Fdd's overnight brief

February 28, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Hamas officials said on Tuesday that there had been no breakthrough in the mediated talks with Israel aimed at pausing the war and freeing the remaining hostages in the Gaza Strip, one day after President Biden said he was hopeful that a cease-fire would be in place by next week. – New York Times

But as the military has withdrawn soldiers from Gaza in recent weeks and the troops have returned home, they have found their country less like it was after Oct. 7 and more like it was before: torn by divisive politics and culture clashes. – New York Times

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Tuesday that she had personally urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to increase commercial engagement with the West Bank, contending that doing so was important for the economic welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians. – New York Times

The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said on Tuesday the Israeli military had stalled a medical evacuation convoy in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, detaining a paramedic and forcing others to remove their clothes. – Reuters

At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – are one step away from famine, a senior U.N. aid official told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that widespread famine could be “almost inevitable” without action. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he had consistently resisted pressure to end the Gaza war prematurely and that this stand has popular U.S. support that “will help us continue the campaign until total victory” over Hamas. – Reuters

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza will help Israel’s economy rebound after the war, partly because its fresh experience of warfare is set to boost military technology sales, its economy minister said on Tuesday. – Reuters

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Monday repeated his claim that Israel helped create the Palestinian terror group Hamas that it is battling to crush in a deadly offensive. Borrell spoke in response to questions about his assertion in January that Israel had “created” and “financed” the terror group. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: If a “revitalized” PA means a wholly revamped and restructured PA, with new leaders, new policies, new textbooks, and hands-on input from countries like the United Arab Emirates rather than Qatar, that would be one thing. If, however, it means just pouring old wine into a new bottle, then that is something else entirely. Shtayyeh’s resignation may be an effort to just replace old bottles with new ones. – Jerusalem Post

Dahlia Scheindlin writes: While I talked with a former resident of the kibbutz who said that there was no price too high to be paid for their release, two teenage girls sat next to us, chatting. One was the daughter of a hostage; the other had been a hostage herself, released in November. It was awful to imagine erasing her, or any of the remaining hostages, from the frame, as a sacrifice to a war in which more innocent people will be killed; a war that cannot be won without laying the groundwork for the next war. – New York Times

Amir Avivi writes: But none of the above will materialize without two crucial conditions. For starters, a clearly defined and reasonable Israeli strategy that harmonizes core Israeli interests and international expectations, drawing the framework for a better future for Israelis and Gazans. And second, American leadership to guide the above-mentioned parties towards defined goals. – Times of Israel

Ghaith al-Omari writes: For such an approach to succeed today, U.S. leadership is necessary but not sufficient. PA leaders will likely try to blunt American pressure by seeking support from other foreign donors. The Biden administration must therefore ensure that key regional and international stakeholders are on board with the above approach and conveying a similar message to the PA. – Washington Institute


The United States targeted Iranian and Houthi commanders and a vessel that shipped more than $100 million in Iranian commodities to businesses in China in sanctions announced on Tuesday. – Reuters

Britain on Tuesday imposed sanctions on units of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), targeting those who it said were enabling the work of the Houthis, the Iran-linked group responsible for attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. – Reuters

Widespread discontent over the cratering economy, years of mass protests rocking the country, and tensions with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program and Iran’s support for Russia in its war on Ukraine have many people quietly saying they won’t vote in this election. – Associated Press

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday warned that Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are trying to use Ramadan to inflame the region so as to achieve another October 7 disaster against Israel. – Jerusalem Post

A “terror plot” targeting a police car in southeastern Iran with a roadside bomb failed on Wednesday, killing one of two militants, a provincial public prosecutor said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. – Jerusalem Post

Seth Cropsey writes: The issue is the degree to which Iranian manipulation of the U.S. has already succeeded. Washington has failed to respond seriously to an Iranian attack since Oct. 7, holding to the lie that Tehran isn’t in control of an axis it quite obviously is. The result is American paralysis, which will only intensify as Iranian pressure increases. – Wall Street Journal

Micah Halpern writes: The links that Iran has fostered with Russia and China will continue unchanged, even under a new presidency. This alliance is significant not just because it empowers Iran to continue to bust US sanctions but also because, together, they create a nexus that holds the belief that the United States should not dictate and direct world affairs. So, yes, elections are coming up in Iran. But it does not matter who sits in the political seats of power in Iran. Iran is not about to change. – Jerusalem Post

Jeremy Hunt writes: Sgt. Rivers, Sgt. Sanders, and Sgt. Moffett are heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Their deaths are a devastating result of Iran’s proxy war, and a stark reminder that our brave soldiers are on the front lines against a vast, allied terror network in the Middle East.The Islamic Republic of Iran is the catalyst for all our problems in the Middle East. Their connection to each and every individual threat is not episodic and not coincidental. It’s time we admit it, and act accordingly. To do otherwise puts too many brave Americans at risk. – Hudson Institute 

Russia & Ukraine

The need to create such “Frankenguns” comes after two years of war that have meant many of the weapons donated by the West are now destroyed, damaged or in need of new components. Ukraine is on the defensive after Russian forces recently took the eastern city of Avdiivka. – Wall Street Journal

A Russian court sentenced one of the country’s most prominent human-rights activists to 30 months in prison for criticizing the war in Ukraine, part of a widening campaign to crush dissent and enforce domestic support for Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor. – Wall Street Journal

As the Russian military launched its offensive on the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka last fall, Ukrainian troops noticed a change in their tactics as column after column of Russian forces were ravaged by artillery fire. – New York Times

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in the Albanian capital of Tirana, Albanian Foreign Minister Igli Hasani said on Wednesday. Zelenskiy is expected to attend a security summit involving Ukraine and six countries of the Western Balkans, the first such meeting as Russia’s invasion drags into its third year. – Reuters

Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday it had withdrawn from two more villages near the eastern town of Avdiivka which was captured earlier this month by Russian forces, losing more territory as support from its Western allies runs short. – Reuters

Russia will escalate an ongoing influence operation this spring aimed at destabilising Ukraine and scuppering international support for Kyiv in its two-year-old war with Moscow, Ukrainian intelligence warned on Tuesday. – Reuters

Marc Champion writes: This week, an official in Moldova’s breakaway province of Transnistria said it was about to request annexation by Moscow, no doubt in response to a request from the Kremlin. Putin was only half joking in 2016, when he said to a school child that “Russia’s borders do not end.” If Macron wants to lead a successful European defense of Ukraine it can be done, but he has his work cut out. – Bloomberg

Gregory J. Wallace writes: The refusal of House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) even to hold a vote on Ukraine military aid may hand Ukraine to Putin — and that’s before a possible Trump presidency and a Republican majority Senate. The old Kremlin masters of the American Communist Party never dreamed they could accomplish anything like this. – The Hill

Wilson Beaver writes: The United States cannot care more about a European war than Europeans do, and has in fact contributed more than its “fair share” already. Meanwhile, the primary threat to American interests lies in the Pacific, a theater routinely downplayed by the foreign policy elites in Washington. While Russia is an opportunistic power that may seek power and advantage episodically, it is far less of a threat to U.S. national security interests than China. – Heritage Foundation 

James Holmes writes:  That’s why 2022 was a good year for Ukraine with regard to attracting Western help. Ukraine withstood a much stronger antagonist when few expected it, and it undid many of that antagonist’s territorial gains through venturesome operations that fall. Last year was less good because the much-ballyhooed Ukrainian spring offensive availed little. The counteroffensive made fitful progress at best. Prospects for regaining martial momentum this year are likewise glum. – The National Interest


Lebanon’s Hezbollah will halt fire on Israel if its Palestinian ally Hamas agrees to a proposal for a truce with Israel in Gaza – unless Israeli forces keep shelling Lebanon, two sources familiar with Hezbollah’s thinking told Reuters on Tuesday. – Reuters

The United States does not want to see tensions rise further between Israel and Hezbollah, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, adding that Israel had assured Washington it wants a diplomatic solution. – Reuters

The IDF attacked military buildings and terrorist infrastructures of the Hezbollah terrorist organization in several areas in southern Lebanon early Wednesday morning, Israeli media reports. In addition, the IDF attacked a terrorist squad in the Eyta al-Sha’ab area. – Jerusalem Post


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

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) put the lives of Afghans who had helped the British military “at risk” with an email error, according to a monetary penalty notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). – The Record

James Durso writes: The envoy will have to fight to get on the Taliban foreign minister’s calendar. Seventeen countries maintain embassies in Kabul, the latest being Azerbaijan, which officially opened its embassy on Feb. 15. And, on Jan. 29, the emirate convened a conference in Kabul attended by representatives of 11 countries, including Russia, India, China, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The conference underlined the fact that, while the U.S. and Europe are staying away, Afghanistan’s neighbors are pragmatically seeking to engage the emirate. – The Hill



Yemen’s Houthis said on Tuesday they could only reconsider their missile and drone attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea once Israel ends its “aggression” in the Gaza Strip. – Reuters

British maritime security firm Ambrey said it had received a report on Tuesday of an incident approximately 50 nautical miles west of Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah. A merchant vessel reported that a warship was “firing”, Ambrey added in an advisory note. – Reuters

The US has struck 230 targets in Yemen following Houthi-led attacks against shipping in the Red Sea, a top Pentagon official said, offering the most detailed public accounting of the airstrikes so far. – Bloomberg

Operatives from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah are working inside Yemen to support Houthi insurgents’ attacks on international shipping, a US official said Tuesday. Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, told a Senate subcommittee that Iran’s clerical state was “equipping and facilitating” the Houthi attacks. – Agence France-Presse

Middle East & North Africa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and praised the kingdom’s efforts in seeking a solution to end Russia’s two-year-old invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

Libya’s central bank governor has called for a unified national budget in an apparent challenge to his former ally Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah amid a slide in the value of the country’s dinar. – Reuters

The emir of Qatar spoke Tuesday of “a race against time” to secure hostage releases as part of the diplomatic push for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza in which his country is playing a key role. – Associated Press

Shukriya Bradost writes: Iran’s weak internal position and international isolation prevent it from wanting to directly confront Turkey at this time, even though the latter has not shied away from supporting ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran or threatening to militarily pursue PKK forces inside Iran’s borders. Still, it is in both Tehran and Ankara’s interest to stop fueling inter-ethnic tensions on each other’s territories; the blowback and possible consequences would be exceedingly difficult to predict given the complex multi-ethnic and multi-religious natures of both countries’ societies. – Middle East Institute

Korean Peninsula

South Korea and the United States will begin their annual spring military drills next week with a focus on heading off North Korea’s potential use of nuclear weapons, officials said on Wednesday. – Reuters

North Korea’s first spy satellite is “alive,” a Netherlands-based space expert said on Tuesday, after detecting changes in its orbit that suggest Pyongyang is successfully controlling the spacecraft – although its capabilities are still unknown. – Reuters

Zuckerberg arrived in South Korea late on Tuesday and is widely expected to hold talks on AI and meet with President Yoon Suk Yeol and heads of the country’s technology powerhouses. – Reuters


China revised its law on state secrets on Tuesday to encompass sensitive information that didn’t previously fall under its scope, potentially adding to foreign businesses’ concerns over the risks of operating in the country. – Wall Street Journal

China’s government said on Wednesday that its coast guard patrols around a group of Taiwanese islands near the Chinese coast were “beyond reproach”, and dismissed complaints the boarding of a Taiwan tourist boat had caused panic. – Reuters

China and Russia should strengthen communication and coordination in Asia Pacific affairs and jointly safeguard regional security, stability and development, the Chinese foreign ministry reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

States with the largest nuclear arsenals should negotiate a treaty on no-first-use of nuclear weapons against each other or make a political statement in this regard, the Chinese foreign ministry’s arms control department said. – Reuters

Editorial: These are not the actions of a confident government, much less a world financial center. It is telling that Beijing and Hong Kong are more afraid of their own people than Hong Kong’s British colonial government ever was. The world sees this fear growing, as repression begets more repression. – Wall Street Journal

South Asia

Fresh U.S. sanctions on Moscow threaten to dent Russian oil sales to India, the biggest buyer of Russian seaborne crude, and complicate efforts by Indian state refiners to secure annual supply deals, three industry sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

India on Tuesday introduced four crew members for its maiden ‘Gaganyaan’ space voyage, as it aims to become the world’s fourth country to send a crewed mission into space just months after a historic landing on the south pole of the moon. – Reuters

The volatile situation in the Red Sea increases the need for an alternate trade corridor to ship goods from India to Europe, India’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said. – Bloomberg

The social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, remains largely inaccessible in Pakistan as the government’s ban on the platform continues for a 10th day. – Jerusalem Post


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said the Chinese navy’s presence in the South China Sea is “worrisome” but will not deter his country from defending its maritime territory and protecting its fishermen. – Reuters

Tuvalu’s new government has reaffirmed its relations with Taiwan after last month’s election, Tuvalu’s government said in a statement, adding that it wants dialogue with Australia over a security pact signed last year. – Reuters

Armenia and Azerbaijan officials will hold talks in Berlin this week aimed at finding a solution to the decade-long conflict between the two Caucasus countries. The two-day peace negotiations will take place from Wednesday at the guest house of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, on the outskirts of the city, the ministry said in a statement. – Bloomberg

The Philippines is working to explore other parts of the country that are potentially rich in oil and gas, according to an energy official, as talks with Beijing on joint resource development in the South China Sea are stalled by tensions between the two nations. – Bloomberg

Ellen Goldstein writes:  Paramount among these is ensuring accountability of a reformed military to civilian authority, resolving citizenship status for the one-in-five people who are without (including the Rohingya), and defining responsibilities and systems for a functional federated state. The people of Myanmar have been surprisingly successful in their fight for democracy. The U.S. can and should do more to help. – The Hill


French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing the boundaries of how far Europe is willing to go in supporting Ukraine, riling some allies over the possibility—however remote—of deploying troops there. – Wall Street Journal

Russian expansionism and fears about American disengagement from Europe are causing such alarm here that Germany is beginning to ponder a question once considered unthinkable: Does it need to have its own nuclear weapons? – Wall Street Journal 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday he could not rule out widening a national ban on imports of Ukrainian grains to other products if the European Union does not act to protect the bloc’s markets. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday ruled out suggestions that European countries and NATO alliance members would send ground troops to Ukraine, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron had raised the prospect that some might do so. – Reuters

British police said on Tuesday they had charged three men with preparing an act of terrorism after an investigation into suspected “Extreme Right Wing” activity. – Reuters

A sixth suspected member of a Russian spying network based in Britain will be charged with conspiracy to conduct espionage, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The UK needs a “huge increase” in its ammunition supplies after two years of military aid to help Ukraine fight off its Russian invaders depleted stocks, the head of Britain’s armed forces said. – Bloomberg


Somalia faces “a pivotal year,” said Omar S. Mahmood, the senior Eastern Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group. “A number of critical timelines linked to both domestic politics and security are coinciding, and the way these are handled will determine the country’s trajectory.” – New York Times

Senegal’s national dialogue commission will propose a delayed presidential election be held on June 2 and recommend President Macky Sall remain in office until his successor is sworn in, commission member Ndiawar Paye said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Millions of people in Sudan’s Darfur region are at risk of dying of hunger after a decision by the Sudanese government to prohibit aid deliveries through Chad, an advocacy group for internally displaced people said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Transitional authorities in junta-led Guinea have appointed one-time opposition leader and economist Mamadou Oury Bah to the role of prime minister, according to a decree read on national television on Tuesday. – Reuters

Aaron Maasho and Martin Witteveen write: An enlarged scope would then pave the way for the transitional justice policy to advance reconciliation without accountability. Western reluctance to shun Abiy due to geopolitical considerations means that it is now all but certain that the Ethiopian government will successfully sweep its atrocities in Tigray under the rug. Perhaps, though, that is what some Western partners really have in mind. – Foreign Policy

Latin America

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, a top ally of President Vladimir Putin, pledged on Monday to help Latin American countries counter what he described as U.S. attempts to interfere in their internal affairs. – Reuters

Venezuela vowed to respond “proportionally” to Guyana’s “gross violations” after President Irfaan Ali insisted that the country’s legal borders were settled in 1899 and include the territory known as the Essequibo. – Bloomberg

Growing opposition to President Javier Milei’s sweeping decree in the Senate puts it at risk of being overturned as regular sessions get underway next week, jeopardizing his initial dose of economic shock therapy. – Bloomberg

Matias Spektor writes: Revamping Brazil’s grand strategy is a formidable task, and the timing is urgent—the G-20 summit is just ten months away. But if Lula plays his cards right, he can still mend strained partnerships and rebuild his reputation as a diplomatic broker. He can help stabilize his region and his country. He can, in other words, deliver on the core promise of a progressive global order: using diplomacy to solve problems, even as fires proliferate in a politically fragmented world. – Foreign Affairs

North America

Mexico will impose tariffs on steel if its biggest trading partner, the United States, enacts such measures first, Mexican Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro said at a news conference on Tuesday. – Reuters

Canada and the United States fully agree on the urgent need to move forward with confiscating frozen Russian sovereign assets to help Ukraine, which has recently faced setbacks on the battlefield, Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Benin has offered 2,000 troops to support a planned Kenyan-led international force to help Haitian national police fight armed gangs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a press conference on Monday. – Reuters

The Caribbean island of Aruba issued an alert on Tuesday after an oil spill that was first spotted near Tobago spread to neighboring Bonaire, threatening its mangrove forests and national parks. – Reuters

United States

U.S. Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday questioned President Joe Biden’s strategy to deal with Houthi attacks against commercial shipping and contended he should seek congressional authorization for ongoing military action against the Yemen-based group. –  Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden easily won the Democratic presidential primary in Michigan on Tuesday, but a protest vote by Democrats angry over his support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza exceeded organizers’ expectations. – Reuters

Speaker Johnson says he is working “around the clock” to come up with a solution to avoid a partial government shutdown before the Friday deadline. During a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, congressional leaders pressed the speaker to put a short-term deal on the floor — whatever the political cost to Mr. Johnson. – New York Sun

The U.S. is less prepared to mitigate misinformation ahead of the 2024 election than it was during the 2020 cycle, the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said Tuesday. – Cyberscoop

Holman W. Jenkins Jr writes: The Biden administration is right: Ukraine is a strategic defeat for Russia, though, on current track, it can also be a strategic defeat for the U.S. Mr. Biden is neither Chamberlain nor Churchill because both at least were capable of pursuing their respective policies with physical energy and presence. Mr. Biden risks discrediting his aims (whatever they are) merely by appearing in public. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: His partners in anti-Western aggression in China, Iran, and North Korea are taking their own lessons from the spectacle. The world gets more dangerous by the day, and the United States, which once could be relied on to stand in the breach, is rendered increasingly impotent by the worst and weakest elements in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Biden’s old fears and Trump’s new isolationism imperil national and global security and immobilize American leadership. – The Hill

Brian Atwood writes: Absent a vote on the Ukraine aid package, there may be no better way to demonstrate bipartisan unity and send a deterrence message to Iran and its friends. Bring a privileged motion to the House and Senate floors and authorize the president to continue taking the military action needed to deter Iran’s proxies from attacking U.S. forces and international shipping and reaffirm Congress’ war powers role. – The Hill


Britain’s media censorship board is trying to woo Big Tech. But the Silicon Valley giants just aren’t interested. Tech firms including Google, Meta, and X have repeatedly spurned the secretive British committee in its mission to prevent state secrets spreading across social platforms. – Politico

An Iranian-sponsored cyberespionage unit is impersonating major brands like Boeing and the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI as part of a social engineering and phishing campaign targeting the aerospace, aviation and defense industries across the Middle East. – Cyberscoop

As large language models and other artificial intelligence tools have proliferated more widely, researchers remain divided on whether highly capable AI tools will provide an advantage to attackers or defenders in cyberspace. – Cyberscoop

Researchers say that over the past year, at least 14 state-sponsored hacker groups from around the world have targeted Russia and some former Soviet Union members — Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan — with destructive or espionage campaigns. – The Record


The U.S. Army has unveiled a whitepaper detailing how the service plans to shrink the force in some places and grow it in other areas. The document’s release on Tuesday comes as the Army continues transitioning from counterinsurgency missions to large-scale combat operations against technologically advanced adversaries. – Defense News

More than 8,000 soldiers in Alaska recently concluded a large-scale exercise that included a 150-mile helicopter deep strike, flying a rocket launcher 500 miles to operate above the Arctic Circle and snowmobile hunter-killer teams armed with shoulder-fired rockets. – Defense News

With the U.S. Space Force seeing positive results from its unit-integration experiment, the service is now weeks away from announcing plans to expand the model beyond the pilot phase, according to the head of Space Operations Command. – Defense News

Todd Harrison and Clayton Swope write: There are many ways to make satellites more resistant to jamming and other forms of attack. It is also an opportunity to redouble efforts with our allies to develop a range of plans for what we would do both before and after an attack in space. Our collective words and deeds should make clear to Russia that attacking our space systems is not in its interests. – The National Interest