Fdd's overnight brief

February 26, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he won’t agree to a deal to free the remaining hostages held in Gaza until Hamas yields on its demands, and that Israel will press ahead with a campaign to defeat the militant group’s remaining battalions in the southernmost reaches of the strip. – Wall Street Journal

American and Arab officials are intensifying efforts to narrow the gaps between Israel and Hamas in a deal to pause the fighting in Gaza and free Israeli hostages, Egyptian officials said, after a crucial meeting in Paris helped revive stalled negotiations. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined a blueprint for postwar Gaza that calls for it to be administered by local Palestinian officials free of links to militant groups and for Israel to conduct security operations in the strip indefinitely. – Wall Street Journal

Officials negotiating Gaza cease-fire talks have tentatively agreed to the “basic contours” of a deal, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday, adding that the United States hopes a final agreement can be reached “in the coming days.” – Washington Post

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a reversal of the previous administration’s position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Friday, saying they are “inconsistent with international law.” – Washington Post

A man is in critical condition after setting himself on fire while wearing military fatigues midday Sunday outside the Israeli Embassy in D.C., authorities said. – Washington Post

Omer Sharar had just received the first delivery of his new GPS anti-jamming technology when Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on October 7. Since then, he and his team at InfiniDome, a start-up based in Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv, have been working around the clock to prevent the army’s mini-drones from being intercepted by cheap and simple jamming in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Biden & Co. think they can force Israel to accept whatever deadly terms they impose. That’s not going to happen, and their pressure can only harm the Jewish state. The sooner the White House gets that message — and backs Israel, as it promised it would — the better the chances for peace. – New York Post

David Ignatius writes: The deal Burns is trying to broker wouldn’t resolve any of the big questions about Israel and the Palestinians. But it would at least prevent a terrible situation in Gaza from getting even worse. And a pause in fighting would open the way for other, bolder proposals from the United States and its allies that might create a pathway toward a real solution. – Washington Post

Parker Miller writes: However, skeptics wonder if that will be the case this time around as well, given the cost and scale of Israel’s military operation in Gaza and the hostile state of affairs in the Middle East. If Hamas’s attack on Israel succeeded in doing anything, it was stirring the pot between Israel and its enemies. – Washington Examiner

Iran

Iran denied on Friday that it had provided ballistic missiles to Russia, after the United States said there would be a severe international response to any such move. – Reuters

A Spanish former politician who survived a shooting attack said on Friday he believed Iran’s government had hired hitmen to assassinate him over his links to an Iranian dissident group – Reuters

The Israel Air Force under commander Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar has officially established an Iran department in response to Tehran’s growing threat against Israel. This department will handle all military preparations for potential future attacks by Iran, and is mainly set to combat the Iranian nuclear program. – Jerusalem Post

A study conducted by the Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry that was leaked to Persian press abroad revealed that the majority of Iranians wish for a secular government, Iran international reported last week. – Jerusalem Post

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei on Sunday called Western civilization “crooked” and said, “The right culture and correct logic of Islam will overcome it,” Iranian state media reported. – Jerusalem Post

In a speech on Saturday, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander-in-Chief Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami claimed that the Iranian regime’s security is based on its capabilities of foiling Israeli “espionage services.” In his remarks, Salami reiterated the regime’s position that the security of Muslims worldwide, as well as Palestinians, hinges on the eradication of the State of Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, called on Iranians to boycott the upcoming elections in Iran in a post on Saturday. – Jerusalem Post

Ruth Wasserman Lande writes: The horrific scenario that Tehran is striving for is that the Jordanian government will no longer be able to stop the millions of Palestinians living there from forcefully entering the State of Israel. The optimal strategic answer to all of the above is the creation of an effective Saudi-led alliance of Sunni countries, which Israel and the Western countries will join in order to make sure that the Iranian threat is curbed. – Jerusalem Post

Erfan Fard writes: The implications of a nuclear-armed Iran loom large, not just as a threat of war but as a testament to the failures of a policy that has allowed misery, poverty, destruction, and ruin to proliferate across regions like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The path forward demands not just recognition of past errors but a committed and strategic engagement to foster change, ensuring a future where the specter of the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions no longer casts a shadow over global peace and security. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian soldier Alen Dudnik has spent almost his entire adult life at war. Now 28 years old, Dudnik started fighting Russia a decade ago when the Kremlin seized Crimea and started stirring up trouble in eastern Ukraine. He is still at it, on the front line near the occupied eastern city of Bakhmut. – Wall Street Journal

Russia authorities have handed over the body of Alexei Navalny to his mother, his team said, after days of wrangling over who should oversee the burial of the opposition leader’s remains following his death in an Arctic prison camp just over a week ago. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration, under pressure to deliver on a 2021 promise of “devastating” consequences if top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny should die in Russian custody, released a raft of sanctions on Friday to punish Moscow that U.S. officials privately concede are likely to land a limited blow. – Wall Street Journal

It is a familiar episode on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, with Ukraine on the defensive amid shortages of military personnel and ammunition in a war that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands on both sides. Helped by incremental gains, like the one Kuprianov couldn’t stop, Russia last week captured the eastern city of Avdiivka, its first significant advance in nine months. – Wall Street Journal

Around 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia launched its invasion two years ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, highlighting the scale of Ukraine’s sacrifice ahead of a decisive vote in the U.S. Congress on military aid to Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Two years later, Ukraine has proved a formidable foe, regaining half of the land initially occupied by Russia and inflicting staggering casualties on Russia’s much more powerful military. Europe, too, has absorbed the economic shock of severing Russian natural-gas supplies and is boosting its military spending and commitments to Ukraine. This month the European Union passed a new $54 billion aid package for Kyiv, overcoming objections by Hungary. It’s in the U.S., however, that Putin’s wager appears to be paying off, at least for now, as Moscow has successfully inserted itself into America’s culture wars. – Wall Street Journal

The American-led effort to support Ukraine against its larger adversary has faced an array of obstacles, including the formidable task of revamping the West’s defense industrial base and Putin’s willingness to accept enormous losses—about 350,000 killed or wounded, according to Britain’s Defense Ministry—in pursuit of his objectives. But the principal challenge has come at home, where additional U.S. military assistance to Ukraine has been stymied by Donald Trump-aligned House Republicans who question the importance of Ukraine for American security and in some cases even the centrality of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance itself. – Wall Street Journal

Billions in potential American aid to Ukraine is stuck in monthslong limbo on Capitol Hill, and to the Trump-loving partisans attending this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, that’s exactly as it should be. – Wall Street Journal

The underground bunker, built to replace the destroyed command center in the months after Russia’s invasion, is a secret nerve center of Ukraine’s military. There is also one more secret: The base is almost fully financed, and partly equipped, by the C.I.A. – New York Times

A senior Capitol Hill staff member who is a longtime voice on Russia policy is under congressional investigation over his frequent trips to Ukraine’s war zones and providing what he said was $30,000 in sniper gear to its military, documents show. – New York Times

Russia is preparing a new offensive against Ukraine starting in late May or summer, but Kyiv has a clear battlefield plan of its own, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday. – Reuters

Russia launched 14 attack drones and a barrage of missiles at Ukraine overnight, with air defence systems destroying nine drones as well as three guided missiles over the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukraine’s air force said on Monday. – Reuters

Ukraine tripled its weapons production last year and 500 companies are now working in the country’s defence sector, Kyiv’s strategic industries minister said on Sunday. – Reuters

The US imposed sanctions on Russian oil-shipping giant Sovcomflot PJSC, joining the UK and other allies in a fresh bid to clamp down on President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to evade a price cap on crude exports. – Bloomberg

Ukrainian drones attacked a plant owned by Russia’s biggest steelmaker overnight as Kyiv continues to strike beyond its borders in a war that’s entering its third year. – Bloomberg

The Pentagon’s inspector general said its criminal investigators have opened more than 50 cases related to aid provided to Ukraine, including some involving contractors, but have yet to firm up any allegations. – Bloomberg

Russia will give a “symmetrical” response to any actions by the US and its allies that target its frozen assets abroad, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: For now, there’s no need to aim so high — stopping the madness in outer space would do. Putin’s assault on decency, order, humanity and indeed sanity has gone far enough. It’s now up to the US and China together to ensure that Putin won’t go astral. – Bloomberg

Daniel DePetris writes: In reality, the latest U.S. sanctions against Russia aren’t going to have a major impact on Putin’s decision-making calculus and preferences. They certainly won’t convince him to stop the war or call off any number of Russian military offensives that are currently ongoing along the 600-mile-long front line. Why? Because for Putin’s Russia, taking an economic beating is far preferable and more manageable than taking a military beating in Ukraine — particularly when a Russian defeat will complicate Russia’s geopolitical position, expose Russia as a weak power, and bring Ukraine even closer into Western economic and security institutions. Ultimately, policy change is what sanctions are all about. Absent that, these latest designations are nothing more than symbolism and public relations. – Washington Examiner

Isobel Coleman writes: Ukraine has already demonstrated the return on investment our assistance can provide. On this anniversary, we must demonstrate the fortitude to keep it up. That is why it is vital for Congress to provide military, economic, and development assistance for Ukraine. – The Hill

Evelyn N. Farkas writes: Sen. McCain wrote in 2013 in an article addressing the Russian people that he was “more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today,” and that “the Russian people, no less than Americans, are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Putin may have intended the murder of Navalny to be a display of strength, but it instead just reinforces his weakness and fear of his own people. Just as Russia’s neighbors deserve a future free from Russian aggression, the Russian people deserve a future free from Putin’s repression. It’s time to start thinking more concretely about making that future a reality. – The Hill

Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth write: The United States, NATO and the European Union cannot afford to be cowered by Putin’s nuclear threats — an oratorical Cuban Missile Crisis. Russian forces in Ukraine are vulnerable, and the West must play its substantial military advantages by arming Ukraine with the right weapons in sustained quantities sufficient to win the war and secure democracy in Europe. Putin’s nuclear threats must not go unanswered. Washington must confront Putin just as President John Kennedy did Nikita Khrushchev. – New York Post

Hezbollah

Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Monday it had shot down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone over Lebanese territory with a surface-to-air missile, the second time it has announced a downing of this type of unmanned aerial vehicle. – Reuters

Defense minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said there would be no let up in Israeli action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, even if a ceasefire and hostage deal is secured in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

Air defenses intercepted rockets shot at towns near the restive northern border and a fighter jet shot down a drone heading into Israel as fighting along Israel’s northern border showed no sign of slowing Saturday. – Times of Israel

Afghanistan

The Taliban held a public execution on Monday of a man convicted of murder in northern Afghanistan as thousands watched at a sports stadium, the third such death sentence to be carried out in the past five days. – Associated Press

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban carried out a double public execution Thursday at a stadium in the country’s southeast, where relatives of the victims of stabbing deaths fired guns at two convicted men while thousands of people watched. – Associated Press

An 84-year-old Austrian man who traveled to Afghanistan last year and was arrested there was released by the country’s Taliban rulers, the Austrian government said Sunday. – Associated Press

Beth Bailey writes: Durrani said that she hopes international pressure will force the Taliban to confront human rights violations against women and “at least start a conversation on lifting bans.” Her other hopes are more ambitious, that “in the next five to eight years, we have a generation that has healed the trauma of war and can get the ball rolling on rebuilding [Afghanistan].” As her beautiful and heart-rending stories of women on fire for change prove, Durrani and the women she has educated will be up for the task. – Washington Examiner

Syria

A court in Cyprus on Saturday ordered two men to remain in police custody for six days on suspicion of people smuggling. The men were identified as the drivers of two boats that brought 146 Syrian refugees and one Lebanese migrant to the east Mediterranean island nation. – Associated Press

A blast from a land mine left by the Daesh group killed at least 13 civilians foraging for truffles in the Syrian desert, a war monitor said. – Agence France-Presse

An Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members at dawn on Sunday, a war monitor said. – Agence France-Presse

Iraq

Iraq’s authorities have captured two members of the Islamic State group in an operation outside the country and brought them home, where they confessed to committing crimes during the rule of the extremist organization, the intelligence department said Saturday. – Associated Press

Iraq’s prime minister announced Friday the reopening of the Beiji refinery, the country’s largest, which had been shut down for a decade after being damaged in the battle against the Islamic State extremist group. – Associated Press

Salem al-Ketbi writes: Interestingly, Iranian authorities have asserted that there are no IRGC bases or barracks in Syria and Iraq. We surmise, therefore, that all the bombed sites belong to groups loyal to but not directly affiliated with Tehran, such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or Al-Hashd al-Shaabi and the Fatimiyoun Brigade. It is also worth noting that the US has defined its counter-attacks as only the beginning of retaliatory measures. – Jerusalem Post

Turkey

The Biden administration said on Friday it has imposed new trade restrictions on 93 entities from Russia, China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, India and South Korea for supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. – Reuters

An exposé by HaKol HaYehudi shows tight relations and strong collaboration between Ra’am, an Islamist party in Israel, and a Hamas-affiliated organization in Turkey, promoting violent and inciteful rhetoric. – Jerusalem Post

Turkish lawyer Feyza Altun was detained after she made a post criticizing Islamic law, known as Sharia, on social media, according to local media reports. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon

Wages for Lebanon’s soldiers have fallen so low that many now have second jobs driving for Uber or working as parking valets. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to support the country’s emergency response services. Angry depositors in Beirut have attacked the headquarters of a major bank with fireworks because it wouldn’t release their savings. – Washington Post

Israel’s military says it struck targets near Sidon in southern Lebanon on Monday. – BBC

Neville Teller writes: He may also believe, with some analysts, that with its recruitment drive, Hamas is initiating a longer-term aim of forming a new young cadre of supporters, deeply imbued with Hamas’s beliefs and objectives, to carry on its anti-Israel crusade from within Lebanese territory. Nasrallah, acting in accordance with Iran’s own longer-term strategy, will view any such intention with suspicion. It is perhaps this disparity in influence that Hamas is intent on redressing, as it strengthens its position inside Lebanon and seeks to make it a second military front from which to continue its struggle against Israel’s very existence. – Jerusalem Post

Egypt

The United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have come to an understanding of “basic contours” of a hostage deal for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on CNN on Sunday. – Reuters

Diana Shipping (DSX.N) on Friday joined some of the world’s largest shipping companies in avoiding the Suez Canal route following a spate of attacks on ships by Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea. – Reuters

Egypt said on Friday it had signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates to develop a prime stretch of its Mediterranean coast that would bring $35 billion of investments to the indebted country over the next two months. – Reuters

Mohamed Farid and Mohamed Maher write: Egypt can contribute significantly to the region’s recovery. But all this requires keeping the lines of communications open as Tel Aviv develops its future plans and avoiding reaching a point where Cairo feels compelled to respond. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Nir Barkat met his Saudi counterpart on the sidelines of a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday, voicing confidence the countries can “make history together”, Barkat’s spokesperson said. – Reuters

Qatar will raise natural gas production despite a recent steep drop in global prices, in a long-term bet on rising demand for the less polluting fuel in Europe and Asia. – Reuters

Most British exporters and manufacturers have felt an impact from disruption in the Red Sea caused by attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, according to a survey. – Agence France-Presse

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that all “heavy” prisoners released in an expected Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal would be sent directly to Qatar upon their release from Israeli jails, N12 reported on Sunday evening. – Jerusalem Post

Yemen

The U.S. and the United Kingdom conducted a series of strikes at 18 Houthi targets at eight different locations inside Yemen Saturday, part of a continuing effort to fight back against the Iran-backed group that has continued to attack commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea. – Wall Street Journal

A cargo ship damaged by a Houthi missile and abandoned in the Red Sea is slowly taking on water, the U.S. military said early Saturday, warning that its sinking could be environmentally disastrous because of a large load of fertilizer it was carrying. – New York Times

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said early on Monday that Yemen’s Houthis launched one anti-ship ballistic missile likely targeting the MV Torm Thor, but missed the U.S.-flagged, owned and operated oil tanker, in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 24. – Reuters

American forces shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea on Friday and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles positioned on land, the US military said. – Agence France-Presse

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia have reported the first civilian death in US and British air strikes after the latest round of joint raids over the weekend. – Agence France-Presse

Four underwater communications cables between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have been struck out of commission in recent months, presumably as a result of attacks by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, according to an exclusive report in the Israeli news site Globes. – Jerusalem Post

Jeff Martini and Gian Gentile write: When these state-backed militia groups launch subsequent attacks, which they will, critics of the policy are likely to repeat the mantra that these military actions do not have the intended deterrent impact. A fairer assessment would be whether the U.S. military strikes are degrading the groups’ ability to launch the scope of attacks the groups would have absent the intervention. Either way, the attacks are coming. Supporting a U.S. policy that holds the potential to make them less effective is the only way to diminish their impact in the near term. – The Hill

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has hired banks to tap the debt market for the second time this year with an Islamic dollar bond, a document emailed to the banks on Monday and reviewed by Reuters showed. – Reuters

An additional 15 trillion standard cubic feet of gas have been proven at Saudi state oil company Aramco’s Jafurah field, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Sunday. – Reuters

The CFA Institute is working to expand its membership network in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia a key focus as the country opens up its financial markets and looks to diversify its investment industry. – Bloomberg

Amazon has paid $1.9m to hundreds of current and former workers in the wake of revelations by the Guardian and other media partners about abuses against migrants who labored at the online retail giant’s warehouses in Saudi Arabia. – The Guardian

Gulf States

The United Arab Emirates and Kenya have concluded a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi said on Friday. – Reuters

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said on Friday that a vessel reported a “suspicious” sighting of three small craft and another large one approximately 175 nautical miles east of Oman’s Qalhat LNG terminal. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates was removed from a global watchdog’s “gray list” on Friday, less than two years after the Gulf state’s demotion, capping a push by local authorities to clamp down on illicit financial flows. – Bloomberg

The world’s trade ministers gathered in the UAE on Monday for a high-level WTO meeting with no clear prospects for breakthroughs, amid geopolitical tensions and disagreements. – Agence France-Presse

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whose country has played the key mediation role in the Gaza war, visits Paris this week for talks with President Emmanuel Macron, the French presidency said Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Libya

For now, she just fights for 8-year-old Fatma. The child has spent virtually all her life with her mother and aunt — Hamrouni’s eldest daughters — raised in detention in Libya, where the women wound up after leaving home as teenagers and joining Islamic State group extremists. – Associated Press

An oil field in western Libya and a natural gas link to Italy resumed after a short halt as protesters withdrew from the facilities following assurances from the government that their demands would be met. – Bloomberg

The Government of Germany has renewed its partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in support of Libyan elections. – UNDP

Middle East & North Africa

The main United Nations aid agency that serves Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the region has “reached a breaking point,” its leader has warned, as donors have pulled funding from the agency and Israel imposed further restrictions on its operations and called for its closure. – New York Times

A court in Tunisia sentenced former president Moncef Marzouki to eight years in prison in absentia as part of the country’s crackdown on opponents of President Kais Saied. – Associated Press

The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said he and his government will resign, though it’s unclear if President Mahmoud Abbas will accept the resignation. – Bloomberg

A Tunisian court has slapped a six-month prison term on opposition figure Jawhar Ben Mbarek, detained since February 2023, over remarks criticizing the country’s latest elections, his lawyer said Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Hamas stated that the Islamist terror organization does not care about the reported imminent possibility that Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s government would resign, Al Arabiya reported on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: In insisting on this essential, core change to Palestinian society, the plan effectively says: ‘This is how we move forward; it starts with education.’ To say that the Palestinians should accept it is beyond our reach, but it is something our government must continue to insist on as hostage deal talks continue. It is the only way to make real, mindful change. – Jerusalem Post

Will Marshall writes: And if Israel fails to dislodge Hamas, the best outcome it can hope for in this war is to extend the period before the next terrorist attack. Unless and until the Palestinians choose new leaders who unequivocally accept Israel’s right to exist, justice, dignity and statehood will continue to elude them. The grand illusion of possessing all the land “from the river to the sea” can only yield endless war. – The Hill

Korean Peninsula

Korea might be the next Japan for investors, with its stock market shaken out of slumber by an activist shareholder in the unlikely form of its government. – Wall Street Journal

A group of 60 top students from South Korean technical universities on Friday completed the first “Future Chips Academy” in Eindhoven, intended in part to help attract much-needed foreign semiconductor engineering talent. – Reuters

A top U.S. official on North Korea held a video call this week with China’s envoy on Korean Peninsula affairs in which they discussed the growing military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, the State Department said on Friday. – Reuters

South Korea and the United States flew advanced stealth fighters in a joint missile-interception drill Friday over the Korean Peninsula, South Korea’s air force said, an apparent response to a spate of weapons tests this year by rival North Korea. – Associated Press

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul expressed concerns over growing military cooperation between North Korea and Russia at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Friday, Yonhap News reported. – Bloomberg

Next time the North Koreans stage a huge parade featuring their latest long-range missiles, all eyes are likely to be on another new model in their inventory. That would be an eight-ton, armor-plated limousine that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is gifting North Korea’s strongman leader, Kim Jong-un. – New York Sun

China

China firmly opposes the United States imposing sanctions on Chinese enterprises for Russia-related reasons, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s finance ministry has been discussing with its Chinese counterparts the possibility of taking out loans in yuan, but there has been no decision yet, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told state media in remarks published on Monday. – Reuters

A former head of a Chinese aeronautics university sanctioned by the Trump administration for links with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has become a deputy of a ministry in charge of advancing Chinese technological innovation. – Reuters

A Hong Kong journalist group has raised concerns about a planned new security law, saying a broad definition of offenses could hurt journalists’ ability to report in the Asian financial hub. – Bloomberg

The US has narrowed the gap with China in the number of diplomatic posts they both run, according to a new report, highlighting the nations’ race for influence around the world. – Bloomberg

American CEOs used to swoon over China. Its vast pool of consumers has been a magnetic draw for decades. But doing business there has become so fraught and risky – with intellectual property theft and an expanded espionage law used to intimidate the business community – that U.S. companies have pressed the pause button. – CBS News

Gordon G. Chang writes: Beijing’s new friend, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, in 2022 managed, in what an opposition leader correctly termed a “power grab,” to get parliament to postpone the next general election. China is turning the Pacific into its preserve, one casino and island group at a time. And Congress, by not meeting America’s financial obligations, is content to let the Chinese regime turn America’s most loyal allies against America. – The Hill

South Asia

Hundreds of supporters from Pakistani Islamist parties on Friday rallied to protest against what they say were blasphemous remarks by the country’s chief justice. – Reuters

Senior U.S. diplomat Richard Verma on Friday met Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry in Colombo, and discussed Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and progress on its IMF program, the U.S. State Department said. – Reuters

Farmers in India’s northern Punjab state demanding higher prices for their crops from the national government are relying on young students to ensure the agitation’s momentum does not fizzle out. – Reuters

Anti-Muslim hate speech in India rose by 62% in the second half of 2023 compared to the first six months of the year, a Washington-based research group said on Monday, adding the Israel-Gaza war played a key role in the last three months. – Reuters

India’s Assam state has scrapped an 89-year-old law that allowed marriage involving underage Muslims, against opposition from leaders of the minority community who called the plan an attempt to polarise voters on religious lines ahead of elections. – Reuters

One person died and another was injured in a bomb blast at a college in Imphal, the capital of India’s northeastern state of Manipur, on Friday night, security officials said. – Reuters

Thwel, whose home in Myanmar’s southern Mon state is the scene of occasional combat between the army and resistance forces, spoke on condition she be called by only one name as protection from the military authorities. Like many professionals, she joined the Civil Disobedience Movement that was formed to oppose military rule after the army’s 2021 seizure of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. – Associated Press

Pakistan’s imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan is writing a letter to the International Monetary Fund urging it to link any talks with Islamabad to an audit of the country’s recent election, which his party alleges was rigged, an official from his party said Friday. – Associated Press

Asia

An influential congressman has suggested SpaceX is withholding satellite service in Taiwan potentially in violation of its obligations to the U.S. government, the latest geopolitical dust-up for the company’s leader, Elon Musk. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Coast Guard and Kiribati police boarded two Chinese fishing boats during a patrol against illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands nation’s vast exclusive economic zone this month but found no issues aboard, a coast guard official said. – Reuters

China’s Fujian coast guard conducted patrols in waters near Kinmen on Feb. 25, China Coast Guard said. The Kinmen islands are administered by Taiwan. – Reuters

China is willing to work with New Zealand to continue strengthening cooperation in the process of joining The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, its commerce minister said. – Reuters

Indonesia and Australia held high-level talks in Jakarta on Friday as the neighboring countries seek to strengthen security ties by signing a defense cooperation agreement in the coming months. – Associated Press

Chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. opened Saturday in an official ceremony its first semiconductor plant in Japan as part of its ongoing global expansion. – Associated Press

Feleti Teo has been elected unopposed as the next prime minister of the small Pacific nation of Tuvalu, a decision which may have implications for one of Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies in the region. – Bloomberg

Ben Lewis writes: The United States must make clear to China that its military activities could spark a war and are no longer acceptable. Washington should also coordinate with Taipei on more effective ways to deter Chinese provocations, such as through increased information sharing, air patrol exercises and ensuring that the island is fully equipped and prepared to defend its sovereignty. America’s strategic attention is being consumed by wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. But if the United States takes its eye off the perilous situation facing Taiwan, there soon may be no lines left for China to cross. – New York Times

Karishma Vaswani writes: That is a legitimate concern, but hiding behind cautious language is not doing much good. Manila has shown that proactively defending its territory can reap dividends — at the very least, speaking up brings the world’s focus back on what Beijing is doing. Shining a light on things is uncomfortable, but necessary. Ignoring the situation just allows it to fester and the problems to grow. – Bloomberg

Christine Arakelian and Michael Rubin write: The age when the United States can rest on its laurels is over. It cannot take small nations for granted. Rather than view the cultivation of ties with buffers like Armenia as a distraction from more pressing security problems, a wiser policy would recognize that small investments in democratic, Western-leaning countries like Armenia can pay huge diplomatic, security, and economic dividends. – Defense & Aerospace Report

Michael Rubin writes: The question should never have been Ukraine or Taiwan, but both. If the defense budget is not large enough to tackle both crises or to match China’s military buildup, the response should not be surrender, but rather enhanced defense. Such spending may force tough choices on social service spending, but the status quo is not tenable. Failure to meet the challenge will only mean a greater cost down the road. Leadership is not appeasing partisan echo chambers, but rather reaching across the aisle to sway and prepare all Americans for the challenge that all must meet. – 19FortyFive

Europe

The race to stave off disaster in Ukraine’s war against Russia is unfolding in the battle-scarred fields and forests of Eastern Europe and, in a small way, a quiet wooded area of southwest Finland. – Washington Post

Amid a number of high-stakes elections to be held around the world this year, the East European nation of Belarus on Sunday offered an alternative to the unpredictability of democracy: a vote for Parliament without a single candidate critical of the country’s despotic leader. – New York Times

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on Friday declared an end to a monthslong spat with Sweden over the expansion of NATO, saying that a visit by his Swedish counterpart had rebuilt trust and paved the way for the Hungarian Parliament to vote on Monday to ratify the Nordic nation’s membership in the alliance. – New York Times

The Netherlands said on Friday it will sign a 10-year security deal with Ukraine for continued military support, help in reconstruction and the improvement of its cyberdefences. – Reuters

Hungary blocked European Union member states from signing a joint statement to mark two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Switzerland hopes to establish talks for peace in Ukraine by the summer, Defense Minister Viola Amherd said in an interview with newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung. – Bloomberg

Europe needs to support Ukraine by tapping Russia’s frozen assets, according to Lithuania’s finance minister. – Bloomberg

European Union finance ministers are clashing over options to unify the supervision of national capital markets as the bloc is trying to bring closer the diverging systems to spur private investment for priorities including the green transition or defense. – Bloomberg

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday that Brussels will begin unblocking payments of up to €137 billion ($148 billion) of aid to Poland starting next week, praising Warsaw’s attempts to restore the rule of law after years of populist rule. – Bloomberg

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed a security conference in the Slovak capital Bratislava less than a year ago with an apology to Eastern Europe: “We did not always hear the voices you brought,” he said. “That time is over.” – Bloomberg

Editorial: Europeans could and should have done all of this years ago, but the point is that they’re doing it now. America’s investment in Europe’s defense was cheap at the cost even when Europe wasn’t pulling its own weight in NATO, and the benefits for the U.S. will increase as Europeans continue to come to political grips with the dangerous new world. – Wall Street Journal

Jakub Grygiel writes: Europeans should be afraid. But the primary object of their fear is more immediate. They should arm themselves regardless of what a U.S. president, or a presidential candidate, says. – Wall Street Journal

Africa

U.S. officials are waging urgent diplomatic efforts in West Africa, searching during public tours and private meetings for ways to partner with military governments in a region where violence wrought by Islamist extremists is soaring and Russia’s influence is expanding. – Washington Post

Bombs that struck houses, markets and bus stations across Sudan, often killing dozens of civilians at once. Ethnic rampages, accompanied by rape and looting, that killed thousands in the western region of Darfur. – New York Times

For years, Chinese companies and their contractors have been slaughtering millions of donkeys across Africa, coveting gelatin from the animals’ hides that is processed into traditional medicines, popular sweets and beauty products in China. – New York Times

Ethiopian police have arrested a French journalist on suspicion of “conspiracy to create chaos”, his employer said on Monday. – Reuters

An airstrike in Ethiopia’s Amhara region killed at least 15 civilians, including children and elderly people, when it hit a truck carrying them to a village this week, three residents said. – Retuers

At least 15 Catholic worshippers were killed in a Burkina Faso village on Sunday when gunmen attacked a community as they gathered for prayers in the country’s conflict-hit northern region, church officials said. – Associated Press

Prosecutors said Friday they are seeking extradition orders and the arrest of more suspects over the 2020 theft of around $580,000 in U.S. cash that was hidden in a couch at South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ranch. – Associated Press

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States on Saturday lifted far-reaching sanctions imposed on Niger after a coup last year. – Bloomberg

The black-and-red bulk carrier AT 27 arrived in Guinea on Africa’s west coast last month. On it was a typical cargo: 25,000 tons of wheat destined for Mali, a neighboring country that’s facing severe food insecurity. The goods, though, were not part of any ordinary trade. The 170-meter-long ship docking in Conakry was one of several dispatching free grain promised by Russian President Vladimir Putin to six African countries. And the largesse comes with a different price. – Bloomberg

Authorities loyal to the army in war-ravaged Sudan have blocked cross-border aid to the western Darfur region, a move decried by aid workers and the United States. – Agence France-Presse

Mesfin Tegenu writes: The American government and its allies must use their influence, moral and economic, to force the Abiy regime to end the state of emergency and withdraw its troops from the region. The bloodshed in Merawi is a warning that Ethiopia is rapidly sliding into a season of genocide and famine. The world cannot stand by idly, as it did in Rwanda with such tragic results. The time for international action is now. – The Hill

The Americas

At the upcoming Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting in Guyana, the United States will push for more support for a security mission to Haiti, State Department official Brian Nichols said on Friday. – Reuters

Venezuela has received a $500 million payment from Haiti for fuel supply to the island sent as part of a regional cooperation agreement, the South American country’s information ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Caribbean leaders met with embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry on Sunday to talk about his country’s unrelenting gang violence, with one top official noting that his continued presence as head of government remains a main stumbling block to progress. – Associated Press

Six members of a religious congregation in Haiti and a teacher have been kidnapped while gathered in front of a school in the capital, officials said. – Associated Press

Latin America

A former Vitol commodities trader has been found guilty of charges stemming from schemes to bribe officials at state oil companies in Ecuador and Mexico. – Wall Street Journal

Osvaldo Romero and his wife got off a battered boat Friday under the scorching sun of central Venezuela and walked up the bank of a river barefoot, their pants soaking wet and eyes showing the shock of having faced days earlier one of the country’s deadliest mining disasters. – Associated Press

A political change in Venezuela would be the biggest incentive for the nation’s migrants in the US to return to their homeland, according to a recent poll seen by Bloomberg News. – Bloomberg

Jair Bolsonaro led supporters at a rally in the heart of Brazil’s biggest city on Sunday in an attempted show of force against political opponents and the country’s Supreme Court as the former president faces a litany of legal troubles. – Bloomberg

Argentine President President Javier Milei met Donald Trump during a US conservative conference and said he hopes he’ll return to the White House, then delivered a professorial lecture on economics to a crowd more attuned to election-campaign rhetoric. – Bloomberg

The president of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, is defending his assertion that Israel is committing a Holocaust-style genocide against Palestinian Arabs at Gaza, saying that his own imprisonment could not break his will, and neither will criticism from Israeli and other foreign officials. – New York Sun

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Yet Mexico’s rule-of-law crisis predates this government and it may be hard to solve without a paradigm shift in civil society. “The first step toward understanding the extortion phenomenon consists of knowing that its prevalence in Mexican society is a result of it being socially acceptable,” says Mr. de la Calle. “While the practice is accepted as part of how economic agents behave, it is not the result—as some state—of a cultural need.” Instead, it’s an institutional failure that Mexicans have the power to correct. – Wall Street Journal

Andres Martinez-Fernandez writes: Moreover, the U.S. and the international community could stand clearly and unequivocally with Maria Corina Machado, supporting her invaluable efforts to pressure Maduro’s dictatorship from within Venezuela by making demands for her guaranteed safety and for her ability to participate in internationally observed elections. If Biden refuses to change course, Congress must act and hold the administration accountable for its failure, forcing it to honor its commitment to reimpose sanctions. – The Hill

North America

Criminal gangs behind the U.S. drug epidemic are seeing accelerated growth, commanding greater control over more territory in Mexico, where they are largely free to murder rivals, neuter police, seize property and strong-arm municipalities into giving them public contracts. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. is pushing Canada to impose visa requirements on Mexican visitors, aiming to stem a surge in illegal crossings at the northern border as immigration shapes up as an election-defining issue across North America. – Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced a fresh batch of sanctions on Russian people and businesses as the second anniversary approaches of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Canada will provide Ukraine C$3 billion ($2.2 billion) in aid this year to prop up the war-ravaged economy and boost its military as Kyiv looks for ways to hedge against a potential shortfall in US assistance. – Bloomberg

United States

Donald Trump extended his sweep of the early Republican primary contests with a decisive victory in South Carolina on Saturday, soundly defeating the state’s former two-term governor, Nikki Haley, as he marches to the Republican nomination. – Washington Post

Two days before the Michigan Democratic primary, speakers at a rally on Sunday in Dearborn, Mich., urged voters to withhold their support from President Biden over his policy on the war in Gaza — and said that only Mr. Biden and Democrats who support his Israel policies would be to blame if the protest vote helped former President Donald J. Trump win in November. – New York Times

The judge who hit Donald Trump with a $355 million verdict in New York’s civil fraud lawsuit over his asset valuations said the former president owes another $99 million in interest, largely affirming an estimate made public last week by the state attorney general. – Bloomberg

Raffaella Sadun, a co-chair of Harvard University’s antisemitism task force, has stepped down from the group and will be replaced by Jared Ellias, a law professor. – Bloomberg

George F. Will writes: The political air is thick with the theory that Trump’s nomination is something to be anticipated with certainty and accepted philosophically. He is, however, a blimp filled with two lighter-than-air gases — the charisma of wealth, and an aura of invincibility among Republicans. He has lied ludicrously about the former; Haley can continue to dissipate the latter. – Washington Post

Walter Clemens writes: Now most GOP politicians follow Trump’s zeal for scrapping the most successful alliance in history and cutting aid to the heroes blocking Russia’s dictator from further assaults on the free world. Reversing Teddy’s maxim, these politicians chatter loudly and carry no stick. – The Hill

Niall Ferguson writes: They don’t realize that ceasing to be number one, losing the Pax Americana, has massive costs. These are the things people don’t spend enough time thinking about because they just complacently assume that all of this stuff is going on over there in Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan, but somehow we’ll be fine. But the reality is we would not be fine, any more than we would have been fine if the Soviets had won the First Cold War. – New York Post

Cybersecurity

The AI chip battle that Nvidia has dominated is already shifting to a new front—one that will be much larger but also more competitive. – Wall Street Journal

The Supreme Court this week confronts a clash of views about free-speech protections on the internet, in a pair of cases pitting such social-media giants as Meta and Google against the states of Texas and Florida over legislation curbing the platforms’ power to moderate users’ posts. – Wall Street Journal

The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against tax-preparation service H&R Block, alleging the company used deceptive marketing and unfairly deleted consumers’ tax data. – Wall Street Journal

Google suspended the ability to generate images of people in its flagship chatbot following an online backlash around the tool’s treatment of race and ethnicity. – Wall Street Journal

Pharmacies warned of long waits for customers and U.S. military clinics worldwide have been affected after a cyberattack against one of the country’s largest prescription processors rolled into a third day of downtime. – Wall Street Journal

Canadian federal police said on Friday their systems were targeted by an “alarming” cyberattack but there was no impact on operations and no known threat to the safety of Canadians. – Reuters

Editorial: Conservatives are understandably concerned that left-leaning tech companies want to exclude their ideas. There is no easy solution to this problem. Exposure and condemnation of the censorship has helped. But it never turns out well for conservatives, or anyone else, when the supposed remedy is giving government more power to control speech. The Supreme Court can make that clear to Texas and Florida. – Wall Street Journal

Philip Hamburger writes: Whereas the censored once merely had to defend themselves when prosecuted, they now need to persuade a court to stop the censorship. The current federal censorship thus silences Americans and puts the burden of proof on those who wish to speak. And even when they meet that burden, as in the current cases, they usually can’t get damages or a timely and effective injunction. – Wall Street Journal

Henry I. Miller writes: The FDA has done an exemplary job regulating the application of AI in medical imaging, carefully balancing the need for innovation with oversight to deliver safety and improved care for patients. The FDA should continue to be responsible for the oversight of AI in medical imaging while Congress, regulators, and product developers in other industries address the range of regulatory concerns in other forms and applications of AI. – The Hill

Rachel Chiu writes: The Supreme Court’s decision on these transparency provisions will have significant consequences for online speech and the technology sector at large, especially since lawmakers intend to regulate AI and emerging technologies through similar requirements. The states’ social media disclosure requirements do not fit into the Zauderer exception and thus violate the First Amendment. – The Hill

Zia Muhammad writes: Companies integrating AI models should be aware of the biases and strive to make their models fairer. They need to introduce transparency to the training methods and data used for AI models. As we approach the 2024 elections, we need to be vigilant and proactive, to ensure that AI serves and does not subvert democracy. – The Hill

Daniel Lyons writes: It’s also important to note that Title II reclassification limits federal preemption in two important ways. First, Section 2(b) generally prevents the FCC from preempting regulation of purely intrastate communications. Second, Section 332(c) specifically preserves state authority to regulate “other terms and conditions” of wireless services beyond rates and market entry. Thus, reclassification could conceivably allow an enterprising state regulator to act in these areas regardless of how the agency addresses the preemption issue. As the Trump FCC learned, it’s important for the agency to think carefully about the role states might play in whatever regime the agency designs moving forward. – American Enterprise Institute

Defense

Two Mississippi National Guardsmen died after a two-seat U.S. military attack helicopter crashed on Friday during a routine training flight in Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves said. – Reuters

A suspected hobbyist balloon that was intercepted by fighter jets over Utah has left US airspace, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said Saturday. – Bloomberg

Owen West writes: The service chiefs and service secretaries must present a unified front and remove Genesis from the recruiting ecosystem. Health requirements must be replaced by a simple, modern standard based on performance. We no longer have the luxury of stapling restriction upon restriction to winnow a volunteer overflow. Finally, recruiters must be given back latitude to use their hard-earned experience to detect who will perform well. It’s time to get back to commonsense at the grassroots, which the military-industrial bureaucracy seeks to stifle. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is probably too late for the Navy to expect any more relief from Congress in 2024. The following fiscal year is another matter; however, the shipbuilding budget must increase significantly in 2025, or else the Navy may find itself forced to relinquish at least one of the missions that heretofore has been deemed critical to the nation’s security. – The Hill

Long War

Shamima Begum, who traveled from her home in London to Syria with two friends in 2015 when she was a teenager to join the Islamic State terrorist group, has lost her latest bid to regain her British citizenship. – New York Times

Editorial: The answer to the question of whether a diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible, and whether it can be done with two states, is dimming by the day. As this paper’s editorial said on Thursday: “Other ideas can be introduced to replace the classic two-state mirage that most Israelis no longer see as a path to peace.” Until those ideas are introduced, tensions, hate, history, and disappointment continue to pile up on everyone’s shoulders. Our leaders need to begin talking about these ideas. We are years and years too late, and the bodies are piling up. – Jerusalem Post

Daniel Hagari writes: Our mission is to dismantle Hamas and bring our hostages home—not to destroy Gaza or displace its people. Hamas’s strategy may shift from massacring Israeli civilians to hiding behind Gazan civilians, but our strategy remains consistent and clear: Ensure that Oct. 7 never happens again. We will continue fulfilling this mission while upholding our values and exposing the true face of Hamas to the world. – Wall Street Journal