Fdd's overnight brief

January 2, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel’s highest court has struck down a controversial judicial overhaul law enacted last year by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would have limited the justices’ power. – Wall Street Journal

Israel began preparations for prolonged fighting in the Gaza Strip, reshuffling forces as it weighs how to sustain lower-intensity fighting over the long term. – Wall Street Journal

Families of Israeli hostages, brought together by tragedy and a shared mission, have applied steady pressure on their government to make the return of captives its priority. Most relatives maintain that no Israeli offer to Hamas is too costly if it brings the hostages home. For nearly three months, they have carried out their campaign in the media, in protest gatherings and in meetings with decision makers in Israel and abroad. – Wall Street Journal

The Israeli military has tried a variety of methods to explore Hamas’s tunnels in Gaza: robots, robot dogs and real dogs. But what it has quickly learned is that the cheapest and most effective option for exploring the underground labyrinths—which are a potential death trap for soldiers—is a small quadcopter drone. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is bypassing Congress for the second time since the start of the war in Gaza for a weapons sale to Israel, a move that comes amid growing anger at the United States over its backing of Israel as the Gaza death toll rises and misery spreads. – New York Times

An Israeli man who never served in the military was charged with impersonating a soldier and stealing weapons after sneaking into an army unit and joining the fighting against Hamas. – Associated Press

With the Islamic Republic intensifying proxy assaults on the Jewish state, as well as American targets, Israelis are debating a long-held policy of ambiguity over its war with Iran. – New York Sun

At first, it looked like just another entrance shaft to another Hamas tunnel, one more among the thousands uncovered by Israeli troops since their ground offensive into Gaza began on October 27. – New York Sun

The Israel Defense Forces said they have killed a leader in the Hamas terrorist group who aided the terrorist attack on Oct. 7, 2023, against the Jewish state. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: That’s a basis for talks and discussion, not the shoot-from-the-hip bluster of Smotrich and Gotliv. For the good of the country, its ties with the US, and its future unity, Netanyahu must rein in those loudmouths and face the huge challenges facing Israel and Gaza before the day after. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Waiting out Israel’s anger may take years, but Iran and Hezbollah are patient long-term planners. By the late 2020s they may be able to resume aggressive moves at a time when Israel’s unwillingness to focus on long conflicts could expose it to further vulnerabilities. How will this threat affect Israel and the West’s plans to rebuild a more stable Gaza and possibly restore a diplomatic process? Or plans to restore stability to Israel’s northern border? How will it influence Iran’s plans to try to incrementally take over more of the region and eventually obtain nuclear weapons? If Gaza City seemed to answer these questions, Khan Younis has left them—and the fate of the region—wide open. – Wall Street Journal


The Gaza war has given Iran the opportunity to showcase the capacity of its newly restructured network of allied militias, demonstrating Tehran’s strategic reach while allowing it to keep a distance from the fight, according to members of the groups and military analysts. – Washington Post

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Sunday he had made clear in a call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian that Iran shared responsibility for preventing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. – Reuters

Iran said it is open to fresh talks around its nuclear program with world powers that had been overshadowed by the deadly war in Gaza. – Bloomberg

Iran on Friday hanged four people convicted of spying for arch foe Israel, the judiciary said, less than two weeks after authorities had executed a man on similar grounds. – Agence France-Presse

Iran’s Embassy in Spain said Sunday that it had released the last Spanish national detained in the country, a tourist who was arrested shortly after he entered Iran in October 2022. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Iran and its pawns know Biden’s fears all too well; they’re toying with him, knowing their escalations will make him ever more nervous about backing Israel in its war against Hamas. Or at least move him to oppose Jerusalem’s possible coming campaign to drive Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon, from which that Iranian terror proxy has regularly been lobbing missiles and rockets into Northern Israel since Oct. 7. It’s a deadly game of cat-and-mouse — except these mice believe they can scare the cat right out of the “house,” and so far he’s given them every reason to keep trying. – New York Post

Michael Rubin writes: If Biden truly wants peace, he cannot simply absorb Iranian blows. Instead, he must eliminate the Iranian navy. He should publicly warn Iranian sailors to defect, desert, or die. Navy SEALs might disable at sea Iran’s already accident-prone ships. The U.S. might take offline Iran’s submarine base at Jask, an isolated town far from Iran’s main population centers. Americans self-flagellate, but it was Iranian insincerity that condemned diplomacy to fail. Peace now requires meaningful deterrence. Sinking the Iranian navy would be a good place to start. – Washington Examiner

Russia & Ukraine

The incident was a sign of the lengths to which Ukrainian athletes have been willing to go to enforce sports sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus—one ice show and coaching clinic at a time—and how Ukraine’s current and former competitors have embodied the mentality of a country fighting for its survival. – Wall Street Journal

Russia launched a massive missile and drone attack on cities across Ukraine, killing at least 30 people and allegedly sending a warhead through Polish airspace in one of the biggest barrages of the war. – Wall Street Journal

A combined rocket and missile attack on Belgorod, a city in Russia near the Ukrainian border, has killed at least 24 people and injured more than 100, Russian authorities said Saturday, blaming the assault on Ukraine’s military and vowing to retaliate for the deaths. – Washington Post

Russia has been increasing its efforts to undermine French support for Kyiv — a hidden propaganda front in Western Europe that is part of the war against Ukraine, according to Kremlin documents and interviews with European security officials and far-right political figures. – Washington Post

As Russians prepare for their own holiday season, the government’s crackdown on political activists and citizens who have voiced their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, does not appear to be taking a break. – Washington Post

Editorial: What Ukraine needs now are longer-range attack missiles and F-16 air power, continued supply of air defenses, as well as a steady stream of artillery shells and ammunition. The West has to choke off the supply chains and cash that are propping up Russia’s ruinous war. Mr. Putin launched that aggression on his own initiative, in violation of international law. He could end it at any moment by leaving Ukraine’s territory. That’s the kind of peace the world could welcome but, alas, the kind Mr. Putin is least likely to offer. A long struggle looms, which the Russian president would never consider ending on any terms unless he knows that Ukraine has the steady military support of its friends in the West. – Washington Post

Phillips P. O’Brien writes: Arming Ukraine with long-range systems would help Ukraine liberate Crimea and end the war sooner, saving lives on both sides. An administration that wants Ukraine to win should see that and act accordingly. If the Biden administration continues to hem and haw, after all we have seen in recent months, we can stop asking whether it wants Ukraine to win the war. The answer would be no. – Wall Street Journal

Niall Ferguson writes: The pax americana seems to be ending. The fate of Ukraine — of Israel and Taiwan, too — hangs in the balance. I cannot say I am surprised. It was always very likely that the overreach of the Global War on Terror would be requited in this way: with a resurgence of isolationism. Today, fully 57% of Republican voters, and 51% of Independents, say that “US interests are better served by using our resources to improve life for ordinary Americans at home.” Just a third agree that “US interests are best served by supporting freedom and democracy around the world when they are under threat.” I am with the minority on this question. Let’s hope we don’t get vindicated the hard way. – Bloomberg

George Monastiriakos writes: The parallels between the prelude to World War II and today’s international security environment are alarming. The West could nonetheless reduce the likelihood of a world war without sacrificing a single soldier. It all starts by abandoning weakness and committing to Ukraine’s victory instead of just ensuring its survival. – The Hill

Alexander J. Motyl writes: Meanwhile, Putin and his comrades are crowing about victory; the West is dilly-dallying about supplying Ukraine with the requisite armaments; and Putinite populists in Hungary, Slovakia, the Netherlands and the United States are threatening to destroy the very European Union of which Ukraine aspires to be a member. Ukrainians should be in a deep funk. And yet they’re not — almost certainly because they believe, still, that they will win. Putin, beware. You can’t defeat a nation that will never give up. – The Hill

Bohdan Vitvitsky writes: Some in Congress today seem to think that aid to Ukraine is a charitable-giving option and act accordingly. Others understand that it is a matter of our geopolitical interests. But none seem to grasp that, based on our having pressured and induced Ukraine to surrender all of its nuclear arms to Russia, it is actually a matter of obligation. – The Hill


The Israeli military said it returned fire following a strike from Syria overnight and launched extensive strikes against the militant Hezbollah movement in Lebanon amid a rise in hostilities with Iranian-backed militia groups across the region. – Wall Street Journal

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said on its Telegram account on Monday that four of its fighters were killed in southern Lebanon. – Reuters

Israel has completed a series of extensive strikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, a military spokesperson said on Friday, attacks which have impacted the Iran-backed group’s positioning near the border. – Reuters

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has closed an international tribunal that was created to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the U.N. chief’s spokesperson said Sunday. Over the years, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon held in absentia proceedings and found three members of the militant Hezbollah group guilty in connection with Hariri’s death in a massive Feb. 14, 2005 truck bombing. – Associated Press

An Australian citizen killed earlier this week by an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon was a simple construction worker — so claim Ibrahim Bazzi’s friends and family at Sydney — yet the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon is claiming Bazzi as one of its own, providing a funeral with full military honors to Ibrahim, his wife Sharouk Hammoud, and his brother Ali Bazzi. – New York Sun

Russell Avraham Shalev writes: The events of October 7 have shown Israelis that they cannot turn a blind eye while murderous terrorist organizations arm themselves on their borders. Hamas and Hezbollah are waiting for an opportune time to strike Israel’s vulnerable civilian centers, leaving death and mayhem in their wake. In 2006, the international community sold Israel a useless diplomatic “solution.” Now, the international community must use all means to press Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and push them away from the border. Should this fail, Israel will have no choice other than full-out war. – Jerusalem Post


Security forces in Afghanistan killed a number of Tajik and Pakistani nationals and arrested scores others involved in attacks against religious clerics, the public, and mosques, a senior Taliban official said Sunday. – Associated Press

The barren desert plain among the mountains of eastern Afghanistan is filled with hundreds of thousands of people. Some live in tents. Others live out in the open, among the piles of the few belongings they managed to take as they were forced from neighboring Pakistan. The sprawling camp of people returning to Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing is the latest facet of Afghans’ long, painful search for a stable home. – Associated Press

Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov said in a televised interview on December 29 that the Central Asian state’s Security Council had decided to remove the Taliban group now ruling Afghanistan from its registry of terrorist organizations. Smadiyarov said Astana will continue to adhere to United Nations decisions and resolutions regarding Afghanistan. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on December 29 calling for the appointment of a special envoy for Afghanistan to increase engagement with the country and its Taliban leaders. It followed an independent assessment report issued in November that called for greater engagement with Afghanistan following the return to power of the Taliban in August 2021. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on December 31 claimed that Tajik and Pakistani nationals have been responsible for most of the attacks inside the country since the extremist group took power and that dozens of the alleged perpetrators have been killed or arrested. Mohammad Mujahid, the Taliban defense minister, didn’t provide evidence during a Kabul news conference. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Omaid Sharifi writes: Given the hostile environment for creatives at home and the lack of institutional support for the artists abroad, the rich artistic tradition of Afghanistan that stretches back millennia and is fundamental to Afghan cultural identity is facing obliteration. If arts organizations and galleries would support them, and offer sponsored work opportunities and fellowships to artists at risk under the Taliban, we could preserve and strengthen our arts as a whole and feed back into the country. This would fuel hope and light the way for a better future for us all. Please, for the sake of Afghanistan and the world, don’t let this flame of hope die out. – The Hill


Eight civilians, including a child, were killed Monday during exchanges of fire between the army and rebels in northwestern Syria, with 19 others wounded, a war monitor said. – Agence France-Presse

More than 4,360 people, including combatants and civilians, were killed in Syria’s civil war in 2023, in the thirteenth year since fighting began, a war monitor said on Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Air strikes in eastern Syria, “likely” carried out by Israel, killed at least 23 pro-Iran fighters Saturday, a war monitor said, reporting four more dead in the country’s north. – Agence France-Presse

The Israeli army said early Saturday that it carried out strikes in Syria after two rockets fired from the country fell in the Golan Heights. – Agence France-Presse


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

Sarah Idan, a former Miss Iraq and now a candidate in the 2024 US Congressional elections, toured decimated Israeli communities along the Gaza border this week, in a show of solidarity with the Jewish state similar to those that saw her Iraqi citizenship revoked in 2019. – Times of Israel

An Australian man whose family argue he is being “held hostage” in Iraq has now spent 1,000 days in prison. – BBC


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed opposition parties for “exploiting” a dispute between two Turkish football clubs and Saudi officials. – Associated Press

Turkish security forces have detained 32 people suspected of links to the Islamic State extremist group who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks on synagogues and churches as well as the Iraqi Embassy, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Friday. – Associated Press

A Turkish stealth drone with a Ukrainian engine successfully completed its debut flight, expanding Turkey’s arsenal of unmanned aircraft. – Bloomberg

Tens of thousands marched in Istanbul Monday to protest “murderer” Israel’s war in Gaza and the killing of Turkish soldiers by outlawed Kurdish militants in Iraq. – Agence France-Presse


The U.S. Navy destroyed three boats carrying militants supported by Iran after they attacked a containership in the Red Sea, while Iran-allied militias struck a U.S. base in Syria, raising the risk that the war in Gaza could drag the U.S. into broader tensions in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Oil prices jumped in the first session of the New Year, boosted by the chances of Middle East supply disruptions after a naval clash in the Red Sea, as well as hopes of strong holiday demand and an economic stimulus in China, the top importer of crude. – Reuters

Hapag-Lloyd (HLAG.DE) will continue to divert its vessels around the Suez Canal for security reasons, a spokesperson for the German container shipper said on Friday, adding a further assessment would be made on Jan. 2. – Reuters

The Houthi rebel group in Yemen has almost completely shut down a key shipping route in the Red Sea, costing the global economy and setting up a huge challenge for the White House. – The Hill

Editorial: It almost seems as if America’s diplomats are less interested in Iran’s nuclear progress than in avoiding confrontation with the mullahs. As a result, Mideast offshoots of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank are on the march. It is past time for America to take a stand. Resuming the role of defender of the high seas is a good start. Rather than acting in self defense, it’s time to get on offense. – New York Sun

Saudi Arabia

The stunning agreement last June between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf’s Saudi backers came with a deadline to hammer out a deal: the end of 2023. As New Year’s Eve came and went without a pact, the sides now say they are poised to continue negotiations into 2024. – Wall Street Journal

Against the backdrop of aggressive Saudi spending on leagues, stadiums and high-profile athletes in the US and Europe, investing more in video games may come as a surprise, but from the kingdom’s perspective, it’s a smart move. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund emerged as the world’s most active sovereign investor last year, boosting its deal activity even as most global peers including GIC Pte and Temasek Holdings Pte slashed spending. – Bloomberg

Ahdeya Ahmed Al-Sayed writes: The Houthi militias wreaked havoc and destruction in Yemen for years, sought to destabilize regional security and stability, have launched missiles and drones to target Gulf countries; creating a war zone in the Red Sea is only their latest attempt at destabilization. The hijacking of ships has finally made the United States realize that it cannot and should not take a soft stance towards terrorists, including those who stand with the current Iranian regime. This coalition may have come late—now that Houthis control strategic ports in Yemen such as Hodeida—but late is much better than never. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday, at a time of soaring tensions on the key shipping route amid the Israel-Hamas war and attacks on vessels by forces allied to Tehran. – Reuters

Israel must take full control of the Gaza Strip border corridor with Egypt to ensure a “demilitarisation” of the area, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, as Israel’s military pushed deeper into central and southern Gaza. – Reuters

After months of extra duty at sea providing protection for Israel, the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group will be heading home, the Navy announced Monday. The Ford and its accompanying warships will be replaced by the amphibious assault ship the USS Bataan and its accompanying warships, the USS Mesa Verde and the USS Carter Hall. The three vessels had been in the Red Sea and have been transiting toward the Eastern Mediterranean over the last few days. – Associated Press

Membership of the BRICS group of emerging-market nations is set to double, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Egypt to join its ranks on Jan. 1, South Africa’s envoy to the bloc said. – Bloomberg

Yossi Mansharof and Noa Lazimi write: As for Israel, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has rightly stated that Israel would be closely observing the American response to the Houthi attacks. If the US-led naval coalition proves futile, Israel will have to act on its own using targeted attacks, economic sanctions, and cyber warfare. Israel should also designate the rebel group as terrorists and enhance its intelligence efforts regarding the Yemeni arena. Lastly, Jerusalem will have to exact a direct price from the Iranian regime. The December 26 attack further emphasized the urgent need to destroy ballistic missile and drone facilities on Iranian territory. – Jerusalem Post

Einat Levi writes: Morocco could assist in the training of Palestinian public employees deployed in Gaza. Morocco could also host forums, meetings, and conferences to support and promote a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The good relations that Morocco maintains with both sides – Israeli and Palestinian – and the religious authority of King Mohammed VI, including his role as the chairman of the Al-Quds Committee in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, are just some of the assets Morocco can bring to this complex task. The connection with Morocco is a significant asset for Israel in times of peace and war alike. It is important that we learn and derive insights from the past three years towards the new chapter in relations that will unfold once the war is over. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

Throughout 2023, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for the expansion of his country’s weapons arsenal. This year, he plans for more military strengthening and vows to destroy the U.S. or South Korea should either attempt an attack. – Wall Street Journal

The head of South Korea’s opposition party was stabbed in the neck during a Tuesday visit to the port city of Busan. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to further develop relationship of cooperation between the two countries, in New Year messages exchanged on Monday, South Korea’s Yonhap news reported citing the North’s state radio. – Reuters

A light-water reactor at North Korea’s main nuclear complex will likely be formally operational by next summer, South Korea’s defense minister said, amid suspicions that the North may use it as a new source of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. – Associated Press

North Korea is raising the stakes and the risks in the nuclear confrontation with Seoul amid debate among Americans and South Koreans over whether the South should go nuclear. – New York Sun

Bruce W. Bennett writes: With major ROK and U.S. elections in 2024, Kim can be expected to further test his ICBMs for primarily political purposes. In June this year, the U.S. published a National Intelligence Estimate extract projecting that the North will use its nuclear weapon program for such coercive purposes. The ROK and U.S. governments need a coherent strategy for countering this coercion. – The National Interest


Chinese rulers have long used campaigns against corruption to sideline rivals and consolidate power. Xi Jinping is increasingly tying his authority to a new variation: a purge that never ends. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged his countrymen to brace for more economic challenges in the year ahead, sounding a cautious note as a string of weak readings highlights the many headwinds facing the world’s second-largest economy. – Wall Street Journal

China named a top navy admiral as its new defense minister, two months after Beijing abruptly removed the previous appointee without explanation. – Wall Street Journal

One of the youngest pro-democracy activists to have been sentenced in Hong Kong under a national security law imposed by China has fled to Britain, where he said he will seek asylum. – Washington Post

China will ease visa restrictions for people visiting from the United States, the country’s latest effort to attract foreign travelers since reopening its borders earlier this year. – Associated Press

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Joe Biden that their nations should strive for “peaceful coexistence,” as the world’s two largest economies try to stabilize strained relations. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The White House thinks its recent parlays with Beijing have put U.S.-China bilateral relations on a more stable course. Perhaps that’s right. But it’s worth recalling that, in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, and to prepare accordingly. – Wall Street Journal

Karishma Vaswani writes: The reality is that it is unlikely any of this will stop the inevitable outcome of this case. A devout Christian, Lai has said in the past that he was willing to “pay the price” for his beliefs, to save the city that brought him his fame and fortune. Tragically, though, Hong Kong is no longer the place Lai once lauded for its freedom and called heaven. His trial will serve as a reminder of just how far Beijing will go to crush any opposition to its rule, in what was once one of Asia’s most storied cities. – Bloomberg

James Stavridis writes: It is vital for Chairman Brown to develop a personal relationship with his Chinese counterpart to discuss key issues like the war in Ukraine, the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, the civil war in Sudan, the threats by Venezuela to invade its neighbor Guyana. Will such conversations solve enormous problems like those? Unlikely, at least initially. But as Winston Churchill said, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” – Bloomberg

South Asia

At least three people were killed and five seriously injured when gunmen in camouflage fatigues opened fire on villagers in India’s restive northeastern state of Manipur, officials said on Tuesday, as sporadic violence continued in the region. – Reuters

India has formally requested Pakistan to extradite Hafiz Saeed, suspected of involvement in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, for trial in India, foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters in a briefing on Friday. – Reuters

Pakistan’s counterterrorism police said Monday they arrested nearly two dozen members of the outlawed militant group, the Pakistani Taliban, which has been behind several deadly attacks across the country. – Associated Press

A rebel group that fought for decades to free India’s northeastern state of Assam from New Delhi’s rule on Friday signed a peace accord with the government pledging to end the insurgency in the region. – Associated Press

A Dhaka court sentenced Muhammad Yunus — who won the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering microloans to some of Bangladesh’s poorest — to 6 months in jail for labor law violations. – Bloomberg

Pakistan’s election panel said it has rejected former prime minister Imran Khan’s bid to contest the 2024 elections from two constituencies. – Bloomberg

Brahma Chellaney writes: If the U.S. wishes to deepen strategic ties with India — a country central to a stable balance of power in Asia — it must not ignore New Delhi’s growing concerns over the activities of American Sikh militants. By locking horns with China through a border military standoff for over 43 months, India is openly challenging Chinese capability and power in a way no other power has done in this century. India is indispensable to America’s Asia strategy. – The Hill


A Chinese investigation into purported lip syncing by a rock band from Taiwan is aimed at pressuring the band into supporting Beijing’s stance on the island and is part of a broad effort to interfere in its politics, Taiwanese officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Thailand and China will permanently waive visa requirements for each other’s citizens from March, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Tuesday. – Reuters

China’s “reunification” with Taiwan is inevitable, President Xi Jinping said in his New Year’s address on Sunday, striking a stronger tone than he did last year with less than two weeks to go before the Chinese-claimed island elects a new leader. – Reuters

McDonald’s Malaysia has sued a movement promoting boycotts against Israel for “false and defamatory statements” that it says hurt its business, seeking damages amounting to 6 million ringgit ($1.31 million). – Reuters

Foreign ministers of Southeast Asia’s regional bloc ASEAN on Saturday expressed their concern over growing tensions in the South China Sea which they said could threaten regional peace and urged for peaceful dialogue among parties. – Reuters

A nonprofit organization dedicated to saving Americans abroad whose lives are at risk is currently preparing for the possibility they may conduct rescue missions in Taiwan and mainland China ahead of a possible conflict. – Washington Examiner

Bolor Lkhaajav writes: With global competition for critical minerals compounding the already tense geopolitics of the region, Mongolia continues to navigate a delicate path as it looks for partners to support its ambitious plans for economic growth. Mongolia’s foreign policy looks to become a vital link between Europe and Asia, especially during the global transition to renewable energy. – The National Interest


Netherlands has blocked chip-equipment manufacturer ASML’s exports to China of some lithography systems, which are essential to making advanced microprocessors, in a partial license revocation following U.S. export restrictions. – Wall Street Journal

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II surprised her country on New Year’s Eve by announcing live on television that she was abdicating after more than half a century on the throne, citing age- and health-related concerns. – Washington Post

Hundreds of Kosovars rushed to Pristina airport to travel to EU countries on Monday after visas for Europe’s open-borders Schengen zone were waived. – Reuters

Thousands of people rallied in Serbia’s capital on Saturday, chanting “Thieves!” and accusing the populist authorities of President Aleksandar Vucic of orchestrating a fraud during a recent general election. – Associated Press

The Bosnian Serbs’ separatist leader vowed to carry on weakening his war-scarred country to the point where it will tear apart, despite a pledge by the United States to prevent such an outcome. – Associated Press

Bulgaria and Romania came closer to joining passport-free movement in the European Union after the bloc agreed to ease maritime and air travel for the two countries. – Bloomberg

Israel will allow ships from several European countries to deliver aid directly to war-torn Gaza, the country’s top diplomat said Sunday, as the Israeli military ramped up large-scale air attacks across central Gaza. – Politico

The Czech Republic is refusing to attend an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting that was called by Russia, arguing Moscow was responsible for the nearly two-year war in Ukraine. – The Hill

Dov S. Zakheim writes: Many on Capitol Hill who oppose such aid point to Europe’s unwillingness to spend money to defend itself. Perhaps the latest budgetary efforts on the part of America’s Nordic and Baltic friends and allies will convince at least some otherwise skeptical legislators that — thanks to Vladimir Putin — more European states have at last hit an inflection point on defense spending while maintaining their support for Kyiv. Given these developments, perhaps those lawmakers will recognize that now would be the worst possible time for America to be seen as backsliding from its hitherto solid support for Kyiv’s fight for its continued freedom and independence. – The Hill


Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on Sunday was declared the winner of this month’s national election, handing him a pivotal role in global efforts to combat climate change thanks to his country’s vast forests and rich mineral reserves. – Wall Street Journal

South Africa accused Israel of genocide on Friday in the International Court of Justice and asked the U.N. court to order a halt to fighting in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying that Israel was trying to “destroy Palestinians in Gaza.” – New York Times

The leader of Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo met on Monday with civilian pro-democracy politicians in Addis Ababa, the latest stop in a foreign tour as his troops take the upper-hand in a devastating nine-month war. – Reuters

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is poised to complete its withdrawal from the country on Sunday, the United Nations said in a statement. – Reuters

The prime ministers of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali on Saturday affirmed their commitment to a shared future under an alliance that has seen the three junta-led countries distance themselves from the larger West African political bloc since their coups. – Reuters

Over 1,000 Burundian troops have been covertly deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since October, wearing the uniform of Congolese troops and working alongside them in the fight against M23 rebels, an unpublished U.N. report seen by Reuters showed. – Reuters

Chad’s transitional government appointed a former opposition leader who recently returned from exile as its new prime minister. – Associated Press

Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia, to gain access to the Red Sea in exchange for a stake in its flagship carrier Ethiopian Airlines. – Bloomberg

The WHO called for urgent action Friday to tackle the deepening health and humanitarian crises in Sudan and asked the international community to step up with financial aid. – Agence France-Presse

Kelsey Zorzi writes: A U.S. special envoy to Sudan would need to make avoiding that grim future a central goal-shaping policy, remembering that just a few short years ago Sudan seemed poised to become a bastion of stability, human rights and moderate governance in the region. The elements of Sudanese society that produced that possibility may have been driven underground by the present conflict, but the U.S. and the international community must invest in their return to influence. – The Hill

Latin America

Nicaragua and China on Monday formally started trading under a new free trade agreement, allowing the Central American country to export some 71% of its products into the largest Asian market and free of tariffs. – Reuters

Venezuela said Saturday it will continue to deploy nearly 6,000 troops until a British military vessel sent to neighboring Guyana leaves the waters off the coast of the two South American nations. – Associated Press

Members and supporters of the Zapatista indigenous rebel movement celebrated the 30th anniversary of their brief armed uprising in southern Mexico on Monday even as their social base erodes and violence spurred by drug cartels encroaches on their territory. – Associated Press

Mexico and Venezuela announced Saturday that they have restarted repatriation flights of Venezuelans migrants in Mexico, the latest move by countries in the region to take on a flood of people traveling north to the United States. – Associated Press

Argentina formally announced Friday that it won’t join the BRICS bloc of developing economies, the latest in a dramatic shift in foreign and economic policy by Argentina’s new far-right populist President Javier Milei. – Associated Press

Mexico sent Venezuelan migrants home on two repatriation flights for the first time since January, part of a joint effort to reduce migration to the US. – Bloomberg

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales was barred from a 2025 reelection bid by a high court ruling that limits the presidency to two terms. – Bloomberg

Brazil called for a return to dialogue between Venezuela and Guyana amid a renewed escalation of tensions over the oil-rich Essequibo region, urging the neighboring nations to avoid demonstrations of military force near the disputed territory. – Bloomberg

United States

Special counsel Jack Smith asked a federal appeals court on Saturday to reject Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from prosecution on charges he plotted to overturn the 2020 election, arguing that his defense “threatens to license Presidents to commit crimes to remain in office.” – Wall Street Journal

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley argued in separate campaign stops last week that extending clemency to Trump would be in the country’s best interest. Both had previously signaled they were leaning toward issuing a pardon, but their recent statements were the most definitive yet and left little room for doubt just weeks before the first nominating contests in January. – Washington Post

Similar issues range across U.S. government agencies involved in foreign policy and national security. In the growing espionage shadow war between the United States and China, some American federal employees with ties to Asia, even distant ones, say they are being unfairly scrutinized by U.S. counterintelligence and security officers and blocked from jobs in which they could help bolster American interests. – New York Times

Foreign policy issues top the public’s agenda for 2024, followed by economic concerns. Education, the environment and climate change, and health care continue to be major concerns. Most Americans do not expect things to get better for themselves or the country in the upcoming year. – Associated Press

Pro-Palestinian protesters assembled a car caravan on Monday in a bid to disrupt the operations of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. – Washington Examiner

Judges overseeing cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot have handed down a combined 847 years’ worth of prison sentences to more than 450 defendants as of the end of 2023. – Washington Examiner


Chief Justice John Roberts focused his year-end report squarely on technology, avoiding discussion of the ethics questions that dogged the Supreme Court in 2023 and the flurry of election cases approaching the docket to discuss the promise and perils of artificial intelligence for the federal judiciary. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. antitrust cases against tech giants Google and Meta Platforms are expected to come to a head in 2024, likely producing long-awaited rulings that could shape the legacies of top Biden administration regulators. – Wall Street Journal

Hackers accessed the court recordings database in Australia’s Victoria state and disrupted the audio-visual in-court technology network, impacting recordings and transcription services, an official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The tiny Aliquippa water authority in western Pennsylvania was perhaps the least-suspecting victim of an international cyberattack. It had never had outside help in protecting its systems from a cyberattack, either at its existing plant that dates to the 1930s or the new $18.5 million one it is building. Then it — along with several other water utilities — was struck by what federal authorities say are Iranian-backed hackers targeting a piece of equipment specifically because it was Israeli-made. – Associated Press

Google agreed to settle a $5 billion lawsuit that alleged it had spied on people who had activated its “incognito mode,” a setting in Google Chrome that promises freedom and privacy. – Washington Examiner

State lawmakers are trying to get ahead of the repercussions artificial intelligence could have on campaigns and voting as the 2024 elections near. – Washington Examiner

The reach of generative artificial intelligence (AI) skyrocketed this year as tech companies raced to get ahead of each other while regulators and lawmakers looked to add guardrails. – The Hill

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) is sounding the alarm on the dangers of social media in a new interview, pointing out that it could lead to more mental health issues especially among young people. – The Hill

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) suggested in a Sunday interview he would not back state-imposed restrictions on children’s social media use, saying that responsibility, instead, should lie with the parents. – The Hill

Social media giant X, formerly Twitter, lost its bid to block a California content moderation law on Friday, with a federal judge dismissing the company’s challenge. – The Hill

Zephyr Teachout writes: Europe often trumpets its regulatory leadership in the world. But the so-called “Brussels Effect” of other countries heeding its rules began to dissipate when Europe failed to enforce its most famous law: the General Data Protection Regulation. The European Commission is understandably focused on the Digital Services Act, which goes into effect next month, but EU policymakers should welcome the new Irish rules. Coimisiún na Meán’s bold move would ultimately make the Digital Services Act far more successful. Europe and the Irish government are stepping up at last to regulate harmful technology products. Social media may become social again.  – The Hill


When Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and other top officials assembled for an event this month at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, they walked into a lesson in how the high-stakes world of Pentagon lobbying is being altered by the rise of defense technology startups. – New York Times

Editorial: The U.S. military reflects the strengths and weaknesses of American society. But it has a strong culture that keeps men and women from joining the political fringes: Uniting members of all races and creeds in a common purpose, and steeping them in the military’s rich tradition of duty, honor, country. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: “I have exercised my clemency power more than any recent predecessor,” Mr. Biden said on Dec. 22 in commutations for drug offenders. The Democratic argument that too many are behind bars would be more credible with much of the public if it extended to mercy for a naval officer caught in a terrible tragedy. – Wall Street Journal

Seth G. Jones writes: Beijing’s buildup should be a blinking red light for Washington. The U.S. defense industrial base lacks the capacity, responsiveness, flexibility and surge capability to meet the military’s needs. Part of the problem is that the U.S. defense industrial base remains on a peacetime footing, despite wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as growing tension in the Taiwan Strait and Korean Peninsula. – Wall Street Journal

Long War

A New Jersey man arrested in Kenya has been charged for trying to aid militant Islamist group al Shabaab, the U.S. Justice Department said, alleging he was motivated by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel to wage violence. – Reuters

German authorities said Monday they detained another suspect in connection with an alleged threat of an attack on the world-famous Cologne Cathedral over the holidays, bringing the overall number of people detained in connection with the alleged plot to five. […]Police detained three people on Sunday morning and one man last week. All of the detained suspects allegedly belong to a larger Islamic extremist network that included people across Germany and in other European countries, according to Cologne police chief Johannes Hermanns, German news agency dpa reported. – Associated Press

Al-Qaeda reportedly threatened an “open-source Jihad” against Western and Jewish targets, including airlines, in a video released within the last week. – Fox News

Eitan Charnoff and Chama Mechtaly write: The events of Oct. 7 underscore a critical lesson: Allowing radicals, particularly those with territorial control, to build offensive capacities poses significant risks. Similar to Israel’s conflict with Hamas, the Houthi threat must be addressed to ensure a more peaceful Middle East. In contrast to the substantial support given to American warships in the Mediterranean after Oct. 7, the Saudi coalition historically lacked such backing. This stance shifted only when the emerging global danger posed by the Houthis became apparent. After Operation Prosperity Guardian, the U.S. must reclassify the Houthis as a terrorist group. Not doing so suggests the U.S. is still uncertain about the global or even regional implications of the Houthi threat. – The Hill

Ted Lipien writes: The word “terrorist” was out. Never mind that Hamas had been on multiple governments’ lists of terrorist organizations for years. Never mind that this latest murderous adventure of theirs perfectly fits the dictionary definition of terrorism. […]Unless journalists and academics regain their moral compass, there will be new and more horrific incidents of genocide against Jews than even those committed by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7. The consequences of the media protecting Hamas terrorists with words can indeed be deadly. Sometimes, true neutrality requires using words with negative connotations to describe reality accurately. Anything softer would be misleading. – The Hill