Fdd's overnight brief

December 15, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


National security adviser Jake Sullivan pressed Israeli leaders to shift from a reliance on airstrikes and ground assaults in Gaza toward targeted military operations and warned that a protracted conflict would make the Palestinian territory harder to govern after the war, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal 

The images of the Palestinian men, stripped to their underwear, forced to kneel, some bound, some blindfolded in the custody of Israeli soldiers, were certain to provoke extreme emotions. – Washington Post

Almost half of the munitions Israel has used in Gaza since the war began have been unguided bombs, a U.S. intelligence assessment has found, a ratio that some arms experts say helps explain the conflict’s enormous civilian death toll. The revelation comes as U.S. and Israeli officials engage in intensifying conversations about the sequencing of military operations in the two-month conflict. – Washington Post

As Israeli troops pulled out after a two-and-a-half-day incursion into the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Thursday that the raid had killed at least 12 people and wounded 34 others. – New York Times

Israeli ground forces have damaged or destroyed at least six cemeteries during their advance into the northern Gaza Strip, most of them in recent weeks, according to an analysis of new satellite imagery and video footage by The New York Times. – New York Times

The Israeli military said on Thursday that it had disciplined soldiers who filmed themselves in multiple videos while one of the group sang a Jewish prayer at a mosque in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The incident came after a prolonged Israeli raid in Jenin and amid rising anger in the West Bank over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. – New York Times

Biden administration officials want Israel to end its large-scale ground and air campaign in the Gaza Strip within weeks and to transition to a more targeted phase in its war against Hamas, American officials said Thursday. – New York Times

The five men who make up Israel’s war cabinet have more than a century of military experience among them and decades of political and diplomatic know-how. The cabinet was formed five days after Israel declared war on Gaza to temporarily unify Israel’s political factions and ensure its steadiest hands were in charge during a national crisis. Its members share histories of fierce competition and betrayal, making them the quintessential team of rivals. – New York Times

Israeli forces engaged in one of their most extensive operations in the West Bank city of Jenin in years, laying siege to a densely-populated refugee camp in what they say is an attempt to root out militant units there, while continuing their campaign against Hamas fighters in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s defense minister said it will take months to destroy Hamas, predicting a drawn-out war even as his country and its top ally, the United States, face increasing international isolation and alarm over the devastation from the campaign in Gaza. – Associated Press

The Israeli military has rounded up hundreds of Palestinians across the northern Gaza Strip, separating families and forcing men to strip to their underwear before trucking some to a detention camp on the beach, where they spent hours, in some cases days, subjected to hunger and cold, according to human rights activists, distraught relatives and released detainees themselves. – Associated Press

Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that the European Union is losing its credibility because of a lack of a strong position in the war between Israel and Hamas, urging his counterparts to call for a humanitarian cease-fire. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden on Wednesday held his first in-person meeting with families of some of the eight Americans still unaccounted for and presumed taken captive by Hamas during its deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel, reassuring the families that his administration was committed to reuniting them with their loved ones. – Associated Press

Israel’s president has joined the ranks of high-ranking Israeli officials to speak out against a two-state solution after the war in Gaza. – Associated Press

The Israeli Defense Forces have removed a group of soldiers from the battlefield and will discipline them after video surfaced online of them reciting Jewish prayers over the loudspeaker of a mosque they entered at Samaria, the IDF said Thursday. – New York Sun

Israel’s defense minister said it will take months to destroy Hamas, predicting a drawn-out war even as his country and its top ally, the United States, face increasing international isolation and alarm over the devastation from the campaign in Gaza. – Associated Press

At least nine Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush, marking one of the deadliest single attacks that Palestinian militants have carried out since the ground invasion of Gaza began, Israel’s military said. The attack in a dense urban neighborhood came after repeated recent claims by the military that it had broken Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza. – Associated Press 

A U.S. security envoy had talks with Israel about shifting its strategy in Gaza toward surgical operations against Hamas and away from a broad ground campaign, as Palestinians reported heavy attacks along the narrow coastal strip on Friday. – Reuters

Israeli special forces have recovered the body of 28-year-old hostage Elia Toledano who was held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since its Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel, the military said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

People in Gaza described begging for bread, paying 50 times more than usual for a single can of beans and slaughtering a donkey to feed a family as food aid trucks were unable to reach most parts of the bombarded Palestinian territory. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday about the war in Gaza and ensuring that the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 is never repeated, senior U.S. officials said. – Reuters

A U.S. security envoy discussed with Israeli officials on Thursday how to better protect civilians during their war against Hamas in Gaza and President Joe Biden appealed for lives in the Palestinian territory to be saved – Reuters

The head of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency said on Thursday that crowds of hungry people were stopping its aid trucks in Gaza and helping themselves to the food, making it almost impossible to continue delivering aid. – Reuters

International pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to overhaul its leadership and step up reforms are a distraction from the need for a political horizon to lay the basis for peace after the Gaza war, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said. – Reuters

Israeli children, long free to wander, are now routinely chaperoned. Gun license applications are up by a factor of eight. Self-defense classes are oversubscribed. – Bloomberg

Israel’s reported attempt to pump seawater into the vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza was a success, The Times of Israel learned Thursday, as the army warned of “new combat methods” to deal with terrorists hiding underground. – Times of Israel

Perhaps it was the recent chaotic images of Hamas terrorists using sticks to beat back desperate civilians at a Gaza hospital, or the short clips circulating of armed terrorists trying to make off with vital aid meant for starving children that first prompted some residents of Gaza to speak out against their leaders. – Jewish Insider

Israeli officials are advertising $1 million worth of bounties payable to anyone who leads them to the masterminds of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack that ignited the war in Gaza. – Washington Examiner

While American officials say they are not making judgments in real-time about whether Israel is abiding by the laws of war, the U.S. has gathered intelligence that might allow it to make such assessments. – Politico

A senior U.S. official said Friday overnight that the days of Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, are “numbered.” Speaking to reporters at the White House, the official emphasized that Sinwar was also responsible for the death of American citizens: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but justice will be served.” – Ynet

Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook on Thursday released a statement backtracking on earlier comments that the Islamist group should  recognize Israel’s existence in order to end the internal Palestinian conflict with the PLO. – Ynet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads Israel’s War Cabinet, prevented Mossad chief David Barnea from traveling to Qatar earlier this week to examine the possibility of reaching another deal to release hostages held by Hamas amid continued fighting in Gaza, Israeli broadcasting channel Keshet recently reported. –Ynet

Hamas is interested in achieving the release senior terrorists convicted of murder, who constitute opposition to the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, following the war with Israel, the Jordanian newspaper Rai Al-Youm published Thursday in a report on Hamas’ intentions following the war with Israel. The move aims to create a new reality in the West Bank and replace the current Palestinian leadership. – Ynet

Editorial: Facilitating the transfer of fuel and aid to Gaza also hasn’t stopped U.S. criticism. On Oct. 18 Mr. Biden said, “If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people, and it will end.” Really? Hamas theft, some of it caught on video, is so blatant and pervasive that Gazans denounce it publicly. Still, Israel keeps aid flowing, and the U.S. has pressured it to open another crossing to let in even more. Israel has no good choices here, but America does. The President can focus on supporting a U.S. ally in vanquishing a genocidal enemy. – Wall Street Journal 

Marc Champion writes: So while it’s possible that the IDF is doing more than others have in terms of warning civilians as it hurries to crush Hamas, it may not matter. In such a small area, there are no truly safe havens for non-combatants, so the bar has to rise. The bottom line is that whether or not the IDF’s campaign rates as “indiscriminate” within the always brutal context of urban warfare, it is inhumane and counterproductive. It risks turning the world against Israel, burying the memory of Oct. 7 and radicalizing a new generation of potential recruits for Hamas. – Bloomberg

Douglas Bloomfield writes: He called on the prime minister to “strengthen and change” his current governing coalition in the hope it would make Netanyahu more flexible. But that won’t make any difference. The problem starts at the top. You don’t have to be the director of the Mossad, the head of the Shin Bet, or the president of the United States to know Bibi is the problem, not the solution. – Jerusalem Post

Lawrence J. Haas writes: Once the Palestinian Authority is back in place, what’s to prevent it from implanting the same incitement in Gaza that it uses across the West Bank? And even if Israel has eradicated Hamas, what’s to prevent the Palestinian Authority from encouraging terror-minded Palestinians from reconstituting that group or contributing to others that have operated in Gaza, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Israel has every right to demand better and to maintain a presence in Gaza until whoever runs the strip won’t threaten the Jewish state. Otherwise, the past will be prologue: Incitement will nourish terrorism, which eventually will bring more war. And once again, innocent Israelis and Palestinians will be caught in the crossfire. – The National Interest

Attila Somfalvi writes: Israel is a moral country. It fights to protect its citizens. Israel is the most just country in the world. Along the way, it tries to liberate Gaza from Hamas. This is its right. This is its duty. And it has the capacity to shape consciousness, to influence the overall picture. Do not be afraid. Set a strategy – and execute. Influence and set consciousness. It’s not that hard. Just need to think a bit. – Ynet

Michael Robbins, MaryClare Roche, Amaney A. Jamal, Salma Al-Shami, and Mark Tessler write: If Israel and the United States seek genuine peace with the Arab world—rather than a cold peace with the repressive regimes that rule most of it—they must change their policies. They need to find a way to end the ongoing struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And that means all these groups must diligently work toward a fair and dignified future for the Palestinian people: specifically, a two-state solution. It is the only way to change the hearts and minds of neighboring populations and bring an end to the cycle of violence that has plagued the Middle East for the last century. – Foreign Affairs 

Avraham Sharma writes: A peaceful solution for the conflict must be brokered by all countries in the international community that have been concerned about this war, including the U.S., Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Britain, France and Germany. It’s time for the international community to support Palestinians’ self-determination much like its support for the Jews of Palestine in 1947 to establish the independent state of Israel. Such a peaceful solution to this bitter conflict will serve the Israelis, Palestinians and the world well. – The Hill


Suspected members of a separatist group killed 11 people and injured several others in a nighttime attack on a police station in southeastern Iran, state TV said Friday. – Associated Press 

Iran said it was lifting visa requirements for 33 countries, including Gulf states like Saudi Arabia with which Tehran had frosty relations for years until a recent rapprochement, the Iranian Students News Agency said on Thursday. – Reuters 

Britain said it had adopted a new sanctions regime against Iran on Thursday as it announced measures against seven individuals, including the head of Tehran’s Quds Force, for threatening or planning the destabilisation of Israel. – Reuters

Iran’s defense minister warned that if the Western world moves forward with a United States-led task force to protect ships in nearby waterways from being attacked by Houthi rebels, it would lead to “extraordinary problems.” – Washington Examiner

The State of Israel’s collapse is imminent, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps chief Hossein Salami said in a Thursday evening address. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

With his armed forces still on the attack in Ukraine and a reelection campaign getting underway at home, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed his nation Thursday in a marathon news conference and call-in show for constituents in which he declared his belief that Russia will be victorious in the war. – Washington Post

The European Union on Thursday agreed to open membership talks with Ukraine, an important sign of support at a moment when battlefield progress has stalled and U.S. commitment to continued funding for the war has wavered. – Washington Post

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia spent more than four hours on Thursday answering questions at his year-end news conference, resuming an annual tradition at a critical moment for his war in Ukraine. Russian forces are now attacking on several areas of the front line after fending off a Ukrainian counteroffensive, and there are signs that U.S. support for Ukraine is waning as a new aid package stalls in Congress. – New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday cast himself as a wartime leader in full control of his invasion and his nation, his confidence on display in a stage-managed, four-hour news conference that underscored the Russian leader’s apparent determination to outlast Ukraine and the West. – New York Times

Soon after payment-processing giant Wirecard reported in June 2020 that nearly $2 billion had gone missing from its balance sheet, its chief operating officer Jan Marsalek boarded a private jet out of Austria. After a landing in Belarus, he was whisked by car to Moscow, where he got a Russian passport under an assumed name. – Wall Street Journal 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia wants “to reach an agreement” on the return of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is currently in Russian custody on an allegation of espionage that he, the Journal and the U.S. government vehemently deny. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to press on with his war in Ukraine during an end-of-year audience in which he showed no sign of seeking a swift conclusion to the devastating conflict, saying there would only be peace once Russia had achieved its goals. – Wall Street Journal

A barrage of Russian missiles targeted Kyiv on Wednesday, wounding at least 53 people, officials said, as the Ukrainian president sought more military support in Europe after a trip to Washington secured no new pledges. – Associated Press

The White House has been increasingly pressuring Congress to pass stalled legislation to support Ukraine’s war against Russia, saying that funding has run out. – Associated Press

When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ignited into war, back in Moscow, a young Russian who now goes by the name of Karabas was plunged into despair. Shocked by images of what was happening to Ukrainians in Russian-occupied areas, he decided to act — against Russia, his home and country. – Associated Press

European Union member states reached a tentative agreement Thursday on a 12th package of sanctions against Russia, according to people familiar with the matter, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Ukraine’s Air Force said Russian MiG-31K fighter jets carrying Kinzhal hypersonic missiles struck targets in central Ukraine just 10 minutes after their takeoff from Savasleyka airbase sparked a national alert on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday described the situation in the Gaza Strip as a “catastrophe” unfolding on a scale that could not be compared to the Ukraine conflict. During a news conference in Moscow, Putin made the comments as his full-scale military intervention against Kyiv approaches the two-year mark. – Times of Israel 

Josh Rogin writes: All sides must compromise to push through emergency funding for Israel, Ukraine, the Indo-Pacific and border security as soon as possible in the new year. It will take some courage and some risk for all parties. But the alternative is to let Russian President Vladimir Putin win, which would bring about an even bigger national security nightmare than we already have. – Washington Post

Marc A. Thiessen writes: Doing so would be good for Biden and good for the American people — and it would be good for Ukraine. The most devastating argument employed by the anti-Ukraine right is that Biden cares more about securing Ukraine’s border than our own. Well, Biden could prove critics right by refusing to secure the U.S. border. Or he can prove them wrong by reaching an agreement with Republicans that would stop the flood of illegal migrants into this country and disarm the GOP isolationists of their most potent argument against aid to Ukraine. – Washington Post

David French writes: That is the choice we face. But too many Republicans say that this is the day. This is the day when their courage fails, when they break that bond of fellowship. We cannot fund Ukraine without Republican votes. And if those G.O.P. lawmakers fail, our nation fails. History will record that we chose to abandon a country that is standing against a great evil. It does not even ask us to stand with it on the field of battle. It merely asks that we place a sword in its hand. – New York Times

Yulia Latynina writes: Another bottleneck is that the drone is guided by a human driver and can easily succumb to electronic countermeasures. The implications are obvious. The next step is the creation of an AI drone that will pick the target all by itself, and will thus be impervious to electronic countermeasures and won’t demand extra manpower. With the astonishing speed this revolution is taking place, I wager that we will see an AI drone taking out a tank in the Ukrainian steppes sooner than we will see a fully self-driving Tesla on the streets of Los Angeles. If the drone messes up and takes out the wrong target, nobody will sue. – The Hill 

Dmytro Kuleba writes: However prevalent a false narrative of attrition becomes, we should not allow it to set policymaking and our shared strategy on a disastrous course. Nor should we be duped into believing that Moscow is ready for a fair negotiated solution. Opting to accept Putin’s territorial demands and reward his aggression would be an admission of failure, which would be costly for Ukraine, for the United States and its allies, and for the entire global security architecture. Staying the course is a difficult task. But we know how to win, and we will. – Foreign Affairs

Elina Beketova writes: “If I had enough weapons, I would just destroy all the Russian logistics, because they have no non-military logistics,” Andriushchenko said. “They are even now carrying tanks in Mariupol on civilian trucks, they are not ashamed of it at all.” Russia is using the West’s period of uncertainty and hesitation to build new railways and roads, and using civilian ships for military purposes. Moscow feels impunity, and if it is allowed to continue, it will be harder to defeat. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Walter Clemens writes: The examples of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and various developing world tyrants are clear, but the rise of populism in the West, including Donald Trump in the US, Marine Le Pen in France, and various Brexit parties in the UK, suggest this no one is immune from these trends. Former Soviet subjects — not only in the Baltic states, but also in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia — now strive to absorb and maintain versions of the three revolutions. To free themselves from a great power that has exploited and oppressed them for centuries, they need persistent moral and material support from the West. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Of the hundreds of rockets and missiles fired into Israel’s north by Iran’s Lebanese terror proxy, Hezbollah, one in five fell short and struck inside Lebanese territory, the IDF spokesperson’s unit said on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF revealed that about twenty percent of all rockets fired by the Hezbollah terrorist organization at Israel since the Hamas massacre of October 7 have fallen short and landed inside Lebanon. – Arutz Sheva

The Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar published on Wednesday new details about behind-the-scenes negotiations, led by attempting senior Biden adviser Amos Hochstein, France and other Western actors, to reach an agreement to prevent the expansion of the Israel-Hamass war to the northern front. – Ynet


A Maersk cargo ship was targeted by a missile as it passed the coast of Yemen on Thursday, the Danish company said, amid a series of Yemeni Houthi group attacks on shipping that have prompted the U.S. to push for a naval coalition in the Red Sea – Reuters

The United States wants to form the “broadest possible” maritime coalition to protect ships in the Red Sea and send an “important signal” to Yemen’s Houthis that further attacks will not be tolerated, the U.S. envoy for Yemen told Reuters. – Reuters

A projectile launched from Houthi-controlled Yemen struck the Liberia flagged, German-owned, Al Jasrah ship on Friday causing a fire but no injuries, a U.S. defence official said. – Reuters

The US is working with allies to create a multinational effort to protect ships passing through the Red Sea in an effort to stem a surge in attacks by Houthi fighters that has provoked unease about commercial trade passing through one of the world’s most vital waterways. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia

The PGA Tour is less than three weeks from a deadline to finalize a deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund that it promised would transform professional golf into a global powerhouse and quiet years of acrimony. – New York Times

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Simon Henderson writes: Many of the firms operating in the kingdom have long been based in the United Arab Emirates, with Dubai becoming a favorite for expatriate executives who commute to and from Saudi destinations weekly. A further indication of Riyadh’s economic thinking came with the budget it announced earlier this month, which forecast a relatively modest deficit of $21 billion. The expected figure for government revenues showed only a slight decrease despite the oil production cuts and lower prices, signaling Saudi bureaucratic confidence that is already being challenged. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq has identified links between several of the perpetrators of a Dec. 7 multiple rocket attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and some of the country’s security services, a spokesperson for Iraq’s prime minister said in a statement. – Reuters

Turkey strongly condemns “provocations” by Israeli forces during raids on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin and the desecration of a mosque there, Turkey’s foreign ministry said, calling for those responsible to be punished. – Reuters

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told President Joe Biden in a phone call that the United States has a historic responsibility to achieve a lasting ceasefire in the Gaza conflict as soon as possible, Erdogan’s office said on Thursday. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

North Korea may test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this month, a senior South Korean official said on Friday before discussions with U.S. officials on responses to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons threats. – Reuters

South Korea’s defence ministry said on Friday it expressed regret and lodged a protest to China and Russia over the intrusion of its air defence zone by the neighbouring counties’ military aircraft on Thursday. – Reuters

South Korea scrambled fighter jets on Thursday when two Chinese and four Russian military planes entered its air defence zone, South Korea’s military said. – Reuters


China’s economy showed some renewed signs of weaknesses as key gauges for consumption and investment missed expectations, while Beijing continues to grapple with challenges including a drawn-out property market slump and waning business confidence. – Wall Street Journal

A congressional commission is asking the Justice Department to investigate the role of Beijing after protesters claimed they were beaten and harassed by Chinese government agents in November in San Francisco during an official visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. – Associated Press

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says former President Donald Trump ‘s policies toward China left America “more vulnerable and more isolated” in the global economy, a rare jab by her at the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. – Associated Press

China on Friday pressured Taiwan with a trade barrier probe and warplanes in the Taiwan Strait a month before the island holds key elections, as Taipei called on Beijing to stop its “political operations”. – Reuters

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next month, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, leading a large and senior group of government officials to show Beijing is open for business. – Reuters

Jack Jarmon writes: These central differences in global influence and world visions undermine Russia’s and China’s so-called limitless partnership. Their geopolitical history is fundamentally antagonistic and inevitably distrustful. Each understands that as long as the U.S. continues to be seen as an adversary their pact will hold. But the moment an opportunity arises for a constructive relationship with Washington this marriage of convenience will end with one partner stranded at the altar. – The Hill

South Asia

Pakistan police said three officers were killed on Friday near the northwestern Afghan border during a gun battle that also killed three militants, in an uptick in violence raising security concerns ahead of national elections early next year. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will not travel to India next month, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Nikkei Asia Wednesday, due to the tight political calendar.He had been invited by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be chief guest of the Republic Day parade on Jan. 26. There were also talks of holding a Quad summit the following day in New Delhi with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. – Nikkei Asia

Naad-e-Ali Sulehria writes: Additionally, as Pakistan navigates strained relations with neighboring India and Afghanistan, how will Gen. Munir achieve Pakistan’s long-term security goals? Moreover, how does he plan to navigate its position amid the rivalry between the United States and China without taking sides? Importantly, what specific steps will he take to bridge the gap between civilian leadership and the military establishment, ensuring a cohesive and effective foreign policy strategy? – Middle East Institute


National-security police are ratcheting up their efforts to crack down on dissent overseas, offering bounties for a growing list of Hong Kong activists in exile and arresting people suspected of helping them. – Wall Street Journal

The defense ministers of Japan, Britain and Italy signed an agreement Thursday to establish a joint organization to develop a new advanced jet fighter, as their countries push to strengthen cooperation in the face of growing threats from China, Russia and North Korea. – Associated Press

Generals from Myanmar’s junta held peace talks in June near the border with China with representatives of three powerful ethnic armies. They sat across a wide table covered with blue cloth and decorated with elaborate bouquets. – Reuters

Vietnam and China signed a 16-page joint declaration and 36 co-operation documents in areas such as infrastructure, trade and security, during a visit to Hanoi by Chinese President Xi Jinping. – Reuters

The Philippines is contingency planning for an escalation of hostilities in the South China Sea, according to a senior military official, including a scenario where crew repel Chinese forces attempting to board Philippine vessels. – Reuters

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed U.S. Congress for authorising the sale of nuclear submarines to another country for the first time, allowing the AUKUS defence partnership of Australia, the U.S. and Britain to go ahead. – Reuters

Russia and China conducted a joint bomber flight over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea on Thursday, causing both South Korea and Japan to scramble fighter jets in response. On the same day, the defense chiefs of Italy, Japan and the U.K. signed a treaty in Tokyo to create a formal trilateral organization to manage and develop the Global Combat Air Programme – a next-generation stealth fighter aircraft to be fielded by 2035. – USNI News

Tom Rogan writes: The U.S. should increase its joint naval patrols in these waters, sending destroyers rather than useless littoral combat ships in a clear signal to Beijing. The U.S. should also encourage other nations such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, France, and the United Kingdom to join these patrols. The more nations that China sees standing against it, the more it will be deterred. And the U.S. should push its allies to clarify what they will do if a conflict breaks out between the U.S., the Philippines, and China. On this concern, the Washington Examiner recently asked U.K. foreign secretary David Cameron whether the U.K. would fight alongside the U.S. in such a scenario. He demurred. Top line: tensions are growing. The U.S. and its long-standing Pacific ally must show Xi Jinping that they won’t buckle and are not distracted by conflicts elsewhere. – Washington Examiner

Ryan Ashley writes: Finally, Japan’s experience shows that the United States should approach its role in the Indo-Pacific with a sense of humility. American policymakers should recognize that in many Asian countries the United States is seen not just as an external actor but as a participant in historical memory. This perception calls for a diplomatic strategy that is sensitive to the historical experiences and current sentiments of each nation. Humility in this context means acknowledging past negative American actions across the region, such as U.S. conduct during the Vietnam War or involvement in backing authoritarian regimes in the Philippines and Indonesia. Japan’s rebounding popularity in Southeast Asia suggests that respectful and empathetic long-term dialogue can yield results. Such an approach would enhance U.S. credibility and effectiveness in fostering cooperative security arrangements in a critical region. – War on the Rocks

Michael Martin writes: Congress and the Biden administration should seize this opportunity to rid the people of Myanmar of the scourge of the SAC and its supporters and help form new democratic governments that represent the will of the people. It is time to abandon the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “Five Point Consensus” and efforts to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Instead, it is time for a significant shift in U.S. policy. – Center for Strategic and International Studies


In a major political victory for embattled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the European Union agreed to start membership talks with the country ravaged by almost two years of war with Russia. – Wall Street Journal 

Hungary on Friday blocked the European Union from approving a financial aid package for Ukraine, though E.U. leaders agreed to officially open accession negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc, an important breakthrough for Kyiv as it tries to bolster support from its allies. – New York Times

When they announced plans to reopen a small portion of Finland’s border with Russia on Tuesday, Finnish authorities said that they would be on the watch: If Moscow resumed funneling migrants, they would shut it again. Two days later, they announced a plan to close it, saying dozens of migrants were arriving. – New York Times

To hear the federal prosecutor tell it, the case was a story straight out of a spy thriller: an unremarkable-seeming manager at Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, selling highly classified material to Russia’s secret service even as war raged in Ukraine, with a globe-trotting diamond dealer as a go-between. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke about Sweden’s application to join the NATO alliance, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday. – Reuters

Austria is seeking to have Raiffeisen Bank International, the biggest Western bank in Russia, struck off a Ukrainian blacklist in return for signing off fresh European Union sanctions on Russia, said two people familiar with the situation. – Reuters

NATO’s newest member, Finland, which shares a border with Russia, is to sign a bilateral defense cooperation agreement next week with the United States in a deal that allows Washington to send troops into the Nordic country to bolster its defense and store weapons and military equipment there, among other things. – Associated Press

An academic who entered Norway as a Brazilian citizen and was arrested last year on suspicion of spying for Russia has confessed his real, Russian name, Norwegian authorities said Thursday. – Associated Press

Germany and Turkey agreed Thursday to gradually end the deployment of Turkish state-employed imams to Germany and to instead have imams trained in Germany to serve the country’s large Turkish immigrant community. – Associated Press

Ukraine got a green light Thursday to start sped-up talks on joining the European Union. That’s a big boost for war-ravaged Ukraine and a loud message to Vladimir Putin — but it could be years before the country actually becomes a member of the EU. – Associated Press

The upper house of the Swiss parliament on Thursday blocked an initiative to end the funding of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) after aid groups voiced outrage. – Reuters

 As record numbers of Syrian refugees reach the shores of Cyprus, the Nicosia government wants the European Union to consider declaring parts of their war-torn homeland safe to repatriate them to, the Cypriot interior minister said. – Reuters

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Thursday that those responsible for settler violence against Palestinians would be banned from entering Britain, following a similar plan by the European Union. – Reuters

The Finnish government has announced that it will invest over $130 million over the next three to four years to double the country’s production of artillery and mortar ammunition. The decision, touted by the Finnish Defense Minister Antti Häkkänen in a Dec. 12 post on X, comes amid the European Union’s stagnant progress in increasing ammunition supplies to Ukraine. – Defense News

As long as it takes? Or as long as we feel like it?  For nearly two years, the EU has promised to support “Ukraine and its people for as long as it takes” — taking in millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war of aggression, supporting Kyiv with financial and military aid, rallying diplomatic support across the world, and shrinking its economic and energy ties with Russia. – Politico

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: This includes more-aggressive housing construction, and overhauls of entitlements such as the National Health Service that can’t survive without immigration but also can’t currently serve large numbers of immigrants. All of which helps explain why Rwanda could still cause Mr. Sunak’s administration to collapse. The small boats are more a humanitarian crisis than an immigration crisis. Yet legal, political and bureaucratic inertia is obstructing any solution to even this relatively small problem. – Wall Street Journal


The head of Haiti’s national police visited Kenya Thursday, as local authorities prepare for the deployment of Kenyan police to the Caribbean nation plagued by gang violence. – Associated Press

Families in Sudan’s conflict zones could experience famine-like hunger by next summer, the United Nations has warned, while some in the war-ravaged capital are surviving on a single, meagre daily meal. – Reuters

The parties to a ceasefire in parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have agreed to a two-week extension, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the developments. – Reuters

Conflict, coups and poverty are rising at alarming rates in Africa, where the number of armed groups have more than doubled over the past decade, the International Rescue Committee said. – Bloomberg

Alex de Waal writes: Burhan has not been able to offer concessions because his coalition is fractious. Veteran securocrats from Bashir’s regime are determined to even the military score before negotiating. Some generals have told me they hope that the unlikely combination of Iranian drones and Egyptian intervention might yet save the day. The U.S. government doesn’t have easy options and is relearning that there’s no such thing as benign neglect in Africa policy. Shortchanging Sudan was shortsighted. At least the administration now recognizes that it needs to step up its engagement. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

The leaders of Guyana and Venezuela promised in a tense meeting Thursday that neither side would use threats or force against the other, but failed to reach agreement on how to address a bitter dispute over a vast border region rich with oil and minerals that has concerned many in the region. – Associated Press

Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves on Wednesday welcomed Guatemala’s President-elect Bernardo Arévalo and offered his country’s full support as the elected leader continues to face legal challenges from prosecutors who attempt to derail his inauguration. – Associated Press

Hispanic leaders are warning President Biden and Democratic leaders to step away from border policy talks with Republicans, or risk losing political support ahead of a crucial election year. – The Hill

Desmond Lachman writes: The key question now is whether Milei can build a sustained political consensus for his bitter, but essential, economic medicine. Such a consensus will be highly dependent on public support, in general, and on that of the powerful Peronist labor unions, in particular. For that to occur, the public will need to accept that a high short-term economic cost is the unavoidable price for putting Argentina in a position to realize its considerable economic potential for the first time in many decades. For Argentina’s sake, we must all hope that Milei will succeed where all too many of his predecessors have failed. We must do so even if that might mean allowing our hope to triumph over experience. – American Enterprise Institute

United States

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is retaliating against the House Energy and Commerce Committee for stripping provisions he favored from the annual defense bill, and he’s vowing to block every unanimous consent effort to pass bills from the committee. – Washington Examiner

Top Biden administration officials are scrambling to keep border talks alive as a deal with Senate Republicans over Ukraine funding has grown increasingly elusive, four people familiar with the talks said. – Politico 

Editorial: The disorder at the southern border has fractured the Democratic coalition and damaged public support for admitting the foreign talent that the US needs to compete. By fueling populist anger, it’s also making Donald Trump’s election next fall more likely. If the Democrats miss this opportunity to address the problem, the whole country will pay the price. – Bloomberg

Kimberley A. Strassel writes: Would Americans—especially those in swing districts—appreciate a formal impeachment? Or might there be a backlash from voters who feel lawmakers don’t trust them to make their own decision about Joe’s fitness at the ballot box, informed by the full details of Hunter’s escapades but absent an impeachment drama? The details of the Biden family business already stink, and this investigation may put to rest any doubts about the future impeachment course. What’s already beyond doubt is that it’s the past and current actions of this White House and the president’s son that have led the country to this new moment of political and constitutional upheaval. – Wall Street Journal 

Trevor Sutton writes: If our transatlantic differences are truly irreconcilable, the United States should consider a GASSA-like arrangement with another high-ambition partner—for example, Norway or Canada. Both nations have relatively green steel industries and would likely be more amenable to compromise than a regulatory superpower like Brussels. While such an agreement might not shift markets on the scale that a deal with Europe would, it would still be an important step toward a global economy that is both sustainable and just. – The National Interest


A cyber-espionage group linked to the Iranian government developed several new malware downloaders over the past two years and has recently been using them to target organizations in Israel. – The Record

The information of more than 45,000 people was leaked because of a cyberattack late last month at a federally run nuclear research lab. – The Record

A cyber-espionage group linked to the Iranian government developed several new malware downloaders over the past two years and has recently been using them to target organizations in Israel. – The Record


More than two-thirds of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a defense policy bill on Thursday that includes a record $886 billion in annual military spending and authorizes policies such as aid for Ukraine and push back against China in the Indo-Pacific. – Reuters

The US would be required to acquire tons of domestic nuclear-reactor fuel under a provision included in a defense authorization bill passed by Congress. – Bloomberg

U.S. Special Operations Command should reconsider its plan to buy 75 Armed Overwatch aircraft, a government watchdog said Thursday. – Defense News

A slew of new U.S. Air Force and Space Force programs will remain grounded if Congress does not pass a fiscal 2024 budget, a top service official said. – Defense One

In the four years since Congress established the U.S. Space Force, its budget has doubled. That growth needs to continue in order to meet the increasing demand for space capabilities, according to one of the service’s top officials. – Defense News 

The U.S. government is currently being funded by a continuing resolution, which freezes most spending at 2023 levels and bars the military from starting new programs. The measure expires in February. The House and Senate have both passed a compromise version of the annual defense authorization bill, which is now headed to President Biden’s desk.  – Defense One

The No. 1 challenge facing U.S. military recruiting is the American public’s lack of familiarity with its armed services, the Pentagon’s and services’ civilian personnel leaders testified Wednesday. – USNI News

Long War

Seven people, including four suspected Hamas members, were arrested in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands on suspicion of planning attacks on Jewish institutions in Europe, authorities in the three countries said on Thursday. – Reuters

Hundreds of Yazidi-Americans, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, filed a lawsuit against French cement maker Lafarge on Thursday, accusing it of conspiring to provide material support to a campaign of violence by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. – Reuters

Brian Blum writes: To find a solution to the conflict, “accepting the fact that it’s above all a religious-nationalist conflict, and not some race-based and settler-colonial artificial concept imported from Western campuses, would be a good place to start,” he writes. That’s going to be a tall order, and I’m not in the least bit convinced that either the Muslim world or the West is up to the task. If October 7 couldn’t convince them, what can? But without a sober understanding of who the enemy is, we will lose this war. – Jerusalem Post