Fdd's overnight brief

April 26, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


S. troops began assembling a floating pier off the coast of northern Gaza, the Pentagon said, part of a Biden administration effort to open new paths for humanitarian aid ahead of a planned Israeli offensive in the city of Rafah. – Wall Street Journal

Militants launched mortars at Israeli forces in Gaza as they prepared for the arrival of a floating U.S. Army pier dispatched to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid, U.S. officials said Thursday, an incident that underscores the mission’s vulnerabilities. – Washington Post

Army engineers on Thursday began construction of a floating pier and causeway for humanitarian aid off the coast of Gaza, which, when completed, could help relief workers deliver as many as two million meals a day for the enclave’s residents, Defense Department officials said. – New York Times

The United States and 17 other countries on Thursday issued an appeal for Hamas to release all of its hostages as a pathway to end the crisis in Gaza, but Hamas vowed not to relent to international pressure. – Reuters

Hamas reiterated on Thursday its demand Israel end the Gaza war as part of any deal to release hostages held there, with Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior official in the Palestinian militant group, telling Reuters that U.S. pressure on Hamas “has no value”. – Reuters

Gazan terrorists fired mortar shells on Wednesday towards the construction work on the humanitarian pier being built off the coast of Gaza. – i24NEWS 

Sean Durns writes: Emphasizing, and expanding upon, the security components of the U.S.-Israel relationship won’t satisfy many of Israel’s critics. For some, nothing short of the destruction of the Jewish state will do that. But it will benefit both countries. And it could lead to a more prosperous and more peaceful Middle East while enabling Washington to deter Beijing better. – Washington Examiner


The United States on Thursday issued further sanctions on Iran, targeting Iranian drones, including their use by Russia in the war in Ukraine, as Washington seeks to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. – Reuters

Britain on Thursday announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s military drone industry, in response to Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel earlier this month. – Reuters

In an unprecedented vote, the European Parliament passed a resolution against the Islamic Republic of Iran on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

European lawmakers approved a resolution calling for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all political prisoners held in Russia, including Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been in custody in a Moscow prison awaiting trial for more than a year. – Wall Street Journal

Russia has fired several missiles at Ukraine that have crossed into Polish airspace since 2022, a provocative show of force by Moscow that risks igniting a wider war, according to Poland’s president. – Wall Street Journal

Russian forces have razed dozens of towns and cities in Ukraine over the past 26 months — killing thousands of civilians, forcing millions from their homes and leaving a trail of destruction that is impossible to calculate. – New York Times

Ukraine has sidelined U.S.-provided Abrams M1A1 battle tanks for now in its fight against Russia, in part because Russian drone warfare has made it too difficult for them to operate without detection or coming under attack, two U.S. military officials told The Associated Press. – Associated Press

Ukraine for the first time has begun using long-range ballistic missiles provided secretly by the United States, bombing a Russian military airfield in Crimea last week and Russian forces in another occupied area overnight, American officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Russia is considering downgrading the level of its diplomatic relations with the United States if Western governments go ahead with proposals to confiscate its frozen assets, state news agency RIA quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Thursday. – Reuters

Robert B. Zoellick writes: U.S. leadership would be welcomed by Central and Eastern Europeans, the Baltics, Nordics and some in Brussels. In every European security crisis for more than 70 years—Berlin in the 1960s, Euromissiles in the ’70s and ’80s, the unification of Germany and Europe in 1989-90, the Balkan wars—the U.S. had to push for allied action. During Mr. Biden’s decades in the Senate, he yearned to lead, not just talk about foreign policy. Now is his moment. – Wall Street Journal

Marc A. Thiessen writes: Fortunately, these senators and House members are in the minority. Support for aiding Ukraine was overwhelming in both chambers — which is why the anti-Ukraine minority fought so hard to stop it from ever getting a vote. But the overwhelming majority in both houses understand that giving military aid is not just the right thing to do for Ukraine, it is revitalizing manufacturing communities across the United States, creating good jobs here at home and restoring the United States’ capacity to produce weapons for our own national defense. – Washington Post

Yurij Wowczuk and Steven E. Moore write: Duranty’s misleading reports contributed to the international community’s failure to respond to Holodomor. This mistake need not be repeated today. By overcoming Russian propaganda efforts to undermine international support for Ukraine, we can save lives and help ensure that Ukraine emerges as a free and democratic nation. – The Hill


An Israeli civilian contracted by the military was killed in a Hezbollah anti-tank missile attack on the Mount Dov area on the border with Lebanon overnight, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday morning. – Times of Israel

Hezbollah on Thursday denied Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s claim that Israeli forces have killed half of the Iran-backed terror group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, saying only a handful were slain. – Agence France-Presse


Britain said on Thursday the Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond had shot down a missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen targeting a merchant vessel. – Reuters


Gulf States

Turkey is in discussions with Iraq to provide technical assistance to Baghdad for securing its borders to prevent movements of outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants around the region, a Turkish defence ministry official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iraq had hanged 11 militants sentenced to death on terrorism charges, local security officials said on Thursday. – Reuters

Most stock markets in the Gulf were in red on Thursday, as investors sifted through the latest corporate earnings, while geopolitical strife in the region weighed on sentiment. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt has asked for a follow-up meeting with Israel in renewed efforts to mediate a deal for a ceasefire and the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, two Egyptian security sources said on Thursday. – Reuters

Kurdish-led authorities in northeastern Syria on Thursday handed over 50 women and children — family members of Islamic State militants — to a delegation from Tajikistan for repatriation back home. – Associated Press

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

Simon Henderson writes: A further twist is that the late Dr. Khan also had close ties with Saudi Arabia, making multiple visits there in addition to his known proliferation activities with Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Accordingly, the wider Middle East will be wondering where all this diplomacy fits in with Washington’s reported willingness to supply Riyadh with uranium enrichment technology as part of a larger diplomatic deal for Israeli-Saudi normalization. – Washington Institute

Jonathan M. Winer writes: Given the Russian initiatives in Libya and elsewhere in Africa, meeting the challenge will necessarily involve an all-of-government approach by the United States, using resources — including intelligence, military, economic, and law enforcement — beyond those wielded by diplomats. – Middle East Institute

Lina Khatib writes: Unfortunately, there are still no signs that the United States is prepared to craft a comprehensive Iran policy that seriously addresses Tehran’s threat to regional stability. U.S. policy on Iran has echoes of its Syria policy, through which the Obama administration’s inaction led to horrific consequences. As long as the United States maintains a similarly passive stance on Iran, the Middle East will continue to reel from Tehran’s destabilizing actions. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

North Korea will take more action to maintain its military power despite U.S. sanctions pressure that has only made the country stronger, a North Korean foreign ministry official said on Thursday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday inspected the test-firing of 240 mm multiple launch rockets manufactured by a newly established defence industry unit, the North’s KCNA news agency reported on Friday. – 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

Hugh White writes: In January of this year, Pyongyang’s language towards South Korea took on a new and much more bellicose tone. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, described the South as his country’s “principal enemy,” and announced that its citizens should no longer be regarded as “fellow countrymen,” foreshadowing the removal of the commitment to reunification from North Korea’s constitution. – The National Interest


Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Chinese counterpart on Friday, capping a trip that included a basketball game and a conversation with Chinese college students with a weightier effort to dial back China’s support for Russia’s defense industry. – Washington Post

In China, there is no TikTok. There is only Douyin. After President Biden signed a bill on Wednesday forcing Chinese company ByteDance to sell its ownership of TikTok, the United States moved one step closer to an internet without the short video app. The legislation opened the door to a possible ban of the social media platform if TikTok fails to find a U.S. government-approved buyer within a year. – New York Times

The drones circled over the caves and crevices scattered around the mountain trails in northern Utah, feeding real-time video back to a search team on the ground looking for a missing hiker. Nineteen minutes later, they had her coordinates, bringing the rescue — a drill — closer to conclusion. […]But if DJI’s drones are the tool of choice for emergency responders around the country, they are widely seen in Washington as a national security threat. DJI is on a Defense Department list of Chinese military companies whose products the U.S. armed forces will be prohibited from purchasing in the future. – New York Times

The United States is suppressing China’s development, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday during talks with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken who is on a visit to Beijing aimed at resolving trade and policy differences between the superpowers. – 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

Republican China hardliners Marco Rubio and Elise Stefanik are calling on the Biden administration to block all sales to Huawei after the sanctioned Chinese tech company released a new laptop powered by an Intel (INTC.O), opens new tab AI processor chip. – Reuters

Senior Chinese military officials held separate meetings with U.S. and Russian naval counterparts during a Western Pacific naval symposium in Qingdao this week, a Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping will visit Hungary on May 8-10, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff told a press conference on Thursday. – Reuters

China and other big-polluting developing countries should pay more to help poor states cope with climate change, Germany’s foreign and development ministers said on Thursday, as countries prepare for U.N. negotiations on a new climate finance goal. – Reuters

The Biden administration is not taking any options off the table to respond to China’s excess industrial capacity, which is a top concern for the U.S. and its allies, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he planned to visit China in May, as reported by Reuters last month. – Reuters

China must stop supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine if it wants to enjoy good relations with the West, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, warning Beijing in unusually harsh words it cannot have it both ways. – Reuters

South Asia

Lawyers for Ryan Corbett, an American held by the Taliban for nearly two years without charge, on Thursday sought U.N. help to secure his immediate release, contending that he has been tortured and is suffering physical and mental health problems. – Reuters

Pakistan’s central bank is widely expected to hold its key interest rate at a record 22% for the seventh straight policy meeting on Monday as Pakistan gears up for an International Monetary Fund board approval and talks on a longer term programme. – Reuters

India is in talks with several countries seeking partnerships for technical help on lithium processing, said four sources familiar with the matter, to bolster its nascent lithium mining and electric vehicle industries and avoid relying on China. – Reuters


In the most hotly contested waterway in the world, the risk of Asia’s next war hinges increasingly on a ramshackle ship past her time, pockmarked with holes, streaked with rust and beached on a reef. – Washington Post

Armed soldiers loyal to a turncoat warlord patrol the streets of southeastern Myanmar’s frontier town of Myawaddy, as troops of the ruling junta and rebels jostle for control of the outpost that handles more than $1 billion in border trade every year. – Reuters

As the United States faces security threats across the globe, its close ally Japan has committed to stepping up as a trusted defence partner – but Tokyo’s cyber and information security vulnerabilities remain a concern, officials and experts say. – Reuters

Taiwan’s president-elect has appointed new foreign and defense ministers to join his incoming administration as the island faces continuing military threats and diplomatic isolation from China. – Associated Press

Gearoid Reidy writes: For now, Emanuel’s the global cheerleader the Japanese badly need. He has a good story to tell — and he tells it better than most of Japan’s leaders. And he’s right about one thing: Regardless of who’s in the White House next year, America must update the way it sees its most vital Asian ally. – Bloomberg


French President Emmanuel Macron made the case Thursday for a stronger, more independent European Union, arguing that Europe needs a more credible defense policy to stand up to Russia and not be a strategic “vassal” to the United States. – Washington Post

Russia said on Thursday that Poland was playing a “very dangerous game” by considering the possibility of hosting U.S. nuclear weapons. – Reuters

The German ambassador to China was summoned by Beijing on Thursday in response to several arrests in Germany on suspicion of Chinese espionage, a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry told Reuters. – Reuters

Poland’s foreign minister on Thursday called on NATO to increase its defense preparedness and said his government wants to be at the center of decision-making in the European Union, seeking to reestablish the country as a reliable international partner as the war in Ukraine rages across the border. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece can not offer air defence systems like ‘Patriots’ or S-300 to Ukraine responding to pressure from EU and NATO allies to send more military aid to Kyiv. – Reuters

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday his country was facing grave threats internally and externally that had required it to change its security posture and allow Russia to deploy dozens of tactical nuclear weapons on its territory. – Reuters

Josh Rogin writes: Congress has now sent enough military aid to Ukraine to last the rest of this year. But military attacks are only one tool in the Kremlin’s toolbox. Moldova is sounding an alarm about how the West needs to increase its response to Russia’s other weapons. Putin is counting on Washington to not listen. – Washington Post


Dozens of American military personnel are expected to withdraw from Chad in coming days, three senior U.S. officials said Thursday, amid a broader, involuntary reconfiguration of Washington’s security policy in a volatile part of Africa. – Washington Post

Nigeria’s oil regulator on Thursday clarified that recent changes to fuel sulphur content standards for diesel are part of a regional harmonisation effort, not a relaxation of regulations for local refineries. – Reuters

Chinese state energy major PetroChina has been waiting to unload a cargo of U.S. crude at Nigeria’s giant new refinery for nearly a month due to payment issues, according to four trading sources and shipping data. – Reuters

Britain’s King Charles has given his assent to legislation central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. – Reuters

The Americas

Haiti’s new transitional presidential council was sworn in Thursday, opening the way for the creation of a caretaker government that aims to restore order in a Caribbean nation besieged by deadly gang violence. – Wall Street Journal

Argentine jet fuel providers in Buenos Aires refused to service Cuban state airline Cubana this week citing concerns over U.S. trade sanctions on Cuba, the Havana-based carrier said late on Wednesday, prompting multiple unexpected flight cancellations. – Reuters

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls on the new authorities in Haiti “to expedite the full implementation of the transitional governance arrangements” and for the swift deployment of an multinational security mission to help tackle the “dire” situation, his spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has accused the United States of exerting pressure on Turkey’s national airline to bar Russian citizens from flights bound to Mexico. – Reuters

A diplomatic crisis in Ecuador and uncertainty over Venezuela’s political future have divided South American nations and killed enthusiasm for a summit that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is trying to convene, diplomats in the region say. – Reuters


When Antony Rudkovsky was about 15, he began to teach himself how to build virtual private networks (VPNs) to access Internet content unavailable in Russia. At first, the young programmer just wanted to listen to music on the Spotify streaming app in his bedroom in Nizhny Novgorod, a city roughly 270 miles (430 km) east of Moscow. He’s part of a growing ecosystem of freelance programmers and VPN companies involved in what some of them describe as a “cat-and-mouse” game with authorities to bypass controls on what Russians can access online. – Reuters

Chinese spies hacked the laptop of Els Van Hoof, the chairperson of the Belgian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee in federal Parliament, back in 2021, she told public broadcaster VRT on Thursday. – Reuters

TikTok said Wednesday that it’s halting a feature on its new app rewarding users in Europe for watching videos, after facing pressure from regulators worried about its addictive features. – Associated Press

Digital rights organizations are keeping a close eye on internet access in the West African nation of Togo as the country conducts national elections next week. – The Record

Ilya Shapiro writes: In short, critics’ arguments get this one exactly backward. If you care about free speech, you should care about whether social media platforms are controlled by a communist dictatorship that’s hellbent on sowing chaos and destroying the freedom that we take for granted. The only way to ensure that Americans, especially young Americans, continue to enjoy their constitutional rights is to ensure that our political culture isn’t eroded by foreign governments through the everyday tools that we use to communicate with one another. – Washington Examiner


The U.S. Army is moving its Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System competition into a flight demonstration phase with two teams, Griffon Aerospace and Textron Systems. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s aviation force structure will move away from modular Combat Aviation Brigade designs needed during heel-to-toe rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan and return to a model that tailors those units for specific divisions, according to the service’s branch chief. – Defense News

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