Fdd's overnight brief

April 25, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Hamas released a video of an American-Israeli hostage on Wednesday, increasing pressure on the Israeli government to strike a deal with the militant group and raising hope the 23-year-old is alive after six months in captivity despite grave injuries. – Wall Street Journal

Israel is moving ahead with plans for a military offensive to take Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza, but has responded to U.S. and international pressure by scrapping plans for an all-out assault in favor of a more gradual approach that seeks to limit civilian casualties, according to Egyptian officials and former Israeli officials. – Wall Street Journal

Israel welcomed a U.S. aid package signed by President Biden on Wednesday that will send about $15 billion in military aid to Israel, increasing American support for its closest Middle East ally despite strains in their relationship over Israel’s prosecution of the war in the Gaza Strip. – New York Times

The Israeli military said artillery and fighter jet strikes had hit around 40 targets in southern Lebanon on Wednesday as the intense fighting of recent days continued to escalate, with Hezbollah firing dozens of rockets at an Israeli border village. – Reuters

A top Hamas political official told The Associated Press the Islamic militant group is willing to agree to a truce of five years or more with Israel and that it would lay down its weapons and convert into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders. – Associated Press

Jamaica followed its Caribbean neighbor Barbados in unilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine over the last week, giving the Palestinian Authority two diplomatic victories as it pushes for Western countries to take such a step. – Jerusalem Post

Charles Lane writes: For Sinwar, ensconced somewhere underground, possibly with Israeli captives nearby, these unfortunate souls represent the most effective human shields imaginable. Anyone, on a U.S. college campus or elsewhere, who would downplay or justify what Sinwar’s men did on Oct. 7 needs to watch the videos of Noa Argamani — and think again. – Washington Post

Liat Ellert writes: This approach ensures that our recovery is not just swift but also enduring, building a foundation that future generations can build upon. Through dedicated effort and strategic foresight, we can build a future where each part of Israel contributes to and benefits from national prosperity. – Jerusalem Post


With global attention focused on Iran’s escalating conflict with Israel, Tehran has intensified its domestic crackdown on women, giving police expanded powers to enforce conservative dress codes. – Washington Post

Iran’s judiciary confirmed the death sentence of well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi but added that he is entitled to a sentence reduction, state media reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran and Pakistan called on the United Nations Security Council in a joint statement issued on Wednesday to take action against Israel, saying it had “illegally” targeted neighbouring countries and foreign diplomatic facilities. – Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Pakistan this week put the spotlight on a major gas pipeline deal between the two neighbours which has faced delays due to geopolitical issues and international sanctions. – Reuters

Iran lashed out at Argentina on Wednesday after the South American country sought the arrest of Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi over his alleged involvement in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden signed a foreign aid package that includes sanctions on Iran’s oil sector into law Wednesday. – Bloomberg

Iran has reduced its military footprint in Syria after a succession of strikes blamed on Israel, a source close to Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah and a war monitor said Wednesday. – Times of Israel

Neville Teller writes: The perhaps unpalatable truth is that, short of the civilized world combining to constrain it, the Iranian regime is intent on pursuing what it conceives as its God-given mission, set out by Ayatollah Khomeini as the rationale for his Islamic revolution. Is there sufficient will in the West to prevent the regime from reaching its destination? – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine used longer-range ATACMS missiles secretly provided by the U.S. against Russian forces east of Berdyansk, a strike that occurred less than 24 hours before President Biden signed a law Wednesday that includes money for more of those weapons, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Russell Bentley, a self-described “Donbass Cowboy,” joined Russian forces soon after they created a proxy state in eastern Ukraine in 2014. He quickly became one of Russian propaganda’s favorite Americans, receiving a Russian passport and a gig with state-run Sputnik TV. – Wall Street Journal

The United States will send a substantial security package to Ukraine, including badly needed air defense systems and artillery rounds, the White House said Wednesday, as the administration — its war chest replenished after months of gridlock in Congress — moves quickly to help Kyiv counter a resurgent Russian campaign. – Washington Post

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, is open for business, too, despite a sustained bombing campaign that is among the most devastating of the entire war and growing fears that Russia might launch a renewed offensive aimed at taking the city.  – New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine would do its best to make up for half a year lost to U.S. congressional debate as he thanked President Joe Biden and Americans for approving a major U.S. aid package for Kyiv on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Russian missiles damaged residential buildings and injured six people in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, early on Wednesday, Governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram. – Reuters

Drones sent by Ukraine’s SBU security service struck two Rosneft-owned oil depots in Russia’s Smolensk region in an overnight attack on Wednesday, a Ukrainian intelligence source said. – Reuters

Russia will need to push Ukrainian forces further back and expand what it regards as a “buffer zone” if Kyiv takes delivery of advanced longer-range ATACM guided missile systems from the United States, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Poland is ready to help Ukraine in getting military-age male citizens to return and help their home country in fighting in the war against Russia, Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a U.N. resolution sponsored by the United States and Japan calling on all nations to prevent a dangerous nuclear arms race in outer space, calling it “a dirty spectacle” that cherry picks weapons of mass destruction from all other weapons that should also be banned. – Associated Press

John R. Deni and Lisa A. Aronsson writes: If the West is facing a protracted strategic competition with Russia and China, Europe must play a stronger role in strengthening Ukraine, defeating Russia and deterring Vladimir Putin from further aggression. The scale of the challenge facing the West is too great for Europeans to outsource to Washington. But Washington can help Europe reach its full defense potential. – Wall Street Journal

Maksim Samorukov writes: Even a minor incident, whether a setback in Ukraine, elite infighting, or new domestic unrest, could trigger a political avalanche if accelerated by the authorities’ inaction or policies based on Putin’s delusions. It is not the gravity of Russia’s problems but how the Kremlin deals with them that has positioned the regime permanently on the brink of collapse. A collapse may take years to materialize. Or it could happen in a matter of weeks. But the West should be aware that at any given moment the events in Russia may spiral out of the Kremlin’s control, triggering the swift demise of its seemingly imperishable regime.  – Foreign Affairs


Neighbors Pakistan and Iran on Wednesday pledged to enhance efforts at a “united front” against Afghanistan-based militants, saying their presence poses a serious threat to regional and global security. – Associated Press

The Taliban government has entered its first talks with the United Nations, donors and non-governmental organisations over the impact of climate change in Afghanistan, organisers said Wednesday. After four decades of war, Afghanistan ranks as one of the countries least prepared to face the effects of climate change, which is spurring extreme weather and warping natural environments. – Agence France- Presse

Molly Giguiere and Yalda Royan write: Yet to be formally codified, gender apartheid is steadily gaining recognition within the international legal framework. Leading international experts have called for the codification of Gender Apartheid under Article 2 of the Crimes Against Humanity Convention with 300+ organizations urging that this happen on an expedited timeline, before the end of 2024. Taliban leaders may have exempted the women in their lives from the harsher aspects of their rules, but recognizing this offense is an important first step holding them accountable for the flagrant violations of human rights they have imposed on the vast majority of Afghan women. – The Hill


Turkey’s justice minister warned the country’s main pro-Kurdish DEM party on Wednesday that it would face the risk of legal action, and even a closure case like its predecessor, if it did not distance itself from Kurdish militants. – Reuters

During the first two months of the Israel-Hamas war, Turkey proposed to several Arab states to develop a security arrangement plan, Kan News’ program “This Morning” reported on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Middle East & North Africa

On a Monday morning last month, tech executives, engineers and sales representatives from Amazon, Google, TikTok and other companies endured a three-hour traffic jam as their cars crawled toward a mammoth conference at an event space in the desert, 50 miles outside Riyadh. – New York Times

Jordan’s independent electoral commission on Wednesday set Sept. 10 as the date for a parliamentary election after King Abdullah said earlier he hoped the polls would deliver long promised political reforms, state media reported. – Reuters

A Greek military vessel serving in the European Union’s naval mission in the Red Sea intercepted two drones launched by Yemen’s Houthi militants towards a commercial ship, officials at the Greek Defence Ministry said on Thursday.- Reuters 

A coalition vessel successfully engaged one anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) launched from the Iranian-backed Houthi “terrorist-controlled areas” in Yemen over the Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) said on Thursday. – Reuters 

National security advisors and senior officials from around the world are set to meet in Doha this weekend to discuss plans for a summit on Ukraine’s conditions for a settlement with Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s economy grew at a stronger-than-expected pace in the first quarter on improving private consumption, construction increases and steady exports. – Wall Street Journal

Mihir Sharma writes: When it comes to defense, South Korea can no longer rely on its giant companies to open new markets for their products, as it has for decades. Korean cars and appliances have conquered Asia; Brand Korea has built its soft power across the region. Still, Korea’s ambitions to be a “pivotal state” will require a bit more effort. – Bloomberg


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is meeting officials in China this week as disputes over wars, trade, technology and security are testing the two countries’ efforts to stabilize the relationship. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called on China to provide a level playing field for American businesses as he began a visit aimed at resolving a raft of contentious issues that could jeopardise the newly repaired relationship. – Reuters

China should have the confidence to talk to Taiwan’s legally elected government, President-elect Lai Ching-te said on Thursday as he appointed his new national security and diplomacy team amid what he called unprecedented challenges. – Reuters

China is providing moorage for a U.S.-sanctioned Russian cargo ship implicated in North Korean arms transfers to Russia, according to satellite images obtained by Reuters, as U.S. concerns grow over Beijing’s support for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. – Reuters

China defended the veracity of its economic numbers and asserted its military spending was “transparent and reasonable”, while dismissing as “typical double standards” comments made this week by the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. – Reuters

South Asia

The executive board of the International Monetary Fund will meet on April 29 to discuss the approval of $1.1 billion funding for Pakistan, the fund said on Wednesday. – Reuters

As nearly a billion voters head to the polls in a mammoth six-week programme that began on April 19, officials like Sen counter rapidly spreading online misinformation from election cells that also monitor television and public camera images. – Reuters

India’s Election Commission said on Thursday it has sought responses from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress on alleged violations of poll rules by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition leader Rahul Gandhi. – Reuters

Sadanand Dhume writes: According to CSDS, though corruption has slipped in voters’ priorities, more than half of respondents in 2024 believed that it has risen over the past five years. As Mr. Modi prepares for likely re-election, he’ll hope voters still see him as Mr. Clean and his opponents as deserving their punishment. The opposition will hope that though the BJP’s narrative dominates the headlines, it doesn’t reflect how voters actually feel. – Wall Street Journal


Japan’s experiment with negative interest rates is finally over. The Bank of Japan raised rates last month for the first time since 2007, and abandoned a years long commitment to keep government bond yields close to zero. Japan was the last country to abandon its negative-interest-rate policy, which became a popular—and controversial—tool in the wake of the global financial crisis. The central bank has a two-day policy meeting this week. – Wall Street Journal

Indonesia’s electoral commission formally declared Prabowo Subianto president-elect in a ceremony on Wednesday, after the country’s highest court rejected challenges to his landslide victory lodged by two losing presidential candidates. – Associated Press

Mike M. Mochizuki writes: None of this will be easy, given the intense suspicion that now exists between Beijing and Washington and its allies. But new thinking and new diplomatic efforts could incentivize China to reciprocate in meaningful ways. At the very least, it’s necessary to try. Focusing on military deterrence alone won’t work. Trying to find a way to cooperate with China is the best way — perhaps the only way — to steer the world away from disaster. – New York Times


The European Union is ramping up economic pressure on Beijing with two new investigations into allegations of unfair Chinese business practices, days ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned visits to Paris and Budapest. – Wall Street Journal

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said late Wednesday that he was considering resigning after a judge opened an investigation into whether Mr. Sánchez’s wife had abused her position to help friends win public contracts. – New York Times

The European Commission is expected to propose sanctions on ships delivering North Korean military equipment to Russia as well as tankers that flout the G7 price cap on Russian oil, European Union sources said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Germany’s domestic spy agency told companies on Wednesday they should be on guard against industrial espionage by Beijing, warning them not to be naive or over-reliant on China. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron will outline his vision for Europe as a global power on Thursday in a speech he hopes will have the same impact as a similar address he made seven years ago that prefigured some significant EU policy shifts. – Reuters

A criminal case against the governor of Moldova’s region of Gagauzia has been sent to court, prosecutors said on Wednesday, setting up the prospect of the Kremlin ally being tried on charges of channelling funds from Russia to a pro-Moscow party. – Reuters

Germany has charged seven foreign nationals for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks on behalf of the Islamic State Province of Khorasan (ISIS-K), the federal prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The G7 group of nations are looking to use nearly $300 billion worth of Russian financial assets frozen by sanctions since 2022 to help support Ukraine, but how it will be done remains highly complex given it would set a controversial precedent. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that Europe must continue to step up its help for Ukraine even after the approval of a big U.S. aid package, but made clear that he’s sticking to his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Kyiv. – Associated Press

North Macedonia will head to a presidential runoff after no candidate secured enough votes to win outright in Wednesday’s first round of balloting held as the country seeks to enter into the European Union. – Associated Press

The Alternative for Germany’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections said he’ll fire an assistant accused of spying for China and vowed to continue campaigning for the far-right party ahead of the June vote. – Bloomberg

Germany and France will seal an agreement on Friday to jointly develop a new battle tank as Europe races to shore up its defenses in light of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg

France is asking the European Union to set up a new sanctions regime to target Russian disinformation and election interference operations worldwide. – Bloomberg


The United States on Wednesday called on all armed forces in Sudan to immediately cease attacks in al-Fashir, North Darfur, as Sudan’s army battles the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) for control of the vast north African country. – Reuters

Niger’s junta asked the U.S. to withdraw military personnel from the country over disagreements with Washington on issues including progress on the country’s transition to democratic rule, a U.S. official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Military forces in Burkina Faso killed 223 civilians, including babies and many children, in attacks on two villages accused of cooperating with militants, Human Rights Watch said in a report published Thursday. – Associated Press

Authorities in Togo have repressed the media and prevented civilians from gathering to protest peacefully, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday, ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled to take place at the end of this month. – Associated Press

Botswana’s foreign minister said his country had been approached by the U.K. to take some of what he called their “unwanted immigrants” but declined the request. – Associated Press

Editorial: The world, which promised to “never again” allow ethnic-based mass slaughter to occur unimpeded, has a collective duty under the Genocide Convention to bring the violence in Sudan to an end and hold the perpetrators to account. Their state sponsors need to be forcefully reminded that they, too, can be held responsible unless they show a new willingness to end their support and bring their clients to the peace table. Ultimately, Sudan needs a pathway to return to democratic civilian rule. That was the promise of the 2019 revolution that led to the ouster of 30-year dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir. – Washington Post

Audrey Elom Donkor writes: Cleaning up the electoral processes of Ghana’s political parties is imperative in order to attract the best-caliber Ghanaians into politics and redirect politicians’ loyalties and service toward the Ghanaian people. However, winning the fight against vote-buying will ultimately require a full-scale Taiwanese-style battle against corruption that makes electoral bribery unprofitable for politicians. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition candidate Edmundo Gonzalez said on Wednesday he is committed to carrying out a transition that will allow exiled people to return to the country and political prisoners to be freed. – Reuters

A ceremony to install a stalled presidential transition council in Haiti will take place Thursday morning on the outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince, the office of outgoing Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced in a statement on Wednesday. – Reuters

A Peruvian judge has ordered 18 months of preventative detention for an Iranian and two Peruvian men while they are investigated for allegedly attempting to kill two Israelis living in the South American country. – Associated Press

Close advisers to the leading candidates in Mexico’s presidential race agreed that the country should diversify its global trade links and ensure that it capitalizes on efforts by companies looking to relocate supply chains to North America — including from China. – Bloomberg

Venezuelan opposition candidate Edmundo González said that if he wins this year’s election he’d be open to talks with President Nicolás Maduro to ensure a smooth transfer of power. – Bloomberg

Ryan C. Berg and Rubi Bledsoe writes: However, with an impending fiscal crisis and a ballooning security budget, Ecuador needs more than a temporary security strategy; it needs a plan to rebuild its institutions, promote prosperity, and work with partners in North America and beyond. If Ecuador and its partners fail to meet the multitude of challenges, the short-term gains through multiple states of emergency will be eviscerated, and Ecuador could revert to a scenario far worse than the status quo ante. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

United States

U.S. Gaza aid envoy David Satterfield is set to step down shortly and will be replaced by former senior United Nations official Lise Grande, two sources familiar with the issue told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden has been “faithfully” following his predecessor’s footsteps when it comes to US-Cuba relations, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio. – Bloomberg

Yesterday evening, the Senate passed a bill—appended to a $95 billion foreign-aid package—that would compel ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to sell the app within about nine months or face a ban in the United States.  – The Atlantic


Tech giant Cisco Systems on Wednesday joined Microsoft and IBM in signing onto a Vatican-sponsored pledge to ensure artificial intelligence is developed and used ethically and to benefit the common good. – Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on restoring landmark net neutrality rules that the commission says will strengthen its footing to write more cybersecurity regulations, but industry and some cyber-focused organizations have warned that those potential new rules could lead to less security, not more. – CyberScoop

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency plans to fully launch by year’s end an automated vulnerability warning program to alert organizations that are running software with vulnerabilities being exploited by ransomware gangs, the agency’s director, Jen Easterly, said Wednesday. – CyberScoop

An unidentified attacker hacked a Czech news service’s website and published a fake story on Tuesday claiming that an assassination attempt had been made against the newly elected Slovak president, Peter Pellegrini. – The Record

The two founders of a cryptocurrency mixing service that allegedly obfuscated the origins of at least $100 million in criminal proceeds have been arrested, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. – The Record


The implication is that foreign aid is just a no-strings-attached gift. It isn’t. About two-thirds of foreign assistance is spent via U.S.-based entities, according to the Congressional Research Service. For instance, food aid must be purchased in the United States and by law must be shipped on U.S. carriers. Except for some aid given to Israel, all military aid must be used to purchase U.S. military equipment and training. – Washington Post

The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday announced it selected Anduril and General Atomics to keep designing, building and testing its first batch of drone wingmen known as collaborative combat aircraft. – Defense News

Boeing’s defense unit recorded $222 million in losses in the first quarter of 2024 on two of its main fixed-price development programs, the KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer, the company announced Wednesday. – Defense News

The Army has officially deployed a pair of high-energy lasers overseas to blast incoming enemy drones out of the sky, the service recently confirmed, marking a major milestone for the U.S. military’s ongoing development of futuristic directed-energy weapons. – Military.com