Fdd's overnight brief

January 19, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israel pounded southern Gaza on Thursday, including one attack in Rafah near the Egyptian border that killed at least 16 people, according to reports. – Washington Post

As Israel dials back the intensity of its military campaign in the northern Gaza Strip, some residents say they are able to walk through war-ravaged neighborhoods more freely, and that the sounds of gun battles and explosions are becoming less frequent. – New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday appeared to rule out a postwar peace process that would lead to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, rebuffing calls from the United States to start working toward that ultimate goal. – New York Times

Travelers appear to be slowly returning to some Middle East nations despite the continuation of the Israel-Hamas conflict that all but decimated the region’s tourism since it began on Oct. 7. – New York Times

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected calls from the United States to scale back Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip or take steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state after the war, drawing an immediate scolding from the White House. – Associated Press

Normalizing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a key element of ending the war with Hamas and a gamechanger for the entire Middle East, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Thursday at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss town of Davos. – Associated Press

European lawmakers on Thursday adopted a resolution calling for a permanent cease-fire in Israel’s war against Hamas, on the condition that the Palestinian militant group in Gaza be dismantled and that all hostages it holds be released. – Associated Press

There is “no way” to solve Israel’s long-term security challenges in the region and the short-term challenges of rebuilding Gaza without the establishment of a Palestinian state, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday. – Reuters

Mexico and Chile expressed “growing worry” on Thursday over “an escalation of violence” after several months of war between Israel and Hamas in a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over possible crimes. – Reuters

Israel has destroyed around two thirds of Hamas’ fighting regiments in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, vowing to press on with the war until “complete victory.” – Reuters

Israeli forces advanced into the southern Gaza Strip’s main city on Thursday, pounding areas near the enclave’s biggest functioning hospital, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau vowed “many more months” of fighting until total victory is achieved. – Reuters

The Israeli military raided the city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank for a second day on Thursday, saying it had killed eight people. – Reuters

Israel is praying that an emergency shipment brought to the Gaza border through Egypt, in a deal arranged by Qatar and France, will reach hostages held by Hamas in the besieged Palestinian enclave, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Thursday. – Reuters

Israel should allow displaced Palestinians in Gaza to return to their homes, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Thursday. – Reuters

Five Arab nations are quietly touting a settlement for postwar Gaza for which they’ve secured the backing of the US. The problem is that the Israelis on whom the agreement depends aren’t buying it. – Bloomberg

Israel will insist on security control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the foreseeable future after the war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, rejecting rule by the Palestinian Authority despite calls from the US. – Bloomberg

Israeli President Isaac Herzog called on the world to “work endlessly” to free the 136 Israeli and foreign hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. – Bloomberg

The IDF reported Friday morning that Staff Sergeant Ori Gerby, 20, an 84th Infantry Brigade soldier, from Herzliya, succumbed to injuries sustained fighting in the southern Gaza Strip two days prior. – Ynet

Troops operating in the central part of the Strip find several tunnel shafts leading to underground weapons manufacturing factories supplying Hamas terrorists – Ynet

War cabinet minister says new elections needed to restore public trust, warns Entebbe-like op to save hostages in Gaza ‘will not happen,’ only way in near term is through deal – Times of Israel

Battles continue in northern and southern Gaza, as UN officials warn of dire humanitarian situation and accuse Israel of breaking international law – Agence France-Presse

Mexico and Chile expressed “growing worry” on Thursday over escalating violence in the Gaza Strip after several months of war between Israel and Hamas in a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over possible crimes. – Agence France-Presse

After ICRC says it is not involved in process, Netanyahu says Doha promised medicine would reach ‘every last hostage that needs it, and I expect them to meet their commitment’ – Times of Israel

The health system in Gaza is “collapsing” and Palestinians are dying daily in the enclave’s overwhelmed remaining hospitals, a United Nations agency official said Wednesday, as Israel continues its military offensive in the region against militant group Hamas. – The Hill

While the Likud’s ministers and Knesset members (MKs) are projecting a united front in support of party leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a growing number of them believe that his days at the party’s helm are numbered, sources in the party said to the Jerusalem Post. – Jerusalem Post

On Thursday night, some 30 Israeli civil society groups, led by Standing Together and Women Wage Peace, led a protest in Tel Aviv against the ongoing war in Gaza. According to organizers, citing the police, over 2,000 people took part in the protest. – Haaretz

Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority informed a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem that it was considering rejecting her application for citizenship because of posts she shared on social media in memory of the Nakba, against the occupation, against settler violence and Israel Defense Forces gunfire against innocent people. Among the posts the Interior Ministry flagged were a cartoon from Haaretz and a post by MK Ayman Odeh. – Haaretz

The Israeli Defense Forces are monitoring Hamas attempts to rebuild its fighting battalions in the northern Gaza Strip, which the army had declared as stripped of military capabilities, with some battalions significantly restored. – Haaretz

Editorial: The significance of this is that hundreds of thousands of productive people will serve in the army while tens of thousands of young Haredi men will remain in their religious seminaries and not contribute to the war effort, or to economic efforts. On top of this, the Netanyahu government is encouraging the ultra-Orthodox, through various incentives, to continue their lifestyle as if nothing happened here on October 7. Instead of turning the crisis into an opportunity for drafting the ultra-Orthodox, the government intends to increase the burden on the population that is already serving. This is one more reason it has to go, and fast. – Haaretz

Duvi Honig writes: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent move to force a vote on potentially limiting U.S. military aid to Israel marks a significant dent in the long-standing bipartisan support for Israel in Congress which will without a doubt hurt American interests and endanger American servicemen and American interests in the Middle East. By utilizing a rarely invoked law, Sen. Sanders is challenging the traditional approach to U.S. support for Israel. Recent discussions on Capitol Hill regarding the denial of funding to Israel in favor of prioritizing support for Ukraine have sparked widespread concern and frustration among the American people. – Ynet

Jamie Dettmer writes: And whether there is or isn’t, according to Likud lawmaker and former Israeli envoy to the U.N. Danny Danon, this isn’t the time to even broach the subject. A fierce critic of the Oslo Accords, he told POLITICO: “This isn’t  just about my ideas. After the trauma of October 7, about 99 percent of Israelis aren’t in the mindset to even discuss two states.”  – Politico 

Douglas Bloomfield writes: By this fall, the shooting war should be over, the hostages returned, reconstruction underway and the political wars will be in full steam. Bibi will be fighting for his political life and to stay out of jail, blaming everyone else for the failure of his policies that allowed Hamas to attack. Trump will also be fighting to stay out of jail and get back in power, and Biden will be defending democracy. The future of the Middle East could be determined on November 5. Like every election before it, this will be the most important in history. – Jerusalem Post

Avi Gil writes: The commission of inquiry will not deprive the Israeli public of the right to continue electing governments that prefer a perpetuation of the occupation and are therefore captive to the conception of managing the conflict and enslaved to the necessity of containment. But let us not take lightly the operative lessons that are gleaned from the investigation. In the foreseeable future, Israel will not have a government that seeks a political accord, and so the only option will be to improve the maintenance of the occupation and the containment strategy. – Haaretz

Natan Sachs writes: The United States is naturally, and perhaps justifiably, weary of managing this conflict. It also has genuinely more important issues and regions to contemplate. But if 2023 is any indication, it would be far better for pragmatic U.S. policymakers to use American power to shift the course of events in the Holy Land than to hand the situation over to extremists and to the bloody dynamics they encourage. – Foreign Affairs

Ivan Eland writes: Israel has long had its state and should now return to the two-state solution to give the Palestinians one, too. Israelis and Palestinians could live in peace with mutual respect and a commercial relationship that would make both more prosperous. But this is the Middle East. Instead, Hamas’ attack has hardened Israel to undertake even more than its usual overreaction, which will likely lead sadly to further cycles of violence. – The National Interest

Iran

When Iran launched a barrage of airstrikes this week into Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, it was not just showing off the reach and sophistication of some of its newest missiles but also staking a claim: This is a new era in which Iran can flex its muscles at will and, as an added benefit, bolster its credentials as an important arms supplier. – New York Times

Israel and Gaza. Yemen and the Red Sea. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq — and now Pakistan, too. At every flashpoint in a set of conflicts spanning 1,800 miles and involving a hodgepodge of unpredictable armed actors and interests, there’s been a common thread: Iran – New York Times

An Iranian strike on Pakistan this week that drew a rapid military riposte and raised fears of greater regional turmoil was driven by Iran’s efforts to reinforce its internal security rather than its ambitions for the Middle East, according to three Iranian officials, one Iranian insider and an analyst. – Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that the clashes between Iran and Pakistan this week show that Iran is not well-liked in the region as the White House said it does not want to see an escalation. – Reuters

This week’s airstrikes between Iran and Pakistan that killed at least 11 people mark a significant escalation in fraught relations between the neighbors. – Associated Press

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Iran and Pakistan to “exercise maximum restraint to avoid a further escalation of tensions” after an exchange of military strikes between the countries, his spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

Iran is frustrating international efforts to examine its nuclear program as it speeds up its production of uranium enriched close to the level needed for weapons. – Bloomberg

Iran is conducting so-called counterterrorism operations in neighboring countries in a sudden attempt to fortify its hold on power, a senior Iraqi official suggested amid a widening dispute over Iranian strikes in three countries. – Washington Examiner

Iran is barely cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which feels it is being held “hostage” to the country’s disputes with Western countries, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi told AFP on Thursday. – Times of Israel

Chuck Wald writes: Enforcing comprehensive sanctions, including a cessation of global oil sales by Iran, would also severely limit Tehran’s capacity to fund its terrorist proxies. And acknowledging the right of its rebellious youth to confront and challenge the IRGC would send an unequivocal message that the era of business as usual has come to an end. As the internal situation in Iran worsens, the triggers for another uprising remain uncertain — but the West simply cannot afford to remain passive. – Politico 

Erfan Fard writes: It is imperative to blind the eye of this octopus, disrupt its nefarious operations, and hold those responsible for state-sponsored terrorism accountable. The collapse of the mullahs’ regime and the eventual downfall of the criminal Ayatollahs should be celebrated as a triumph of modern humanity. However, true regime change requires unwavering determination and sound decision-making, rather than mere support for a corrupt reformist group or an opportunistic mafia of self-interested individuals. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Rubin writes: Khamenei today likely recognizes he needs an external crisis. He knows President Joe Biden would never invade Iran as George W. Bush did Iraq, but if he could goad Washington into even a single strike on Iran proper, he might snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and distract the Iranian public from the Islamic Republic’s failings. The danger then becomes that Khamenei believes he has a win-win strategy: He can humiliate Americans reluctant to respond, but also benefit from retaliation. An astute White House could thread the needle: Hit Iran in its purse with “Maximum pressure.” Target Khamenei directly and declare open season on any Iranian military official outside Iran itself. – Middle East Forum

Russia & Ukraine

The trial of a minority rights activist in Russia this week sparked one of the biggest outbreaks of social unrest in the country since the start of the war in Ukraine, highlighting the strain the conflict has imposed on Russia’s complex ethnic relations. – New York Times

The U.S. ambassador to Russia visited jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich Thursday, amid continued efforts by the Biden administration to win his release. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia has rejected an American proposal to reopen an arms-control dialogue with Washington, saying the U.S. was pursuing a hostile policy toward Moscow, U.S. officials said Thursday. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia’s top diplomat dismissed the United States proposal to resume a dialogue on nuclear arms control, saying Thursday that it’s impossible while Washington offers military support to Ukraine. – Associated Press

A Russian city near the Ukrainian border canceled its traditional Orthodox Epiphany festivities on Friday due to the threat of attacks as Kyiv’s forces pursue a new strategy with the war approaching its two-year milestone. – Associated Press

France announced more planned deliveries of its Caesar artillery system to Ukraine on Thursday and accelerating weapons manufacturing as it seeks to avoid depleting its own military stocks while continuing to support the war effort against Russia’s invasion. – Associated Press

An excavator belches out fumes as it clears earth and rubble from between the train and bus stations in the Ukrainian town of Trostianets to make way for a reimagined transport hub. – Reuters

Russian forces have taken control of a settlement named Vesele in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said on Thursday that “certain negotiations” were under way regarding a UN-brokered grain export initiative which was shut down in the summer of 2023. – Reuters

Ukraine’s top diplomat said Kyiv is seeking to organize a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the war-battered nation plans a leaders summit to push forward its blueprint for peace. – Bloomberg

France and the United States will lead a coalition of 23 countries to provide artillery and ammunition to Ukraine, French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu said Jan. 18. – Defense News

David Kirichenko writes: The demands of the military will need to be delicately weighed against the state’s financial and economic constraints and necessities. And against the willingness of ordinary Ukrainians to make further sacrifices to those they have already made. Swinging too far in one direction could polarize society even more. Only tough choices lie ahead for Ukraine’s leadership. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Olya Korbut writes: The West could do much more. It lacks a Black Sea strategy which encourages Russia to act even more aggressively. The Kremlin’s methods are always the same — blocking the sea under the pretext of naval exercises, mining the sea, shelling port infrastructure, and the threat of “accidental” fire, including the territory of NATO member countries, as its missiles miss their targets. NATO is far, far more powerful than Russia. Ukraine has shown it a good example — stand up to the bully and achieve the impossible. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Neil Hauer writes: Yet if there is one lesson this war should have taught us, it is that no present reality or narrative is nearly as solid as it seems. The nature of the conflict means that at any time, a coherent and well-argued piece can be written explaining why defeat is imminent for either of the sides. And yet this has yet to happen. Both at the present, with Ukraine on the back foot, and when Ukraine is ascendant again in the near future, we would all do well to moderate our predictions of what’s next. – War on the Rocks

Yemen

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia declared on Thursday that a direct clash with the United States would only strengthen the group, and vowed to continue attacking ships in the Red Sea. – New York Times

The U.S. military launched a fifth round of strikes on Houthi weaponry in Yemen on Thursday, targeting antiship missiles aimed at the Red Sea hours after firing an earlier barrage, as rising tensions across the region threaten to pull more parties into a widening war. – Wall Street Journal 

Yemen’s Houthi movement targeted American ship Chem Ranger in the Gulf of Aden with naval missiles, the group’s military spokesman said early on Friday. – Reuters

British maritime security firm Ambrey on Thursday said that a Marshall Islands-flagged US-owned bulk carrier reported that four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) approached and circled the vessel approximately 87 miles southeast of Yemen’s city of Mukalla. – Reuters

Houthi militants in Yemen fired missiles at an American-owned commercial vessel on Thursday, the same day President Joe Biden acknowledged US airstrikes have not halted the Red Sea attacks. – Bloomberg

US officials acknowledge that airstrikes against Houthi militants in Yemen won’t deter the group from attacks that have roiled commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Yet that doesn’t mean the military campaign will stop anytime soon. – Bloomberg

Gulf States

Defence systems shot down an armed drone on Thursday over Erbil airport in northern Iraq, where U.S. and other international forces are stationed, Iraqi Kurdistan’s counter-terrorism service said. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia is still considering an invitation to become a member of the BRICS bloc of countries after being asked to join by the group last year, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Thursday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia will host a special World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in April, economy minister Faisal Alibrahim said on Thursday, as it aims to boost the global profile of the kingdom and its capital Riyadh. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Turkey might conduct more cross-border operations into Iraq and Syria if needed following the deaths of nine Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq last week, a Turkish defence ministry official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Suspected Jordanian air strikes on southern Syria killed 10 people including children early on Thursday, according to local Syrian media and monitors tracking the conflict. – Reuters

Israeli cabinet minister and former military chief Gadi Eizenkot told Israel’s Channel 12 on Thursday that he prevented Israel from preemptively attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon in the days after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 onslaught on southern Israel. – Reuters

Editorial: Israelis are focused on winning a war the Palestinians started, and the extent of Israel’s recent advance in southern and central Gaza is underappreciated. In the Biden Administration’s eagerness for a foreign-policy success, it shouldn’t forget that the more thorough the Hamas defeat, the more room Israel will have to compromise. Victory would do the most to pave the way to peace. – Wall Street Journal

Korean Peninsula

North Korea on Friday claimed to have conducted a test of an “underwater nuclear weapons system,” a claim that would dramatically escalate concerns that Kim Jong Un is girding for war. – Washington Post

One of the world’s biggest illicit-arms suppliers just got a major advertisement. In recent weeks, Russian forces have fired short-range ballistic missiles in Ukraine provided by North Korea, according to assessments from Washington, Seoul and Kyiv. Pyongyang has provided Moscow with dozens of the weapons, the U.S. says. – Wall Street Journal 

South Korea called on the divided U.N. Security Council on Thursday “to break the silence” over North Korea’s escalating missile tests and threats. – Associated Press

The nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States, and Japan condemned North Korea for its recent missile tests, arms trade with Russia and increasingly hostile rhetoric at a meeting in Seoul on Thursday. – Reuters

North Korea’s foreign minister returned from Russia on Friday after a rare official visit and meeting with President Vladimir Putin as part of closer cooperation that Washington said could drastically change the security threat posed by Pyongyang. – Reuters

The nature of the security threat posed by North Korea could change “drastically” in the coming decade as a result of its unprecedented cooperation with Russia, the White House’s senior director for arms control Pranay Vaddi said on Thursday. – Reuters

China

Beijing’s closest political partner in Taiwan is fighting to remain relevant in an island democracy where voters increasingly see a future that is detached from an authoritarian China. – Wall Street Journal 

For Chinese businessman Han Changming, disruptions to Red Sea freight are threatening the survival of his trading company in the eastern province of Fujian. – Reuters

China’s Ministry of Commerce said it was closely tracking developments in the Red Sea in response to the escalating situation there and the country would provide support and assistance to foreign trade enterprises. – Reuters

In September, a group of Brazilian farmers and officials arrived in the Peruvian fishing town of Chancay. The draw: a new Chinese mega port rising on the Pacific coast, promising to turbo charge South America’s trade ties with China. – Reuters

The United States does not expect formal nuclear arms-control negotiations with China anytime soon, but does want to see a start of discussions on practical risk-reduction measures, a senior White House official said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. Treasury and Chinese Finance Ministry officials started a two-day meeting in Beijing on Thursday to discuss financial stability and capital markets issues between the two economic powers, deepening an engagement revived last year. – Reuters

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with China’s visiting Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday afternoon in the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza, a presidential spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

China wants to track projects that receive funding from the central government in real time, a move aimed at boosting the effectiveness of state investments as Beijing tries to reinvigorate the economy. – Bloomberg

Dean Phillips, the Minnesota congressman pursuing a long-shot challenge to Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, urged the US to take a softer approach toward China. – Bloomberg

As leaders from across the Pacific, and special envoys from the US and China, descended on the Cook Islands in November for the region’s largest annual forum, they couldn’t have failed to notice the main island’s sports arena, or the capital city’s police station, or its Department of Justice. – Bloomberg

South Asia

Iran’s military tested and found a limit to its ability to project power this week as Pakistan responded to a missile attack with the first publicly acknowledged airstrike on Iranian territory in decades. – Wall Street Journal 

Pakistan’s top civilian and military leaders will carry out a security review on Friday regarding the standoff with neighbouring Iran, the information minister said, following their strikes on each other with drones and missiles. – Reuters

Thousands of men queued in India’s northern state of Harayana during a recruitment drive to send workers to Israel, where the offensive in Gaza, now in its fourth month, has caused a shortage of labour. – Reuters

India could ease its heightened scrutiny of Chinese investments if the two countries’ border remains peaceful, a senior Indian official said in the first signal that the four-year-old curbs could be lifted. – Reuters

Several points of contention between a Sunni-majority, nuclear-armed Islamist state, Pakistan, and a near-nuclear one that sees itself as leader of all Shiites and all Islam, Iran, have the potential to ignite a major conflagration in South Asia and beyond. – New York Sun

The streets leading to India’s most contested religious site are going full throttle. Hindu priests mix with barefooted pilgrims chanting the names of deities. Armed officials patrol the city of Ayodhya from watchtowers and checkpoints. – Bloomberg

The Pakistan Air Force has revealed the existence of a hypersonic missile capability, noting on social media and in a news release that the weapon is part of a wider modernization effort “to counter evolving threats.” – Defense News

Asia

At the Taipei train station, a Chinese human rights activist named Cuicui watched with envy as six young Taiwanese politicians campaigned for the city’s legislative seats. – New York Times

Bullets flew. Stores and warehouses burned. At the edge of the prime minister’s compound, hundreds of protesters tugged at the gates and set a guard booth on fire – New York Times

Taiwan’s top diplomat in Washington has a message for both the island’s Chinese adversaries and its American friends: Don’t worry that Taiwan’s new president-elect will worsen relations with Beijing and possibly draw the U.S. into a conflict. – Associated Press

Japan signed a deal with the United States on Thursday to purchase up to 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles as part of its ongoing military buildup in response to increased regional threats. – Associated Press

The United States and Japan will look at the viability of using Japanese shipyards to overhaul U.S. navy warships that patrol East Asian waters, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said on Friday at the Yokosuka naval base near Tokyo. – Reuters

Japan and the United States are working to reschedule a summit in Washington between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden around April 10, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Thursday, citing diplomatic sources from both nations. – Reuters

Karishma Vaswani writes: Complicating the politics, Kinmen has one of the highest rates of cross-strait marriages in Taiwan. I met 47-year-old Chen Yong-chih, a Chinese woman who is married to a Taiwanese man and has lived in Kinmen for almost two decades. She has a dream for her two children when they grow up. “I want one of them to be the leader of Taiwan, and the other to be the leader of China,” she said. “That way we will always be family — separate, but connected.” – Bloomberg

Akhil Ramesh writes: There has been ridicule and mockery of the BRICS by some in the West, including quips about the acronym with new nations joining the grouping. It may not have a catchy name yet, but analysts should be taking note of the group transforming into a body representing an increasingly large portion of the Global South. Based on recent events, the chances of the group transforming into a formal association short of an alliance are significantly higher than when the BRICS was conceived. – The Hill

Walter Clemens writes: For Taiwan and China, however, it might still be possible to build constructively on shared heritage and economic interdependence. They could learn not only from the Ukraine-Russia tragedy but also from the US and UK, which turned a century of war and hostility into a fruitful alliance. US war hawks in 1812 wanted to annex British Canada. Now Canada and its former antagonist are major trade partners sharing defense systems. For the Russians as well as the Chinese, the lesson is that policies for mutual gain are less costly and more effective than bullying. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Jack Detsch writes: In some circles in Washington, even the DPP’s hawkiest hawks are getting the reputation for not moving quickly enough. The Pentagon believes that China could commit more than a million ground troops, 1,900 fighter jets, and more than 2,000 missiles to an invasion, raising fears that the Chinese military could overwhelm Taipei before the fight starts in earnest. “It is not clear that they will move with the urgency required,” Alex Velez-Green, a senior policy advisor at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, said of the DPP. – Foreign Policy

Europe

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, British Foreign Minister David Cameron was asked whether his country should be embarrassed by its plan to ship asylum seekers to faraway Rwanda. – Washington Post

For the second time in three years, a conflict in Europe’s unruly neighborhood is threatening to weaken an already struggling economy while a more robust U.S. is watching from a safer distance. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union’s institutions are gearing up for a fight over Hungary and a contentious transfer of 10 billion euros (nearly $11 billion) in funds to Budapest. – Associated Press

NATO is launching its largest exercise since the Cold War, rehearsing how U.S. troops could reinforce European allies in countries bordering Russia and on the alliance’s eastern flank if a conflict were to flare up with a “near-peer” adversary. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on the upper house of parliament to “get on board” and pass his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, a day after surviving a threatened rebellion over the much-criticised legislation by some in his party. – Reuters

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels on Feb. 1 to try again to agree on granting Ukraine new financial aid as Kyiv fights against Russia’s invasion. – Reuters

Slovakia’s president urged lawmakers on Thursday to reconsider plans to scrap a special prosecution office for high crimes and lower sentences for financial crimes, as tens of thousands protested against moves they see as threats to the rule of law. – Reuters

Countries supporting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s bid to lead NATO have been working behind the scenes to make sure the race is wrapped up by this summer, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Swiss automation and electricity supplier ABB said the US Congress is reviewing its operations in China. – Bloomberg

Estonian authorities revoked the residency permit of the Russian Orthodox Church’s top cleric in the Baltic nation, where authorities have long accused the spiritual leader of supporting the Kremlin’s war. – Bloomberg

The European Union won’t be able to sway Hungary to change its controversial policies on migration and LGBTQ rights by withholding fund payments, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday. – Bloomberg

Saskia M. van Genugten writes: The coalition negotiations for a new Dutch government, potentially led by Geert Wilders, are still ongoing, and a lot of question marks remain with regard to its foreign policy priorities. But when it comes to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, and dealing with its regional spillovers, one can expect the pro-US, pro-Israel line to continue. At the same time, at least one thing is clear: The Dutch focus on protecting freedom of navigation and commercial shipping goes beyond a “matter of principle,” as serious national economic interests are also at stake. – Middle East Institute

Africa

Security challenges in West Africa following the coup in Niger last year will be among key topics U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss with African leaders next week during his trip to the region, the State Department’s top Africa diplomat said on Thursday. – Reuters

Senior U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland met Nigerian National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu and discussed “promoting accountability and transparency” in the aftermath of security operations in Nigeria, the State Department said on Thursday. – Reuters

Somalia rejected any discussions with Ethiopia about Addis Ababa’s agreement to lease a port in the breakaway region of Somaliland, as regional heads of state gathered on Thursday to try to defuse a growing diplomatic crisis. – Reuters

Joshua Muravchik writes: If these numbers are accurate, this ratio of civilian to military casualties is comparable to other recent wars that weren’t fought in an urban environment, which speaks to Israel’s efforts to minimize harm to noncombatants. Perhaps now Hamas will claim that Israel was behind Oct. 7, just as it blames Jews for the world wars, as another excuse for its genocidal attacks. That would be a fitting addition to South Africa’s farce. – Wall Street Journal

Mvemba Phezo Dizolele and Pascal Kambale write: To honor the democratic aspirations of Congolese voters, however, it will be crucial for the country to address the numerous irregularities that marred the election. Civil society organizations and independent election observers must urgently conduct an audit of CENI’s operational planning to prevent the problems that tarnished the December vote from occurring in future election cycles. If that happens, Congolese citizens may be able to look back on 2023 as no ordinary election but a meaningful turning point in the history of their democracy. – Foreign Affairs

The Americas

Congress on Thursday sent legislation to avert a partial government shutdown to President Biden, racing to fund federal agencies through early March one day before money was to run out. – New York Times

Police in Canada are investigating a series of extortions and related crimes that they believe are orchestrated by a suspect in India and involve criminals in Edmonton, Alberta, targeting the region’s affluent South Asian people. – Reuters

Conn Carroll writes: “What we have is clearly an international and federal crisis that local governments are being asked to subsidize, and this is unsustainable,” Denver Mayor Mike Johnston recently admitted. “None of our local economies are positioned to be able to carry on such a mission.” Johnston is right. Without a federal bailout, Biden’s border crisis is unsustainable. By giving sanctuary city Democrats the bailout they desire, Senate Republicans will only relieve the political pressure necessary to end the current flood of immigrants into our country. – Washington Examiner

Cybersecurity

The U.S. military must collect data streams from thousands of battlefield vehicles, environmental sensors and other intelligent devices across every military branch and rapidly analyze data to drive split-second decision-making. Nowhere is this truer than for the Specials Operations Command.  – C4ISRNET

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on Thursday approved a set of recommendations to improve the resilience of cyber-physical critical infrastructure. – CyberScoop

Russian state hackers are increasingly attempting to deploy backdoors on the devices of targets in NATO countries and Ukraine, according to new research from Google’s Threat Analysis Group. – The Record

Defense

Lockheed Martin will test this spring whether it can successfully integrate the U.S. Army’s latest and most capable variant of the Patriot missile with the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System. – Defense News

The testing of sophisticated software aboard an XQ-58A Valkyrie drone will influence how the U.S. Air Force develops and deploys autonomous technology in the near future, according to a service official. – Defense News

The B-21 Raider stealth bomber is carrying out test flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the U.S. Air Force has confirmed. – Defense News

The Navy is using data from warships deployed in the Red Sea to improve its predictive maintenance and modernization efforts. – Defense One

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: As Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti recently emphasized, “The threats to our nation and our interests are real and growing.” A strong Navy is essential to our prosperity. Failure to reverse the fleet’s decline is emboldening America’s enemies and will only get more costly the longer they keep at it. A shrinking Navy cannot match growing threats, jeopardizing not only our security but also the very foundation of global stability that relies on a strong and forward-deployed naval force. While this comes at a cost, our Navy is no mere expenditure. It’s a strategic investment in that pays dividends in both American and global prosperity. – American Enterprise Institute

Long War

Pakistan announced yesterday that it had carried out strikes against what it said were terrorist hide-outs in Iran. A day earlier, Iran hit what it called militant camps in Pakistan.  – New York Times

Wael Abu-Fanounah, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, was eliminated during a precise IAF airstrike led by the Southern Command, and based on IDF and ISA intelligence direction, the IDF announced Friday morning. – Arutz Sheva

IDF, Shin Bet, Yamam, and Border Police forces have been operating for the last 35 hours in a counterterrorism operation in the Tulkarem “refugee” camp in Judea and Samaria. – Arutz Sheva