Fdd's overnight brief

December 19, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

At a hospital in Tel Aviv, doctors watched a group of children play, looking for clues about what they had endured during the seven weeks Palestinian militants held them hostage. – Wall Street Journal 

The most senior U.S. intelligence and defense officials are beginning a new round of on-the-ground diplomacy aimed at resurrecting talks to release hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza and bringing Israel’s war there to a conclusion. – Wall Street Journal

At a Dead Sea resort more than 70 miles from Israel’s war against Hamas, surviving members of Kibbutz Be’eri are grappling with their losses from Oct. 7 and grasping at ways to stick together. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden and his top aides have engaged in an increasingly awkward dance in recent days, prodding Israel to change its tactics in the war in the Gaza Strip while still offering it robust public support. – The New York Times

Israel will gradually transition to the next phase of operations in Gaza, the country’s defence minister said on Monday following talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about lower intensity combat and ways to reduce harm to civilians. – Reuters

The grandmother has a simple wish for her twin baby granddaughters, Alma and Salma: they should be in a clean, safe room where they can be bathed. – Reuters

A north Gaza hospital that Israeli troops raided is no longer functioning and patients including babies have been evacuated, putting the enclave’s collapsing health services in further peril, a World Health Organization official said on Monday. – Reuters

Israel is surrounded by extremist forces seeking to destroy the country and must therefore increase its defense budget by a significant amount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. […]The country needs “the ability to make alliances both in the region and outside the region,” he said. “This requires a very significant increase in the defense budget.”Bloomberg

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel of trying to starve Palestinians in Gaza, arguing Monday that the Israeli government is using the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the Gaza Strip. – The Hill

Under American pressure, Israel is increasingly raising the amount of humanitarian aid it allows into Gaza. Yet, some Israelis doubt the wisdom of letting any assistance reach the Strip during a military campaign to dismantle Hamas’s control of it.  – New York Sun

Mevaseret Cohen, 27, from Neve Tzuf, was moderately wounded in a shooting attack near Ateret in the central West Bank on Monday. The armed terrorist shot at least six bullets towards the front of the car, all while he was driving. He then exited his vehicle and started walking towards the family, probably to ensure they were dead. – The Jerusalem Post

The Hamas terror group published a propaganda video Monday showing three elderly Israeli hostages who were abducted during its devastating October 7 assault on Israel. – The Times of Israel

IDF troops continued their intense battles against Hamas in the heart of Gaza on Monday, as Israel allowed the expansion of the amount and types of humanitarian aid entering the Strip. The military said it had taken full control of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, arresting Hamas gunmen as its forces advanced in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. – The Times of Israel

President Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Monday announced a special clemency scheme for war-affected families, who have accrued debt due to fines and have come under severe economic strain. The new scheme was launched to provide relief from fines, especially in the construction and planning fields. – The Times of Israel

The Israeli army announced on Tuesday morning the deaths of two more soldiers in fighting in Gaza, bringing the death toll to 130. They were named as Master Sgt. Daniel Yacov Ben Harosh, 31, and Capt. Rotem Yoseff Levy, 24. – Haaretz

Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib writes: It must be ruthlessly criticized and rejected, especially because it is serving the goals and interests of anti-peace Israeli factions. How can Hamas claim to be a resistance group seeking the liberation of Palestinians when its Passover Massacre resulted in the occupation of the West Bank and its Oct. 7 attack will result in the full destruction and reoccupation of the Gaza Strip? Weakening Hamas begins with normalizing criticisms of its ideology, its violent agenda and its subjugation of the Palestinian people. – Wall Street Journal 

Joel B. Zivot writes: In the Israel-Hamas war, the horror of the act of rape grips us and shocks the consciousness. The idea that these mass rapes were not simply the spoils of war but a tactic intended to instigate the current Israeli response must be realistically considered. Hamas has shown itself to be capable of playing a deadly long game and proven itself implacable, cruel and single-minded. As Hamas seeks to crush Israel from the river to the sea once and for all, it draws Israel into the predictable response that will see tens of thousands of Gazans killed. Hamas appears willing to make that sacrifice. The undecided question is whether Hamas will rise out of the rubble that remains of Gaza, however miserably, by this “risk it all” bet. – The Hill

Zvi Bar’el writes: Turkey understood this well when it established civilian local authorities in Afrin and other areas of Syria that it has occupied. The areas rely on Turkish bureaucracy and on militias that have established local councils under Turkish supervision and direction. The center of control for Afrin is in Turkey’s Hatay province and control is maintained via a governor. Teachers, doctors, municipal clerks and others in charge are appointed directly by the Turkish governor. The local police also report to the Turkish authorities and Turkish military forces are stationed at bases on Afrin’s outskirts in an area adjacent to the Kurdish region. – Haaretz

Daniel Byman and Delaney Duff write: This pain, in turn, may inflict the highest price for Hamas: the loss of support among ordinary Palestinians. As the suffering of war fades while the loss and destruction endure, Palestinians may see Hamas as a dangerous organization rather than a heroic one. For that to be true, however, there need to be credible options for negotiations and other peaceful ways for Palestinians to achieve statehood and other goals. Only this will truly discredit violent resistance as the best option for Palestinians. – Foreign Policy

Yohanan Plesner writes: But given the multiplying threats against Israel—both from enemies without and from antidemocratic forces within—the risk of inaction is acute. In ushering in a new constitutional order, Israel has the rare opportunity to complete one of the great unrealized goals of its founders. If Israelis can achieve this lofty goal in the wake of the worst national catastrophe since the Holocaust, then they will have successfully turned the terrible tragedy of October 7 into a historic opportunity to not only defend the Jewish state, but to secure its democratic future for generations to come. – Foreign Affairs

Iran

Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji on Monday confirmed that a nationwide disruption to petrol stations was caused by a cyberattack. – Reuters

Iran must stop its support of Houthi attacks on freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Monday, as he also pledged continued military support for the Gaza war. – The Jerusalem Post

A sophisticated hacking group linked to Israel claimed responsibility on Sunday for carrying out a cyberattack that disrupted a significant portion of Iran’s gas stations.  – CyberScoop

Editorial: Tehran might conclude that the U.S. fears escalation so much that it can keep its proxies in action on multiple fronts with impunity. Eventually Iran’s rulers have to know that their assets—military and nuclear—are at risk if they continue to foment disorder, attack U.S. allies, and target American bases or ships. The expanding Houthi threat, like the Hamas massacre and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is another example of the disorder that spreads when U.S. deterrence fails. The restoration of deterrence is crucial to reducing the spread of global mayhem. It should be front-and-center in the U.S. presidential campaign. – Wall Street Journal

Russia & Ukraine

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, engineers at Convex, a Russian telecommunications company, needed to find American equipment to transmit data to the country’s feared intelligence service. But no gear was flowing in after Western nations imposed sweeping new trade limits on Russia. – New York Times

A Russian court has asked the country’s prison service to provide it with information on the whereabouts of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, whose associates say has been missing for almost two weeks from the penal colony where he is serving a series of sentences totaling 30 years. – Wall Street Journal 

Ukraine’s top general on Monday issued his strongest criticism to date of a previous presidential decision to fire regional military draft office chiefs, Interfax Ukraine reported. – Reuters

Polish truckers on Monday resumed their blockade of one of the main crossings at the Ukrainian border, a protest leader said, a week after it was temporarily lifted. – Reuters

Frontline Ukrainian troops face shortages of artillery shells and have scaled back some military operations because of a shortfall of foreign assistance, a senior army general told Reuters. – Reuters

As Russian troops poured into Ukraine at the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February last year, alarm was rising at a flagship Kremlin nuclear project in neighboring Belarus, just a short distance from the European Union’s border. – Bloomberg

The impasse over aid from the US and Europe has Ukraine’s allies contemplating something they’ve refused to imagine since the earliest days of Russia’s invasion: that Vladimir Putin may win. – Bloomberg

Ukraine’s Black Sea grain corridor is performing better than expected, but stronger air defense is needed to quicken ship loading times and better shield ports, according to Kyiv’s top infrastructure official. – Bloomberg

The White House is planning to release one more package of military aid for Ukraine before the end of the year but warned it could be the last one until Congress acts to approve more assistance. – The Hill 

The Ukrainian military is reportedly being forced to scale back or change some of its war plans due to a shortfall of ammunition on the battlefield. – Newsweek

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military carried out heavy assaults throughout Ukraine, and Kyiv reported these efforts resulted in heavy Russian troop losses over the past three days. – Newsweek

Public trust in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has started to slip as the war against Russia continues. – Newsweek

Germany approved orders for more than $400 million worth of 155mm artillery shells for Ukraine in recent days, in separate deals with Rheinmetall and an unidentified French company. – DefenseNews

Britain has mounted its first defense trade mission to Ukraine as the government here steps up efforts to secure military business with Kyiv. – DefenseNews

J. French Hill and Lulzim Basha write: Mr. Putin must pay for his aggression and war crimes. Strong legislation to seize all Russian sovereign assets is a start. U.S. action would send a compelling signal, urging the West to bolster its collective effort in support of Ukraine’s fight for its sovereignty, territory and democracy as Europe’s bulwark against Russian aggression. Collective action now would also put other authoritarian nations on notice that there are significant financial consequences under both international law and new national legislation for wrongful acts against sovereign countries. – Wall Street Journal

Harlan Ullman writes: Suppose U.S. intelligence is correct that Putin now understands that he cannot win in Ukraine. And deadlock, even if he is hoping for a Trump victory in 2024, is not a viable solution. Does this suggest Putin may be seeking talks? Or if they are ongoing, is he prepared for serious negotiations on the Ukraine war in the near term? Whether or not Putin’s presser opened the door, the idea is worth considering. – The Hill

Syria

Jordan on Monday launched several aerial raids into its northern neighbour Syria against hideouts of Iranian-backed drug smugglers in retaliation against a large-scale smuggling operation, regional intelligence sources said. – Reuters

The IDF targeted a Syrian military position in response to launches toward Israeli territory, it said on Monday evening. – The Jerusalem Post

Ishtar Al Shami writes: Nevertheless, the call remains for all occupying forces to leave Syrian territory. And ultimately, for many Syrians it appears that the people of Suweida are in the process of creating a new chapter of the Syrian revolution, one that balances their intense desire for freedom, human rights, and dignity with a commitment to avoiding further violence and bloodshed in a country wracked by years of civil war. – Washington Institute

Egypt

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al Sisi was re-elected president in an election in which he faced no serious competition, but his third term comes with one of the biggest challenges for his leadership—preventing a spillover of the war in neighboring Gaza. – Wall Street Journal 

For most Egyptians interviewed by The Post, their willingness to cast a ballot appeared to stem less from love of the president than from a deep fear that has taken hold here since Oct. 7, when the Hamas assault on Israel triggered the war in neighboring Gaza. – Washington Post

Two Egyptian security sources said on Sunday that Israel and Hamas are both open to a renewed ceasefire and hostage release, although disagreements remain on how it would be implemented. – Reuters

Like many others in the Middle East, when Dalia Ziada, an acclaimed Egyptian author and civil rights activist, woke up to the news of fighting between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, she thought it was just another round of clashes between the old foes, who for 16 years have regularly exchanged tit-for-tat rockets and airstrikes.- Jewish Insider

Yemen

Global oil prices jumped on Monday after the energy giant BP said it had stopped sending tankers through the Red Sea, a vital shipping lane which has become an increasingly dangerous route because of drone and missile attacks targeting merchant ships launched by the Houthi armed group in Yemen – New York Times

Attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militants on ships in the Red Sea are disrupting maritime trade and prompting U.S. efforts to build a coalition to deal with the threat, as freight firms reroute around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid the Suez Canal. – Reuters

Italy is considering whether to join a Western naval coalition meant to protect ships in the Red Sea from attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthis of Yemen, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

The U.S. and a host of other nations are creating a new force to protect ships transiting the Red Sea that have come under attack by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced early Tuesday in Bahrain. – Associated Press

Gulf States

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday in which he condemned attacks by Yemen’s Houthi movement on commercial vessels in international waters in the Red Sea, the State Department said on Monday. – Reuters

The war in Gaza leaves Mohammed bin Salman with a choice. In 2024, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince could keep using the kingdom’s $700 billion Public Investment Fund to buy Western corporate and sporting trinkets. A more far-sighted policy would see him help finance the reconstruction of Palestine. – Reuters

US efforts to counter Yemen’s Houthi rebels as they attack ships in one of the world’s most important waterways are hitting a major roadblock because of disagreements among Washington’s Arab allies, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Oman, a Gulf state known for its neutrality and close ties to both the US and Iran, is gearing up for a key review from a global watchdog on dirty money — hoping to avoid the fate of the neighboring United Arab Emirates. – Bloomberg

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement, which receives substantial funding from the Government of Qatar, advised the families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza not to criticize the Gulf state, which is a major financial backer of Hamas. – Jewish Insider 

Ahmed Hagagy writes: Some believe he may move to further align Kuwait with Riyadh. His first calls after taking on Sheikh Nawaf’s duties were with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his first trip outside of Kuwait was to Saudi Arabia, which he has visited more than any other country. As emir, he will have to grapple with long-running strains between the ruling family and its critics in the perpetually deadlocked and fractious parliament, which critics say has hindered fiscal and economic reform – The Jerusalem Post 

Aziz Alghashian writes: The problem with the previous peace process is that it proved to be structurally doomed to fail, given the dramatic asymmetry in power between Palestinians, Israel, and its ardent defender in Washington. Before Riyadh steps up and shows greater assertiveness on this issue, the Saudi ruling elites need to see a clear political horizon and an improved structure to the peace process. At that point, they might use their considerable financial leverage to shape the outcome. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

Two jets—one American, the other Russian—were approaching the same runway, each carrying a single prisoner, both monitored by a Turkish intelligence officer in the control tower. – Wall Street Journal 

France’s foreign minister urged Lebanese leaders on Monday to work on reducing tensions along the border with Israel, warning that the Israel-Hamas war could still spread to other parts of the region. […]While she was in Beirut, Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group exchanged fire with Israeli troops along the tense frontier, which seen violent exchanges since Oct. 8. – Associated Press 

Israel has edged closer to an all-out war with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement amid a worsening round of hostilities playing out as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is already engaged in its most intensive conflict to date in the Gaza Strip, an IDF official has said. – Newsweek

Nir Levitan writes: More than two months after the terrorist assault carried out by Hamas against Israel, the Middle East faces a critical period marked by the escalating influence of Iran within the region. The emergence of four conflict fronts – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen– expanded the conflict with Gaza to involve neighboring nations and underscored Iran’s strategic encirclement against Israel. – The Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test-fire of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Tuesday. The North’s newest ICBM can be launched faster and farther than any of the regime’s previous models. Kim said the launch demonstrated North Korea was prepared should Washington make a “wrong decision” against his country.- Wall Street Journal

International troops stationed on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom on the border with North Korea who had been unarmed can resume carrying guns, the United Nations Command (UNC) said on Tuesday. – Reuters

In a joint announcement on Tuesday, South Korea, Japan and the United States said they had activated a system to detect and assess North Korea’s missile launches in real-time and established a multi-year trilateral military exercise plan.- Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol picked on Tuesday former vice foreign minister Cho Tae-yul as the country’s new foreign minister and national security advisor Cho Tae-yong as the new spy chief, Yoon’s office said.Both nominations come as tensions with North Korea have increased this year after Pyongyang launched a spy satellite in November and tested an intercontinental ballistic missile this week. – Reuters

Michael Rubin writes: Prior to the 2007 Hamas coup, the Palestinian Authority arranged for Iranian frigates to dump weaponry overboard in sealed containers that Palestinian fishermen would then recover. North Korean or, more likely, Iranian frigates transporting North Korean weaponry might have done the same. Two decades ago, pundits pilloried President George W. Bush when he spoke of an “Axis of Evil.” Then, as now, they substituted condescension, volume, and ignorance for consideration of fact. Terrorists are intersectional. It is time to investigate any North Korean component of Hamas terrorism. – Washington Examiner

China

More than 100 people are dead and many more were injured after a shallow earthquake struck northwestern China’s Gansu province late Monday night, according to local authorities and state media reports. – Wall Street Journal

Demoralized by a weak economy, unfulfilling jobs and a paternalistic state, young Chinese such as Li are looking for pathways out of the carefully scripted lives their elders want for them, putting themselves at odds with the country’s priorities. – Wall Street Journal 

Look for Communist China to rev up intimidation of the island democracy of Taiwan as campaigning intensifies for next month’s election of a new president of the Republic of China. – New York Sun

The U.S. ambassador to China is hopeful relations between Washington and Beijing will continue to improve in military-to-military communications and cabinet-level exchanges on key issues such as trade and cracking down on fentanyl precursor exports, but “we need to see how things develop. – USNI News

Derek Scissors writes: Senator Rubio and others last week introduced a major step forward in getting the information policymakers need. The second step is preventing American funds from helping the PRC in a few key areas. This can’t be done by targeting individual firms, Beijing will just swap in other firms.  The model is existing US restrictions on exports to China and Chinese acquisitions here. Certain technologies already covered should be off-limits to American investors, too. Start with the most urgent, then build up knowledge and capabilities to get the policy right. – American Enterprise Institute

Asia

Fifteen suspected drug smugglers were killed and about 2 million methamphetamine tablets seized in northern Thailand near the Myanmar border after a shootout with Thai soldiers, Thai officials said[….] Myanmar has historically been Southeast Asia’s main drug production area in part because of lax security measures in border areas where minority ethnic groups have long been fighting for greater autonomy.”Associated Press 

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said a “paradigm shift” was needed in how his country approaches the South China Sea issue, as diplomatic efforts with Beijing were headed “in a poor direction”. – Reuters

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen expressed condolences to China on Tuesday and offered her government’s help after an earthquake killed more than 100 people on the northern edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. – Reuters

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said he will travel to Sydney on Wednesday to meet Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese and discuss the two countries’ security and economic relationships. – Reuters

Taiwan’s ruling party has seen its lead in the race to be the next president shrink, as the race heats up less than a month before voting. – Bloomberg

Devon Cone and Sabiha Khan write: The United States, Canada, and the European Union should expedite resettlement programs that have languished over the past two years with renewed urgency. And donors must step up to help Pakistan share the responsibility of hosting millions of their Afghan neighbors. As Zahab pours her freshly brewed tea, she fears that this will be the day she and her children are deported. She was a parliamentarian in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over her country. Looking from her expired visa to her phone filled with threatening text messages, she wonders, what next? At this point, Pakistan is her only hope to survive. – Newsweek

Brian C. Chao, Jahara Matisek, and William Reno write: Taken together, the five steps outlined in this article would signal Washington’s long-term commitment to support Taiwan and deter China. The United States can no longer strategically afford a lackadaisical approach to Taiwan. Codifying and institutionalizing our suggested security assistance and cooperation concepts would finally move the needle back in Taiwan’s favor, developing the needed defensive posture to counter bellicose Chinese cross-strait actions. – War on the Rocks

Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, long a thorn in the side of the European Union, is now trying to upend its plans, using his veto in an effort to pry loose money and tilt EU policy. – Wall Street Journal  

Importers of coffee to the European Union are starting to scale back purchases from small farmers in Africa and beyond as they prepare for a landmark EU law that will ban the sale of goods linked to the destruction of forests, a cause of climate change. – Reuters

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani criticised Israeli forces on Monday for allegedly shooting and killing people in a Christian compound in the Gaza Strip, saying such actions would not help in its war to defeat Hamas. – Reuters

France will impose measures on Israeli settlers who have attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, its foreign minister said on Monday, a day after meeting Palestinian farmers in Ramallah, who had been targeted in recent weeks. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday too many civilian lives had been lost in the Israel-Hamas conflict and he repeated his call for a “sustainable ceasefire” to allow the release of hostages. – Reuters

Germany and Lithuania signed off on a plan for stationing a permanent brigade of some 4,800 German troops in the Baltic nation over the next four years to reinforce NATO’s defenses on the alliance’s eastern flank. – Bloomberg

The US and Denmark will sign a defense cooperation agreement later this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. – Bloomberg

The European Union and the US will extend a truce on steel and aluminum imports, avoiding a possible return of billions of dollars in tariffs on transatlantic commerce. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Congress could employ the power of the purse in an attempt to stop implementation of a withdrawal, but that couldn’t stop the actual decision. The NATO provision is nonetheless useful in showing Europe that U.S. support for the alliances is strong and bipartisan. And for showing any isolationist President, whether a populist of the right or left, that the political price for withdrawal would be high. – Wall Street Journal 

Editorial: What a missed opportunity. Brexit should have freed the U.K. to cast off European protectionism, the U.S. should have been eager to welcome British cousins into closer economic ties, and both countries would have benefited. One hope for President Biden was that he’d be better than Mr. Trump on trade, but three years later his record is hardly distinguishable from his predecessor’s, and that’s no compliment to Mr. Trump. – Wall Street Journal 

Susi Dennison and Pawel Zerka write: For any of this to be credible, however, European leaders need to develop a more convincing case for how Ukraine can win. A Ukrainian victory requires Europe to invest in its defense industrial capacity, so that it can sustain Ukraine, even if Washington stops. Russia is banking on its ability to outlast Western support for Ukraine, and that bet needs to be proved wrong. – Foreign Affairs

Africa

Since the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, as the law is officially known, there have been arrests and hundreds of human rights violations involving L.G.B.T.Q. people, according to a report by Convening for Equality, a coalition of human rights groups. Gay and transgender people have been evicted by landlords, as required by the law…More quietly, the law is exacting a grim economic tollThe New York Times 

At least 250,000 to 300,000 people have fled Sudan’s El Gezira state since Dec. 15 as a result of clashes between the Rapid Support Forces and Sudan’s army, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Monday. – Reuters

Ethiopia is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to borrow around $3.5 billion under a reform programme, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. – Reuters

A commercial vessel hijacked by unknown assailants remains off the coast of Somalia raising fears of further instability for global shipping as attacks escalate in the Red Sea, maritime security sources said on Monday. – Reuters

Kenya and the European Union moved closer to sealing an Economic Partnership Agreement that will grant the East African nation’s exports duty-free status and unlimited access to the bloc, officials said on Monday. – Reuters

Bamue, like millions of Congolese who will head to the polls on Dec. 20, has seen little improvement in living conditions despite Congo’s vast critical minerals wealth, and promises made by President Felix Tshisekedi when he came to power in 2019. – Reuters

The Americas

China’s Sinochem Corp has bought a million barrels of Venezuelan crude oil for arrival in December, a rare purchase as the state oil and chemicals group capitalises on Washington’s suspension of sanctions on the South American producer. – Reuters

A vote in Chile to reject a new constitution on Sunday reduced regulatory uncertainty but does not resolve social discontent or political divisions, rating agencies said on Monday. – Reuters

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) urged Brazil on Monday to reconsider its mandatory expenditures and dismantle trade barriers in order to bolster the potential growth of Latin America’s largest economy. – Reuters

A junior British foreign minister on Monday said Guyana’s territorial integrity should be respected as he visited the Commonwealth country after neighbouring Venezuela renewed its claim to the oil-rich Essequibo region. – Reuters

Max Klaver writes: That push—paired with a renewed Argentine effort to strike trade deals, a drive from Lula to deepen south-south economic ties, and everyone’s desire to skirt U.S.-China geopolitical tensions—could give Mercosur’s leaders some common objectives, potentially breathing energy into the bloc. – Foreign Policy

United States

Republican former President Donald Trump is planning to fundamentally alter America’s relationship with Europe should he win a second term in office. On the campaign trail, he has also floated sending armed forces into Mexico to battle drug cartels and slapping expansive tariffs on friends and foes alike. – Reuters

Rep. Katie Porter said the U.S. should push for a “lasting bilateral ceasefire” in the war between Israel and Hamas, a shift from her previous lockstep alignment with the Biden administration on the issue. – Politico

San Francisco prosecutors on Monday began charging 80 protesters who last month blocked traffic for hours on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while demanding US President Joe Biden call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. – The Times of Israel

Cybersecurity

The ransomware gang behind several devastating attacks on major American cities has allegedly launched more than 300 successful incidents since June 2022, according to cybersecurity officials in the United States and Australia. – The Record 

A man facing extradition to the United States for his alleged role as a LockBit ransomware administrator is up against new cybercrime charges in Ontario. Mikhail Vasiliev, a 33-year-old Canadian-Russian dual national, was first arrested in October 2022 at his home in Bradford, Ontario as part of an international operation involving European, American and Canadian authorities. – The Record

One of the largest mortgage loan servicers in the U.S. said the information of nearly 14.7 million people was leaked during a previously reported cyberattack in October. – The Record

Both Russia and China attempted to influence the 2022 U.S. midterms but did not successfully hack into the country’s election infrastructure or otherwise disrupt voting, the U.S. intelligence community said on Monday – The Record

Hackers infiltrated the systems of billion-dollar software giant MongoDB and accessed customer information during a recent cybersecurity incident, the company said over the weekend. – The Record

The hack of Ukraine’s largest telecommunications operator, Kyivstar, was “one of the highest-impact disruptive cyberattacks on Ukrainian networks” since Russia invaded the country last year, British defense intelligence said. – The Record

Defense

When the Pentagon pulled the world’s biggest defense contractors into a meeting to tell them to ramp up production shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, one CEO hesitated, saying they did not want to be stuck with a warehouse full of rockets when the fighting stopped, according to three people familiar with the discussion. – Reuters

Congress is pushing the Missile Defense Agency to field interceptors that can defeat hypersonic weapons more quickly than planned in the recently passed fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. – DefenseNews

Masao Dahlgren writes: The conflict in Ukraine has made it clear that missiles “are foundational to adversaries’ way of war.” Future missile threats, however, increasingly stress existing missile defenses, flying lower, faster, and on unpredictable trajectories. Most importantly, they are difficult to detect—defeating them will require elevated sensors, on aircraft or satellites, to track them at range. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Spencer Faragasso writes: In addition, Western companies should exercise voluntary constraints. They should simplify their supply chains and distribution networks. As stated in previous Institute reports, major suppliers should stop using distributors to sell critical parts. Instead, the company and its subsidiaries should sell them directly, which would allow for centralized internal compliance systems to catch suspicious inquiries and for more thorough checks of declared end-uses and end users. 26 In addition, certain critical Western parts should not be exported to China, since it is unwilling to implement controls on the onward export of Western electronic and other goods known to be used in Russian military drones. – Institute for Science and International Security