Fdd's overnight brief

February 6, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Some 180 women in the enclave give birth each day on average, many now with little or no medical help, sometimes in dirty, overcrowded shelters, public bathrooms or cold, makeshift tents, according to the U.N., healthcare workers and residents. – Wall Street Journal 

Israel is quietly pushing the U.S. and U.N. to allow a controversial U.N. agency that had some of its staff linked to the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel to continue playing a leading role in providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, but wants the agency reformed or scrapped after the war, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. – Wall Street Journal

Rafah, once a small city on the border with Egypt, has become one of the last places of refuge during Israel’s war in Gaza, quintupling in population as displaced people from the northern parts of the strip sought safety. – Washington Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is on his last legs, it is widely believed, and will be forced to relinquish his post once the war against Hamas in Gaza ends. – New York Times

The top U.S. diplomat met Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler on Monday during a Middle East visit Palestinians hope will clinch a truce before a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah, a border city where about half the Gaza Strip population is sheltering. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Riyadh at the start of his first trip to the region since Washington brokered an offer, with Israeli input, for the first extended ceasefire of the war. – Reuters 

Israeli banks said on Monday they were heeding U.S. sanctions against four West Bank settlers accused of violence against Palestinians, despite calls by the finance minister and another far-right cabinet member not to comply. – Reuters 

Palestinian gunmen kept up attacks against Israeli forces on Sunday in the Gaza Strip’s two main cities, weeks after they were overrun by troops and tanks, in a sign Hamas still maintains some control ahead of any potential truce. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was not ready to accept a deal at any price to release hostages held by Hamas amid rifts in his coalition over a U.S. push to get more aid into Gaza. – Reuters 

France’s new foreign minister on Monday used his first visit to Israel to urge the government to allow an “ immediate cease-fire ” and a “massive influx” of humanitarian aid in Gaza. – Associated Press

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres announced Monday the creation of an independent panel to assess UNRWA, its embattled agency tasked with helping Palestinian refugees. – Agence France-Presse

Secretary Blinken will land in Israel this week as tensions between Israel and America are increasing, fueled in part by President Biden’s decision to order sanctions against four Israelis who are now banned from using their bank accounts. – New York Sun

Argentina’s newly minted president, Javier Milei, is on his way to Israel to meet with the Jewish state’s president, Isaac Herzog, in a show of support from South America. Most of Mr. Milei’s neighbors vehemently disagree with his staunchly pro-Israel stance. – New York Sun

Israel’s new ambassador to Russia must explain what Moscow said were “unacceptable statements,” underscoring tensions between the two countries related to the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza. – Bloomberg

Far-right ministers and activists lambasted the IDF on Monday for conducting a drill that simulated a scenario of Israeli settlers kidnapping Palestinians in the West Bank. – Ynet

IDF troops operating in Gaza found a detailed Hamas manual for the production of explosives and rocket propellant material using Hydrogen Peroxide, supplied to hospitals,   come to light revealing how Hamas is exploiting a substance with legitimate uses in hospitals to construct rockets, a clear indication of the terror group’s use of civilian materials for their military needs. – Ynet

Jonathan D. Strum writes: Recognizing a Palestinian state at this stage is an explosive step. It would not, however, mean a state overnight. It would require revamping the Palestinian Authority and the exile of the Hamas military leadership from Gaza (the Hamas political leadership already resides in Qatar and Turkey). Other requirements are expected to include demilitarization — no easy sell. – The Hill 

Manlio Graziano writes: It remains perplexing why other potential solutions, which do exist, are neither explored nor considered. To be sure, none of these alternatives—from confederations to single-state models—could be easily implemented: All are exceedingly challenging, require long-term commitment, and entail concessions that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are presently unwilling or unable to make. But the same challenges loom over the two-state solution, and it risks resulting in considerably more disastrous consequences both in the immediate and in the foreseeable future. – Foreign Policy


A strike near a U.S. base in Syria killed six members of a U.S.-allied militia Monday, the group said, despite the U.S. pounding Iran-allied militia sites with airstrikes over the weekend, underscoring the challenge Washington faces in its goal of keeping the conflict in the Middle East contained. – Wall Street Journal 

Four years ago, the U.S. launched a drone strike to kill the man who headed up Iran’s covert paramilitary operations. […]The man who succeeded him is very different, an unassuming backroom dealer who now faces a difficult new task—using this patchwork of armed groups to expand Iran’s footprint without provoking a devastating reprisal from the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

The Pentagon said on Monday that it was not aware of any Iranian deaths in the recent U.S. strikes against Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria. The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday against more than 85 targets linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and militias it backs in retaliation for a deadly attack on U.S. troops. – Reuters 

Iran evaded sanctions and was able to covertly move money around the world using accounts at two of the UK’s biggest banks, Lloyds Banking Group Plc and Santander UK, the Financial Times reported. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Unlike satellites, longer-range missiles must be capable of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere without burning up. It’s unclear how close Iran is to gaining this capability, but that’s a technology Russia has mastered and could share with Tehran. NBC News reported in August that a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency spokesman referred to “indications that Russian technicians are helping Iran with its space-launched vehicle program, which could aid Tehran’s goal of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.” – Wall Street Journal 

Walter Russell Mead writes: This isn’t just a Middle East problem. Great powers, lesser powers and terror groups are watching America’s response to the escalating series of aggressive moves by Iran and its “axis of resistance.” If stability is ever to return, it must begin with a psychological revolution in the Middle East. Iran must learn to fear Mr. Biden more than he fears Iran. – Wall Street Journal

William McGurn writes: Mr. Biden’s bet on the Iranians has always been the same as Barack Obama’s: If we engaged and got them to sign on to a nuclear deal, we would prevent them from getting a bomb and gradually drag them into normalcy. Mr. Biden may still believe this, just as he apparently believes that a Palestinian state is the answer to Palestinian terror. But like Jimmy Carter, he is now getting a lesson that such regimes don’t behave normally because they have different priorities. – Wall Street Journal 

Noam Raydan and Grant Rumley write: Biden should have appreciated the Houthis’ dedication in November. Had Washington responded then, it would at least be further along in defeating them, and ships would be closer to again transiting through a central global trade path. The next time the Houthis threaten the Red Sea, the United States and its partners would do well to remember today’s lesson. – Foreign Affairs  

E.J. Kimball writes: Soleimani’s assassination was as direct a blow to Iran as any that had yet been taken. Despite Iran’s threats to retaliate, nothing came of it throughout the rest of Trump’s presidency. Escalation requires courage and confidence. Unfortunately, Mr. Biden seems to lack both, and that weakness has resulted in feckless responses to Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the world’s weakest bully. Fear of the unknown is no way to lead. President Biden must find the courage to embrace U.S. superiority to achieve escalation dominance and bring the regime in Tehran to heel. – The National Interest

Jamie Dettmer writes: Part of the reason for all this sidling up to Iran from its Middle Eastern neighbors, as well as the Gulf’s pleas for the U.S. to show restraint, is recognition that Tehran is prepared for the long haul — and fear that the U.S. simply isn’t. – Politico

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is considering a leadership shuffle aimed at reinvigorating efforts to combat Russia’s invasion—changes that could test his ability to retain support at home and in the West. – Wall Street Journal 

The only remaining antiwar candidate seeking to run in Russia’s presidential election, Boris Nadezhdin, will probably be barred from the ballot, after Russian electoral authorities on Monday alleged irregularities in his attempt to register as a candidate. – Washington Post

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that a broad overhaul of the country’s military and civilian leadership was needed to reboot the war effort against Russia, suggesting that a major shake-up of his government was imminent. – New York Times

The parent firm of Russia’s most prominent technology company, Yandex, said it has agreed to sell all its assets in the country for about $5 billion, which would be one of the largest corporate exits from Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. – New York Times

Russia’s air defence systems destroyed seven Ukraine-launched drones over the southwestern region of Belgorod, the Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday after the region’s governor said that the city of Gubkin was under a drone attack. – Reuters

The first publicly known cases have emerged of Russian authorities penalizing people under a court ruling that outlawed LGBTQ+ activism as extremism, Russian media and rights groups have reported, with at least three people who displayed rainbow-colored items receiving jail time or fines. – Associated Press

Enigmatic and unflappable, spy chief Kyrylo Budanov has built up a legendary reputation in Ukraine with a series of daring operations against Russia. – Agence France-Presse

Mick Ryan writes: Russia has significantly improved its ability to learn and adapt in Ukraine. The longer the war in Ukraine lasts, the more Moscow will improve its strategic adaptation. The most convincing justification for improving Ukraine’s strategic adaptation and hindering Russia’s is to ensure that Ukraine does not lose the war. Russia currently holds the strategic initiative—so unfortunately, defeat is still a possible outcome. – Foreign Affairs 


New satellite images reveal the damage to Hezbollah’s military airbase, which Israel attacked ten days ago. The images show at least four huge craters along the base’s only runway, and what appear to be damages in the hangars closest to it, and two others south of the runway. – Haaretz 

Israel’s foreign minister warned time’s running short to find a diplomatic solution to the presence of Hezbollah fighters along the country’s northern border with Lebanon. – Bloomberg

IDF artillery units, along with IAF jets, attacked numerous Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said on Monday. Soldiers attacked Hezbollah launch sites in response to rockets that were launched from Lebanon into northern Israel. – Jerusalem Post


A cargo ship in the Red Sea suffered minor damage after being hit by a projectile while sailing off the coast of Yemen’s Hodeidah, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency and British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Tuesday. – Reuters 

Yemen’s internationally recognized presidential council sacked the prime minister Monday in an unexpected move that comes at a time when a U.S.-led coalition has been striking targets of the government’s rivals, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. – Associated Press

A ship traveling through the southern Red Sea was attacked by a suspected Yemen Houthi rebel drone early on Tuesday, authorities said, the latest assault in their campaign targeting vessels over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. – Associated Press

US forces carried out a strike in Yemen against two Houthi sea drones that could have been deployed against commercial vessels and Navy ships, US Central Command said Monday night. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday at the start of a Middle East tour, a U.S. official said, as Washington sought to forge a Saudi normalization deal with Israel. – Reuters

Simon Henderson writes: Riyadh’s January 30 announcement that it had canceled its plan to increase maximum sustainable production capacity from 12 to 13 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2027 caught analysts by surprise. The kingdom’s current output of about 9 million bpd makes such a decision explicable, but it was nevertheless unexpected. – Washington Institute 

Agnes Helou writes: Lockheed Martin today awarded Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) subcontracts to a pair of Saudi Arabian suppliers, paving the way for a first international customer to locally produce parts of the anti-ballistic missile system. – Breaking Defense

Middle East & North Africa

American warplanes destroyed or severely damaged most of the Iranian and militia targets they struck in Syria and Iraq on Friday, according to the Pentagon, the first major salvos in what President Biden and his aides have said will be a sustained campaign. – New York Times

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Cairo on Tuesday for a meeting with Egyptian leaders that U.S. officials said would concentrate on negotiating a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war in exchange for the release of hostages held by the militants. – Associated Press

A drone attack on a base housing U.S. troops in eastern Syria killed six allied Kurdish fighters late Sunday, in the first significant attack in Syria or Iraq since the U.S. launched retaliatory strikes over the weekend against Iran-backed militias that have been targeting its forces in the region. – Associated Press

After a weekend of retaliatory strikes, the United States on Sunday warned Iran and the militias it arms and funds that it will conduct more attacks if American forces in the Mideast continue to be targeted, but that it does not want an “open-ended military campaign” across the region. – Associated Press

Russia accused President Joe Biden on Monday of carrying out strikes in Iraq and Syria to boost his image as the presidential election campaign “is heating up” – not in retaliation for a deadly attack on U.S. soldiers. – Reuters

Korean Peninsula

Russia has allowed the release of millions of dollars in frozen North Korean assets and may be helping its isolated ally with access to international banking networks, assistance that has come after the North’s transfer of weapons to Moscow for use against Ukraine, according to American-allied intelligence officials. – New York Times

The majority of North Koreans who resettled in South Korea over the last decade said they never received government rations in the isolated state and had to rely on an informal market to survive, a study issued by Seoul’s unification ministry showed. – Reuters

North Korea’s recent escalation of threats and more tests of weapons aimed at South Korea haven’t done much to upset the calm in the nation’s capital. – Associated Press


European Union policymakers hope to agree new rules on Tuesday to promote domestic production of equipment for solar and wind power, fuel cells and other clean technologies to ensure its industry can compete with Chinese and U.S. competitors. – Reuters

A draft U.S. bill that has triggered a sell-off in shares of China’s biotech firm Wuxi Apptec could deal a major blow not just to the firm but could also impact many labs and Western drugmakers that rely on it for research and manufacturing, public data showed. – Reuters

Minxin Pei writes: The Chinese surveillance state remains untested in a less benign economic environment. But such an environment is emerging: the real estate bubble has burst, putting pressure on local government budgets that formerly relied on receipts from land sales to fund their operations, and roughly one in five young people are now unemployed. These economic problems will make it harder for Beijing to handle the spiraling costs of maintaining and upgrading its high-tech surveillance equipment. This may be a particular problem for the Skynet and Sharp Eyes projects, which are funded by debt-ridden local governments and are therefore likely to experience mounting challenges in the lean years ahead. – Foreign Affairs

South Asia

Pakistan is holding elections for a new parliament on Thursday. No less than 44 political parties are vying for a share of the 266 seats that are up for grabs in the National Assembly, or the lower house of parliament, with an additional 70 seats reserved for women and minorities. – Associated Press

Pakistan is holding parliamentary elections this week but many voters are disillusioned and wonder if the balloting can bring any real change in a country mired in political feuding, a seemingly intractable economic crisis and resurgent militancy. – Associated Press

India will not provide information to Canadian investigators over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader until Canada shares evidence, India’s High Commissioner to Canada told the Globe & Mail newspaper in an interview, opens new tab published on Monday. – Reuters 

At a campaign office of Imran Khan’s beleaguered political party in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, workers remain defiant about an election later this week even as the former prime minister sits in jail and another ex-leader, Nawaz Sharif, is the favorite to take power. – Bloomberg

Bina Shah writes: Pakistani elections are marked by vote-rigging, political horse-trading and corruption. No matter who wins, they inevitably disappoint because they are always focused more on staying in power than serving the people. Healthy democracy seems more like an El Dorado that is further out of reach with each election. – New York Times


Nine members of the United Nations Security Council condemned “indiscriminate” airstrikes by Myanmar’s military against civilians before an envoy briefed the council Monday as part of regional efforts to implement a peace plan that has so far been largely ineffective. – Associated Press

More than 100 members of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police have fled their posts and taken shelter in Bangladesh to escape fighting between Myanmar security forces and an ethnic minority army, an official with Bangladesh’s border agency said Monday. – Associated Press

Guatemala is considering reaching out to develop formal trade ties with China, the Central American country’s foreign minister told Reuters on Monday, although it plans to maintain its existing relations with Taiwan. – Reuters 

A new Thailand-led humanitarian initiative aims to pave the way for talks between warring camps in military-ruled Myanmar, a senior Thai official said, three years after a coup triggered instability and a wave of violence across the country. – Reuters

The leaders of Japan and Italy said Monday they will bolster their cooperation in security and defense, including their joint next-generation fighter jet development with Britain, as Tokyo welcomed the European nation’s shift toward playing a greater role in the Indo-Pacific. – Associated Press

Kazakhstan’s president is poised to name his chief of staff to the post of prime minister following the resignation of the previous cabinet. – Bloomberg

The first Singapore citizen to be tagged as a “politically significant person” under a 2021 law on foreign interference oversees the multimillion-dollar property portfolio of a Chinese metal billionaire. – Bloomberg

The warming of relations between Beijing and Canberra hangs in the balance this week after a Chinese court delivered a suspended death sentence to Australian writer Yang Hengjun on Monday. – Bloomberg

The Philippines is expected to work on dozens of projects this year to upgrade military bases as part of an agreement with the United States. Signed in 2014, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement allows the U.S. to allocate funding to improve and construct facilities within existing Philippine military bases as well as to deploy American troops on a rotational basis. – Defense News


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain took an unaccustomed victory lap on Monday, visiting Belfast to celebrate the restoration of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government. His ministers struck a deal last week that brought the North’s disaffected unionists back into the territory’s assembly. – New York Times

The European Commission is poised to recommend on Tuesday the EU reduces its net greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040, a target that will test political appetite to continue Europe’s ambitious fight against climate change ahead of EU elections. – Reuters

Could President Putin have his sights set on making trouble for Europe by way of the frigid northern climes? Some conventional wisdom has it that after his clumsy warmongering in Ukraine, the Russ leader might seek to give an armed elbow to one or more of the Baltic states. – New York Sun

Two years after the invasion of Ukraine, the Baltic states are wary of an emboldened Russia with imperialistic ambitions. – Bloomberg


Communications were down for most Sudanese on Monday in what two telecoms sector sources and the army-aligned state news agency said was a deliberate move by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces who are battling the military. – Reuters

World Bank President Ajay Banga on Monday rejected allegations that the bank’s International Finance Corp arm sought to cover up reports of sexual abuse at a for-profit school chain in Kenya in which it held a stake from 2013 to 2022. – Reuters

Zambia’s finance minister said on Monday he could not give a timeline for a debt restructuring deal with private creditors, while the International Monetary Fund’s Africa director urged all sides to compromise. – Reuters

At least one child is dying every two hours in Sudan’s Zamzam camp, one of the largest and oldest camps for displaced people in the country, French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said on Monday. – Reuters 

Zimbabwe’s ruling party secured a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly after wresting several seats from the opposition in weekend by-elections, giving it the power to amend the constitution and potentially extend President Emmerson Mnangagwa tenure beyond a second term. – Bloomberg

The Americas

Mexico’s president proposed sweeping constitutional reforms in a speech on Monday, including measures to overhaul the judiciary, electoral law, pensions, and environmental regulations, just months before a presidential election. – Reuters

Argentina’s President Javier Milei set off on an overseas tour on Monday that will see him visit Israel, locked in a conflict in Gaza, and then fly to Italy where he will meet the pope, whom he once called the devil’s representative on earth. – Reuters

The U.S. government is increasing its urgent military assistance to Guyana, officials said Monday, as neighboring Venezuela threatens to seize a large part of the country’s territory it has long claimed. – Associated Press

Top Biden administration officials urged Colombian President Gustavo Petro to engage with Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday as the nation’s political standoff intensifies, putting at risk a deal to remove sanctions in exchange for a free and fair vote. – Bloomberg

United States

The Biden campaign fears that the results of a classified documents investigation could lead to embarrassing information, and possibly photos, that could damage President Joe Biden‘s reelection chances. – Washington Examiner 

A pro-Israel super PAC is making a six-figure splash in a toss-up Orange County House race, prompting fierce pushback from its target, Democratic state Sen. Dave Min. – Politico 

The massive $118 billion Senate border bill not only contains once-in-a-decade border security legislation and wartime aid to Israel and Ukraine, but also offers a chance for the U.S. to keep its promise to Afghans who worked alongside U.S. soldiers in America’s longest war. – Associated Press


The State Department will on a case-by-case basis deny visas for individuals seeking to travel to the United States and who have been implicated in the misuse of commercial spyware, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday. – CyberScoop

Three years after a mob convinced that President Donald Trump had been the victim of widespread voter fraud stormed the U.S. Capitol, American election administrators are going into 2024 facing a daunting task: convincing the American electorate that the country’s elections are freely and fairly run. – CyberScoop

Pennsylvania’s court system was hit with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack and is experiencing disruptions, according to Chief Justice Debra Todd. – The Record

Government agencies in the Philippines announced this weekend they had repelled a cyberattack from hackers suspected to be based in China, prompting lawmakers to demand an urgent briefing on the national security issue. – The Record


Since its establishment last spring, the U.S. Space Force’s Commercial Space Office has been busy making connections with industry and creating pathways to deliver off-the-shelf capabilities and services to users. – Defense News

The Army aims to double production of a key munition used in Ukraine by October, Army acquisition chief Doug Bush said today. – Defense One

Boeing’s new training jet for the US Air Force is facing a fresh delay due to what the company is calling supply chain woes, putting new pressure on a T-7A Red Hawk schedule that is already approximately two years late. – Breaking Defense 

Cole Livieratos and Ken Gleiman write: Bureaucratic competition has and always will be central to institutional strategy, but the Army’s shrinking force has catalyzed the pressures of parochial interests and created an especially large obstacle to modernization efforts. Civil affairs and psychological operations are the latest victims of this competition. Without major organizational reforms, the military’s ability to understand and influence the modern battlefield will continue to erode. – War on the Rocks