not been proven as he downplayed the strike. – Reuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei thanked the country’s armed forces for their attack this month on Israel, saying the country had demonstrated its power regardless of how many targets were hit, Iran’s official news agency reported on Sunday. – Reuters

European Union foreign and defense ministers are poised to reach a political agreement on Monday to impose new sanctions on Iran over its attack on Israel. – Bloomberg

Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, warned that the Islamic regime in Iran was waging an “all-out war” against Iranian women in a voice recording that she managed to send from within Tehran’s Evin Prison on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Seth Cropsey writes: Israel can accelerate this restive trend, pressuring Hezbollah and its de facto ally, the Lebanese armed forces, with airstrikes that erode operational capabilities and reduce the state’s ability to manage sectarian unrest. Such actions deserve full U.S. support. Israel faces a threat in the north that Washington fully grasps. Over time, Iran will need to direct more resources to maintaining the axis, drastically curtailing its own operational capacity. – Wall Street Journal

Dan Nidess writes: More is at stake than retaliation for last weekend’s attack. Across the Middle East our allies, Arab and Israeli, are laboring to build stable and prosperous societies. They are striving to move beyond the pervasive conflicts that have historically defined the region. Tehran is laboring just as hard to undermine them and bring them under its yoke. If we continue to dither on confronting them, we may soon reach a point where we no longer have the option. The time to act is now. – The Hill

Russia & Ukraine

The House vote to approve $60 billion in funding for Ukraine comes at a desperate moment for the country’s beleaguered defenders and holds the prospect of helping them stave off a Russian onslaught at the last possible moment. – Wall Street Journal

That heart is barely beating now, partly destroyed by artillery. The plant is among the last still operating in Ukraine’s Donbas region, once the country’s center of heavy industry and now a focal point of Russian ground offensives that are ravaging towns and cities along the front line. – New York Times

Russia said on Sunday its forces had advanced towards the town of Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine and seized control of the settlement of Bohdanivka, as Kyiv said it urgently needed promised U.S. support to fend off a full-scale offensive. – Reuters

Ukraine plans to resume minor amounts of electricity exports on Sunday, but it expects substantial power imports during peak consumption periods, the energy ministry said. – Reuters

Ukraine attacked eight Russian regions with dozens of long-range strike drones, setting ablaze a fuel depot and hitting three power substations in a major attack early on Saturday, an intelligence source in Kyiv told Reuters. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told NATO members on Friday that Ukraine needed a minimum of seven Patriot or other high-end air defence systems to counter Russian air strikes, exhorting them to step up their military assistance for Kyiv. – Reuters

The Russian defence ministry said on Saturday its air defence intercepted and destroyed 50 Ukrainian drones overnight, repelling one of the largest such attacks on Russia during the conflict in Ukraine. – Reuters

The Biden administration wants to start moving weapons and equipment into Ukraine within days of the anticipated passage this week of legislation that includes $60 billion in military aid to Kyiv, a long-delayed lifeline for the embattled nation. – Reuters

Alex Crowther, Jahara Matisek, and Phillips P. O’Brien write: Ukraine is doing the best it can, but it needs help—help that European countries are able and increasingly willing to provide. Rather than force Russian escalation, a European troop presence would be more likely to prevent the conflict from spreading and prevent further damage to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. European leaders do not need to follow the dictates of an increasingly unreliable United States about how the battle in Ukraine should be waged; they can and should decide for themselves how best to ensure the continent’s freedom and security. Europe must do what it takes to safeguard its own future, and that starts with making sure Ukraine wins this war. – Foreign Affairs

Edward Lucas writes: Will the NATO summit in Washington this summer, for example, agree on Ukraine’s path to membership? Will the alliance members put flesh on the bones of the defense plans agreed in Vilnius? Will they provide Ukraine with long-range precision strike weapons that can disable not just Russia’s offensive, but its defenses? Will the allies now seize Russia’s foreign assets? Will they stop doing business with Russia? Will they start stating their war goals clearly? In short: are we serious now? On that question hangs not only Ukraine’s fate but the world’s. – Center for European Policy Analysis


At least three members of the Hezbollah terror group were killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon on Saturday, as skirmishes on the border continued. – Times of Israel

Captain (res) Dor Zimel died on Sunday after succumbing to wounds sustained in a Hezbollah attack on the Western Galilee last week. Some 18 soldiers were hurt in the attack that included missile fire and attack drones, at least six of them suffered serious injury. – Ynet


A sticky bomb exploded in a mostly Shiite neighborhood of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, killing one person and wounding three others, a police official said. – Associated Press

A former interpreter for British forces in Afghanistan has had his application to bring his wife and three children to the UK rejected – because he has British citizenship. – The Guardian

As part of its widening crackdown on the media, the Taliban’s hard-line government has shut down two television stations. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


The majority of Israelis support the Damascus strike, which Israel has not claimed responsibility for, according to a new survey by The Israel Democracy’s Institute’s Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Police Research published on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

US-sanctioned President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Sunday that Syria has held meetings “from time to time” with Washington, as it seeks openings after over a decade of isolation. – Times of Israel


At least five rockets were launched from Iraq’s town of Zummar towards a U.S. military base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, two Iraqi security sources and a U.S. official told Reuters. – Reuters

A huge blast at a military base in Iraq early on Saturday killed a member of an Iraqi security force that includes Iran-backed groups. The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating and there were no warplanes in the sky at the time. – Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set to make his first official visit to Iraq in more than a decade on Monday as his country seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in northern Iraq. – Associated Press


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and reach a fair and lasting peace in the region during a meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on Saturday, his office said. – Reuters

Turkey’s central bank said on Saturday it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil’s central bank to lay groundwork for enhanced cooperation. – Reuters

Turkish authorities have detained 36 people over suspected ties to Islamic State, in operations carried out across four provinces, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on Sunday. – Reuters


Saudi Arabia

The first group of Iranian pilgrims in nine years made its way to Saudi Arabia on Monday for the umrah, or minor pilgrimage, Iran’s official news agency reported, as a result of improving ties between the two Middle Eastern powers. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF has agreed to acquire a 51% stake in Telecommunication Towers Company Limited (TAWAL) from STC Group, paving the way for the creation of the region’s largest telecom tower company, PIF and STC said on Monday. – Reuters

The UK and Saudi Arabia will hold a trade expo in Riyadh next month as Rishi Sunak launches an investment drive aimed at taking advantage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 project. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Hamas’s political leadership is looking to move from its current base in Qatar, as U.S. legislators build pressure on the Gulf state to deliver on cease-fire negotiations that look likely to fail. – Wall Street Journal

The United Nations Libya mission (UNSMIL) urged authorities in the eastern-ruled part of the country to investigate the death of an activist who had been in detention since last year. – Reuters


Korean Peninsula

A North Korean delegation led by a high-ranking agricultural official is visiting Russia, the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Sunday, in the latest exchange by Moscow and Pyongyang, which is grappling with chronic food shortages. – Reuters

North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Monday, South Korea’s military said, the latest in a recent series of weapons launches by the North. – Associated Press

Outside the town of Yongin, 40 kilometres south of Seoul, an army of diggers is preparing for what South Korea’s president has described as a global “semiconductor war”. – Financial Times


A wave of cheap Chinese exports now threatens millions of jobs and is stirring fresh friction between Beijing and leaders in the U.S. and Europe. Photowatt’s fate, and the decimation of Europe’s solar-panel industry, is a warning to the U.S., which is now considering how to protect American industries from renewed pressure from China. – Wall Street Journal

China remains committed to resolving maritime disputes with other countries through dialogue but will not allow itself to be “abused,” a top military official said at a meeting of senior foreign naval officials in the port city of Qingdao on Monday. – Reuters

China’s ambassador to the United States urged the two superpowers to cooperate on improving relations even as they “face severe challenges” on a range of issues. – Reuters

Taiwan’s military said on Sunday it will discuss with the United States how to use funding for Taipei included in a $95 billion legislative package mostly providing assistance to Ukraine and Israel, as Chinese warplanes again got close to the island. – Reuters

Three German nationals have been arrested on suspicion of working with the Chinese secret service to hand over technology that could be used for military purposes, prosecutors said on Monday. – Reuters

South Asia

India kicked off the world’s biggest election in human history on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is favored, but whoever wins has a big challenge ahead: India urgently needs jobs for its millions of young people, but its education system often produces the wrong kind of graduates. – Wall Street Journal

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk postponed a highly anticipated visit to India during which he was due to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expected to unveil plans for the electric-car manufacturer’s entry to the country. – Wall Street Journal

India’s election authorities have directed officials to redo voting at several polling places in the troubled northeastern state of Manipur, after armed men attacked polling stations and captured voting booths despite the presence of dozens of paramilitary soldiers. – New York Times

Unknown gunmen killed two customs officers in western Pakistan, officials said on Sunday, following the killing of five other customs officials in the area in recent days. – Reuters

In fake videos that have gone viral online, two of India’s A-lister Bollywood actors are seen criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asking people to vote for the opposition Congress party in the country’s ongoing general election. – Reuters

A high-level Saudi Arabia‘s Armed Forces delegation led by Major General Talal bin Abdullah Al Otaibi, the assistant defense minister, arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday for a 2-day visit. – Jerusalem Post


A court in Indonesia will on Monday deliver its verdict on two challenges to the outcome of February’s presidential election, after losing candidates petitioned for a re-run and alleged the state had interfered in favour of winner Prabowo Subianto. – Reuters

Maldives voters handed President Mohamed Muizzu’s party a landslide win at parliamentary elections, media said on Monday, an outcome set to shift the Indian Ocean archipelago closer to China and away from traditional partner India. – Reuters

Police in Vietnam have arrested Pham Thai Ha, an assistant of the country’s National Assembly chairman, on an accusation of power abuse, the Ministry of Public Security said on Monday, amid a long-running campaign to stamp out graft. – Reuters

Nearly 17,000 Filipino and American troops kicked off a three-week joint combat training exercise in the Philippines on Monday that includes maritime drills in the South China Sea where Manila and Beijing have sparred over territorial claims. – Reuters

Armenia has agreed to return several villages to Azerbaijan in what both sides said on Friday was an important milestone as they edge towards a peace deal after fighting two wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union. – Reuters

The Solomon Islands election, watched by China and the U.S. for its impact on regional security, is shaping up as a tight race with opposition parties gaining seats and independents holding the key to forming the next government. – Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Cambodia on Sunday for a three-day official visit to reaffirm ties with Beijing’s closest ally in Southeast Asia. His visit is the last stop on a three-nation regional swing that also took him to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. – Associated Press

Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police arrested eight suspected militants in recent days believed to be part of a new cell linked to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked group, authorities said Saturday. – Associated Press

Karishma Waswani writes: So even as the two become closer, the US is still hugely strategic, as a recent survey by Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency shows. Jakarta depends on military equipment that is mainly purchased from America, and holds annual joint military exercises under the Garuda Shield program. It needs Washington’s active presence and support to push back against China’s claims that overlap with Indonesia’s in the South China Sea — another challenge for Prabowo at a time when Beijing is determined to make its presence felt throughout the contested waterway. – Bloomberg


Armed Finnish border guards on cross-country skis patrol the country’s eastern flank, NATO’s newest and longest border with its main adversary, Russia. Helicopters and drones buzz overhead along new fences being constructed—13-feet high in places—with barbed wire on top and 24-hour electronic surveillance. – Wall Street Journal

On a visit to China this week, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said his focus will be on increasing agri-food exports to the world’s second largest economy and keeping food above the fray of rising tensions in China-EU trade. – Reuters

EU exporters of chilled and frozen meat, fish, cheese, dairy products and some cut flowers have had to present health certificates, signed off by a vet or plant inspector, since Jan. 31 – a demand that smaller British retailers and wholesalers say can delay the arrival of goods by weeks. – Reuters

French police on Friday arrested a man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris, but on being searched was found not to be carrying any explosives. – Reuters

Rishi Sunak will have lawmakers sit late Monday to consider legislation on his flagship migration policy before he embarks on a European tour to defend his record on defense, as the UK prime minister seeks to regain momentum 10 days from a crucial set of local elections. – Bloomberg

Two Basque nationalist parties tied as winners of legislative elections in the northern Spanish region, leaving Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s third-place Socialists as the kingmaker. – Bloomberg

David Broder writes: Even so, polls suggest that the two groups will together win around a quarter of seats, leaving the far right with much more sway no matter who takes the top job. Far from seeking to break up the European Union, these far-right groups are now bidding to put their own stamp on it — to create what Ms. Maréchal calls a “civilizational Europe” rather than the technocratic “commission’s version of Europe.” Ms. Meloni, for her part, seems convinced the two can go together. – New York Times


Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other allied militias in recent days have attacked and torched villages in war-torn Darfur, according to satellite images and interviews with survivors, stirring fears of more mass killings in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Niger has formally ordered the U.S. to withdraw counterterrorism troops and aerial drones from the country, driving the final nail in the coffin of American strategy to defeat a violent Islamist insurgency overrunning the heart of western Africa. – Wall Street Journal

Chad’s air force chief ordered the United States to halt activities at an air base near the capital N’Djamena, according to a letter sent to the transitional government and seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Some of Togo’s opposition parties and civil society groups on Saturday renewed their calls for widespread popular protests a day after lawmakers approved constitutional changes likely to extend the 19-year rule of President Faure Gnassingbe. – Reuters

Editorial: Shahed drones in Niger would have the range to menace U.S. and NATO installations, including in parts of the Mediterranean. Niger’s Prime Minister Lamine Zeine has traveled to Russia and Iran this year. Washington is concerned that Tehran is pursuing a deal that would give it access to Niger’s vast uranium reserves. The U.S. has long neglected Africa, but the world’s rogue regimes aren’t making the same mistake. They’re filling this vacuum, and trouble for U.S. interests will follow. – Wall Street Journal

The Americas

Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa has won significant voter support for a raft of security measures he says will help him fight sharply increased crime, a quick vote tally by the national electoral council showed on Sunday. – Reuters

Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa declared a second state of emergency on Friday over an energy crisis that has already led to rationing in the South American country. – Reuters

Tens of thousands of Colombians marched on Sunday to reject economic and social reforms being proposed by the leftist government of President Gustavo Petro, the latest in a series of demonstrations against Petro’s policies. – Reuters

Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday rallied thousands of supporters in Rio de Janeiro in a bid to raise his political capital after losing a bid for reelection to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in October 2022 and facing allegations of involvement in a coup. – Reuters

Venezuela’s major opposition coalition will back Edmundo Gonzalez for president in July’s election, its leadership said on Friday, after intense internal negotiations to determine who could take on President Nicolas Maduro. – Reuters

North America

Armed gangs launched fresh attacks on parts of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince ahead of the installation of a transitional council set to usher in a new government, local media said on Sunday, reporting arson and heavy gunfire in the city centre. – Reuters

Chinese ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, who has served since 2019, has left his post and returned to China, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday, with the news emerging during a senior Canadian diplomat’s visit to the Asian nation. – Reuters

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: In following up on the news from Mexico last week, Reuters reported that “a White House spokesperson said [President Biden] will not let Chinese automakers flood the market with vehicles that pose a threat to national security.” I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot of ways that China can spy on the U.S. and a car, which is today a computer on wheels, is hardly required. This is raw protectionism. It’s bad for the innovation and competition that is good for Americans and none of it has anything to do with the USMCA. – Wall Street Journal

Dimy Doresca writes: It is time that Haiti starts leveraging the reputation, knowledge and successes of its Diaspora to put the country on a real path to economic development as many other developing countries have done. This time the solution cannot be a band-aid put in place by outsiders. The stakes are too high. It is time that Haitians sit at the table and make decisions on issues that pertain to them. – The Hill

United States

As tensions between Israel and Iran escalated in recent weeks, spurring Washington to rush to Israel’s aid, pro-Palestinian activists across the U.S. reacted with new urgency to refocus attention on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

Thai company SCG Plastics has agreed to pay about $20 million to settle allegations that it used the U.S. financial system to receive hundreds of millions of dollars for products made in Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

The US House passed $61 billion in fresh aid for Ukraine on Saturday, ending a six-month political impasse during which Kyiv’s stockpiles dwindled in its war against Russia. The Ukraine aid will be combined with funding for Israel and Taiwan, for a foreign assistance package totaling $95 billion. – Bloomberg

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) criticized the Biden administration’s decision to put millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness outside the reach of oil drilling and critical mineral mining, likening the moves to “national security suicide.” – Politico

Editorial: “We have to stand for freedom and we have to be the beacon of light,” Mr. Johnson told reporters last week. “The only thing that has kept terrorists and tyrants at bay is the perception of a strong America—that we would stand strong. And we will.” Saturday’s votes are a show of will from the United States that will reverberate around the world. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: All of this punishment for Alaska comes as the Administration eases sanctions on Venezuelan oil production and fails to enforce oil sanctions on Iran. Meantime, the Russians and Chinese are increasing investment in Arctic oil, gas and mineral development. If Alaska were a dictatorship hostile to U.S. interests, it would get better treatment. Alas, it’s merely a U.S. state that doesn’t vote for Joe Biden. – Wall Street Journal


The U.K. privacy regulator says Google’s proposed replacements for cookies need to do more to protect consumer privacy, according to internal documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. – Wall Street Journal

Matthew Waxman and Adam Klein writes:  Database checks allow an agent to quickly see whether there is a previously unnoticed connection to a foreign terrorist, spy or other adversary. Balances struck between security and privacy need continual refinement. Recent years have shown Section 702’s great value for national security. But they have also revealed lax compliance at the F.B.I. The latest reauthorization boosts privacy without blinding our country to threats in today’s dangerous world. – New York Times

Matt Boulous writes:  They take the burden off individual entities to fight for the public good, instead letting us focus on building things that people find valuable in their lives within clear parameters mandated by a democratic process. The reason to chase the wild dream of AI is to create a world worth celebrating. Better laws will help ensure that future includes everyone — not just the handful of billionaires who control it today. – The Hill


An experimental fighter jet has squared off against an F-16 in the first-ever artificial intelligence-fueled dogfights, the Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said. – Defense News

Bronte Munro writes: Establishing these relationships early on will also help the private sector understand how to engage the government as a customer better and incentivize dual-use technology development. Mobilizing the tech sector as the new defense industrial base is an exercise in public-private collaboration and allied partnership. The fact that these public conversations are occurring at traditionally non-national security-focused forums such as SXSW speaks to the shared recognition from government and industry of the importance of collaboration for shared national security interests. – The National Interest

Brent M. Eastwood writes: The navy should have learned from this experience with the Alaska-class. It takes substantial time to build a warship and naval combat changed rapidly over the course of World War II and even the years leading up to the conflict. Carrier-borne aviation and submarines quickly dominated naval concerns, and the battlecruiser was a solution in search of a problem. Too bad, because the Alaska-class vessels were good-looking and fast, that in another war, perhaps one fought in the 1930s, could have dominated the seas. – The National Interest