Fdd's overnight brief

January 24, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel suffered its deadliest day since the Gaza war began after two buildings collapsed on soldiers engaged in an operation that raised questions about whether Israel’s government was proceeding with plans to create a buffer zone inside the strip. – Wall Street Journal

Officials of Palestinian militant group Hamas have told international mediators that they are open to discussing a deal to release some of the kidnapped Israelis they are holding hostage in exchange for a significant pause in fighting, Egyptian officials said Tuesday. – Wall Street Journal

Israel is looking to address a major labor shortage, abruptly worsened by the conflict with Hamas, by recruiting tens of thousands of Indians at a time when Palestinians who have long played a crucial role in Israeli construction and other sectors are being barred from the country. – Washington Post

Frustration is turning to fury for Israel’s hostage families. After three agonizing months of waiting for their children, parents and spouses to be freed, the hyper-organized community is growing more desperate, and more militant. – Washington Post

With Israel’s army beginning to gradually pull out of Gaza, its gains against Hamas are significant but incomplete, Israeli military and security officials say, and are threatened by the lack of a postwar strategy. – Washington Post

Israel and Hamas broadly agree in principle that an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners could take place during a month-long ceasefire, but the framework plan is being held up by the two sides’ differences over how to bring a permanent end to the Gaza war, three sources said. – Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said it was “unacceptable” for Israel’s government to reject a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians, warning that the move would “embolden extremists everywhere.” – Reuters

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Tuesday that Israel cannot be allowed to unilaterally block the creation of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

A new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll published this week of over 2,300 registered US voters found overwhelming support for Israel over Hamas in the ongoing war, triggered by the terror group’s October 7 murderous rampage. – Times of Israel

Editorial: What is important now is to find the cause of Monday’s disaster, implement the lessons learned, and mourn the losses while not allowing the pain to prevent Israel from pursuing a goal that is necessary if it hopes to survive and thrive in this region: thoroughly dismantling Hamas’s capabilities in a manner clear to friend and foe alike. – Jerusalem Post

David Ignatius writes: Israel needs this cease-fire and prisoner swap as badly as Hamas does. The endgame of the tunnel war could go on for many months. But aboveground, Gaza is becoming a version of warlord-dominated Somalia. Israel and Hamas need to start moving toward de-escalation of this conflict now, while they still have a chance. – Washington Post

Bret Stephens writes: Hamas could have averted this tragedy if it had turned Gaza into an enclave for peace rather than terror. It could have averted it if it had not started four previous rounds of war against Israel. It could have averted it if it had honored the cease-fire that held on Oct. 6. It could have lessened the blow against Gazans by fighting in the open, not behind civilians. It could have eased it by releasing all of its hostages. It could end it now by surrendering its leaders and sending its fighters into exile. – New York Times

Noam Mor writes: So far, the IDF pressure has neither fully subdued Hamas nor reached another hostage deal. Therefore, Qatari leverage on Hamas via threats to their relations and expelling their leaders from the country takes on greater significance. Such a move, which promotes American and Israeli interests, could only be carried out through massive pressure from Washington, and the exploitation of Qatar’s sensitivity to its international image. – Jerusalem Post

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: However, along with the incidents a couple of weeks ago plus potential future incidents, the event of the 21 dead soldiers is likely to embolden those seeking a hostage deal to soon push harder, which could lead to a tipping point, i.e., a deal or an end to the Netanyahu-Gantz alliance shortly. – Jerusalem Post


Iran is sending increasingly sophisticated weapons to its Houthi allies in Yemen, Western officials and advisers say, enhancing their ability to attack merchant vessels and disrupt international commerce despite weeks of U.S-led airstrikes. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was expected to fly to Turkey on Wednesday for twice-delayed talks aimed at ironing out past differences and trying to halt the spread of the Israel-Hamas war. – Agence France-Presse

A member of a terrorist organization, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is also Iran’s foreign minister is at New York to lecture the United Nations on humanitarian issues, denounce America and Britain over war mongering claims, and condemn Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza. – New York Sun

“High-profile” experts working on Middle Eastern affairs at universities and research organizations in the US, UK, Belgium, France, Israel, and even Gaza have been targeted by hackers allegedly connected to the Iranian government, according to a new report from Microsoft. – Jerusalem Post

Afshon Ostovar writes: They can fire at targets from a long distance and use the threat of such as coercion with neighbors and foes, but Iran and its clients cannot do much more. They cannot take their war to Israel or liberate Palestine by force. Instead, they are limited to conducting provocative acts in an attempt to shape the political environment. For Iran, such acts signal both what it can do and the limits of what it’s willing to do for its cause. – Foreign Policy

Russia & Ukraine

Russia launched a combination of cruise and ballistic missiles at Ukrainian cities on Tuesday in a large volley that killed at least 19 people and injured another 120, according to local authorities. The assault added to concerns about the state of Ukraine’s air defenses as Russian barrages continue on its largest cities. – New York Times

Russia’s military is carrying out probing attacks with barrages of missiles and drones in an attempt to find weaknesses in Ukraine’s military as U.S. funding for security assistance is tied up in Congress, a senior Pentagon official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The European Union is unlikely to confiscate Russian central bank assets frozen in Europe, despite G7 plans to discuss the legality of such a move at a meeting in February, senior EU officials said. – Reuters

Russia’s war in Ukraine is intensifying an acute deficit of workers that’s hitting businesses from metal refineries to posh Moscow restaurants and igniting a race to increase salaries that threatens the Kremlin’s ability to replenish the armed forces. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Leveraging the underlying assets for investment and borrowing offers the prospect of greater returns, but the legal process for doing so isn’t straightforward. In the meantime, more than $110 billion in aid — monumental for Ukraine but a pittance compared to Western defense budgets — is being held up by a faction of hard-line Republicans in the US Congress and, in Europe, by Hungary’s pro-Russian leader, Viktor Orban. Embarking on a long and contested process to seize Russian assets may allow Western governments to claim they’re doing something. But it won’t help save Ukraine. – Bloomberg

Michael S. Bernstam and Steven R. Rosefielde write: In parallel, once the Russian Trust Fund is established, Western governments and Ukraine can jointly institute the “Ukraine Reconstruction Facility.” It can sue the Russian Trust Fund in the international Court of Arbitration for war reparations. Russia, for its part, can sue Western governments there for the return of frozen assets. – The Hill

Kseniya Kirillova writes: So while the world is not divided into two camps, that’s nonetheless the hope of Russian strategists. Every relationship should be aimed at weakening Western resolve. “As our overall influence grows, the countries of the Global Majority may become a crucial factor in weakening the cohesion of the West,” the report states. Kremlin analysts are determined to use their allies as weapons against the West, fully aware that these countries do not seek such a confrontation. As always with the regime’s approach to outsiders, it is cynical yet troublingly effective. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Mykhaylo Lopatin writes: Mainstream approaches to capability development are too slow to harness emerging and disruptive technologies, and the special operations model is not meant to be diffused and scaled. These approaches should be supplemented by a rapid capability development approach that serves the security and defense forces as a whole. In the grand scheme of Ukraine’s defense acquisitions and security cooperation, the establishment of a capability accelerator will require few resources. But by aligning resources to mission priorities and scaling the pace of innovation, it can bring vital change. – War on the Rocks

David C. Hendrickson writes: However, the public record does disclose far-reaching differences between the parties that persisted throughout the negotiations. Though Russia’s terms preserved Ukrainian sovereignty in most of its territory, it did amount to an effective Ukrainian capitulation on the points that had brought about the war. The Ukrainians were in no mood to do that. That made any peace agreement a remote prospect in the spring of 2022. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. conducted strikes against Iran-supported militants, this time in Iraq after the group attacked American troops for a second time Tuesday, which amounted to one of the strongest responses thus far to hundreds of recent attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria. – Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s parliament approved Sweden’s entrance to NATO, removing one of the last remaining obstacles to a historic expansion of the alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

The United States struck two Houthi anti-ship missiles in Yemen, the military’s Central Command said on Tuesday, resuming what U.S. officials said were short-notice attacks against the Iran-backed militia’s imminent threats to merchant vessels, as well as Navy ships in the Red Sea and nearby waters. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday inaugurated the construction of a new unit at Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant via video link, as Moscow moves ahead with its global nuclear ambitions. – Reuters

Syria said on Tuesday there was no justification for Jordanian air strikes on its territory that its neighbour said had targeted drug dealers whose border incursions posed a threat to Jordan’s national security. – Reuters

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron will travel to the Middle East this week, part of the latest effort to push for a sustainable ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. – Bloomberg

Yerevan Saeed writes: The U.S. ultimately faces a critical choice: prioritize immediate interests and risk alienating future allies, or invest in building genuine partnerships grounded in mutual respect and long-term commitment. The Kurds, and the broader Middle East, deserve more than just temporary utility. – The Hill

Michael Rubin writes: The United States, its European allies, India, and moderate Arab states might today take a passive approach to Afghanistan, but any Qatari attempt to end the Tajikistan lifeline could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Should Qatar buy off Tajikistan, the regional implications could be profound, transforming Afghanistan into a petri dish to grow and train terror groups in a way that could make events like October 7 too frequent an occurrence. Such a move would also strip the sheen off Qatari diplomacy. Its interest in Afghanistan and the Taliban is no longer strategic but purely ideological. Qatar wants Islamist victory. It can never be treated as an ally in the fight against terror. – Middle East Forum Observer

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol is facing an increasingly hostile North Korea. In Seoul, he has a very different problem: a $2,200 luxury Dior handbag. – Wall Street Journal

North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles towards the sea off its west coast on Wednesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, in the latest sign of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. – Reuters

North Korea has demolished a major monument in its capital that symbolized the goal of reconciliation with South Korea on the orders of leader Kim Jong Un, who last week called South Korea a “primary foe” and said unification was no longer possible. – Reuters

Gordon G. Chang writes: So perhaps Carlin and Hecker are right about Pyongyang’s strategic vision of the moment. If Kim Jong Un believes the United States is losing wars around the world, the temptation of joining a winning China-Russia axis would be almost irresistible. – The Hill

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Victoria Cheng, and Spencer Faragasso write: To assess enrichment requirements, the nuclear reactor expert said that a rule of thumb is that a core composed of 10-20 percent LEU driver fuel would have the same amount of uranium-235 as a core of 3.5 percent LEU fuel. North Korea has more than sufficient capacity to provide either 3.5 percent enriched uranium or 10 to 20 percent enriched uranium fuel for this reactor. – Institute for Science and International Security 

Yulgok Kim writes: While the demographic cliff will gradually cripple many sectors of South Korean society, national defense will be one of the first to be significantly impacted, potentially resulting in changes in the U.S.-South Korea alliance strategy. Thus, it is an opportune time for Washington to loosen the security shackles on key allies to ensure they can support U.S. strategy during this time of intense strategic competition. – The National Interest


When Xi Jinping was looking for someone to succeed the abruptly removed Qin Gang as foreign minister last summer, people familiar with the matter say, one name made it to the top of the Chinese leader’s list. – Wall Street Journal

China and Nauru re-established diplomatic ties on Wednesday, after the tiny Pacific island nation unexpectedly severed relations with its now former ally Taiwan in a move the United States described as “unfortunate”. – Reuters

The United States has asked China to urge Tehran to rein in the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea but has seen little sign of help from Beijing, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. officials. – Financial Times

One of Beijing’s most senior diplomats dismissed concern over the ouster of former Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in rare public comments from a Chinese official about the mysterious episode. – Bloomberg

John Authers and Isabelle Lee write: That is a reach. In hindsight, it wasn’t such a great idea to extrapolate Chinese growth into the future in a straight line, and assume that equity market capitalization could match it. The risk is that the money surging out of China will redirect itself on equally shaky grounds. There are opportunities in India, but they should be selected with care. – Bloomberg 

Masaaki Yatsuzuka writes: Looking ahead, Xi Jinping will continue to strengthen his power base in the PLA by personally reviewing senior military leadership appointments and boosting his anti-corruption campaign. Xi’s tight control over the military will continue to stoke a power struggle among military cadres scrambling to gain his trust, which could jeopardize the effectiveness of his reforms. – Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Rishi Iyengar writes: Thibaut says there’s a non-zero chance that the United States will have to contend with a double threat of Chinese and Russian interference come November. “They already are working together on certain influence operations—they have, for example, some shared infrastructure in different African countries where they work together to produce similar media,” she said. “There’s definitely cooperation at the narrative level.” – Foreign Policy

Howard W. French writes: I don’t just find fault with Krugman’s statement of the new conventional wisdom, though. I also fault myself. I saw China’s window of geopolitical opportunity closing in the face of swift aging and population decline sometime in the 2030s. The reality is that the window has already begun to narrow. – Foreign Policy 

South Asia

Cydney Mizell, an aid worker teaching English in southern Afghanistan, vanished in 2008, abducted after being driven off the side of a road and presumed dead for 15 years. – New York Times

Sri Lanka’s lawmakers are set to vote on a social media regulation bill on Wednesday which opposition politicians and activists allege will muzzle free speech. – Reuters

A Chinese research vessel on its way to the Maldives will not conduct any research while in the archipelago’s waters in the Indian Ocean, the Maldivian foreign ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan resumed Tuesday after the two sides reopened a key northwestern border crossing shut for more than 10 days. – Associated Press


The social media post simply pointed to a report from Human Rights Watch, but it was critical of Israel and came from a Lebanese Australian journalist whom critics considered biased. – New York Times

A Thai court on Wednesday ruled former prime ministerial hopeful Pita Limjaroenrat had not violated election law and could remain a lawmaker, surviving the first of two cases targeting the anti-establishment opposition Move Forward Party. – Reuters

The Philippines armed forces will guarantee the “unimpeded and peaceful” exploration and exploitation of natural resources within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as it shifts its focus to external defence, Manila’s defense secretary said. – Reuters

Tuvalu expects to review its diplomatic ties with Taiwan after Friday’s election, Finance Minister Seve Paeniu told Reuters, adding voters in the tiny Pacific Island nation wanted more financial support from the international community for climate change and development. – Reuters

Taiwan’s president-elect, Lai Ching-te, signalled on Wednesday his desire for Taipei to join the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, considering the island’s key role in the global economy. – Reuters

Malaysia will set up a royal commission of inquiry to study the handling of cases involving three disputed islets in the Singapore Strait, the cabinet said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Indonesia’s vice presidential hopeful Mahfud MD said he plans to quit his role as a senior minister, less than a month away from elections to prevent any conflict of interest. – Bloomberg

Karishma Vaswani writes: Because of their geopolitical and geographic proximity, the future for these two increasingly dependent partners will no doubt be linked. Ultimately, just the threat of dealing with the mainland may well be enough to draw them even closer together. In international politics, as on the playground, having someone watch your back always helps. – Bloomberg

Michael Green and Daniel Twining write: Thanks to population powerhouses such as India and Indonesia, more people live under democratic governments in Asia than in any other region in the world. The countries in the region most resilient to Chinese intimidation, cooptation, and coercion are those with effective institutions. The United States must work pragmatically with regional partners to bolster a democratic infrastructure that provides an enduring foundation for peace, pluralism, and prosperity. – Foreign Affairs

Avinash Paliwal writes: The current moment is, arguably, the most sensitive in Myanmar’s modern history. The junta is the weakest it has ever been and the resistance has made unprecedented territorial, political, and military gains. The various resistance groups will need to negotiate settlements among themselves to ensure that a potential post-junta Myanmar does not descend into a civil war, as happened in Afghanistan when its government collapsed in the 1990s. To avoid Afghanistan’s fate, Myanmar’s resistance should take a page from the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, which put a premium on national reconciliation over centralizing power. Only then will Myanmar have a fighting chance of emerging as a federal democracy. – Foreign Affairs


Germany’s top court on Tuesday stripped a neo-Nazi party of the right to public financing and the tax advantages normally extended to political organizations, a decision that could provide a blueprint for government efforts to head off a resurgence of the far right. – New York Times

A Dutch crime watchdog on Tuesday said it had arrested three people suspected of circumventing sanctions on Russia by being part of an international smuggling network. – Reuters

Italy will use its presidency of the Group of Seven major democracies to challenge growing perceptions that Russia is winning in Ukraine and that the West is tiring of the war, a source familiar with Italy’s G7 plans said. – Reuters

The European Commission will set out plans on Wednesday to bolster the European Union’s economic security through closer scrutiny of foreign investment and tighter controls on exports and outflows of technologies to rivals such as China. – Reuters

It will be hard to get Hungary to back more financial aid to Ukraine at a European Union summit next week, with the bloc having set a bad precedent to finesse Viktor Orban’s objections the last time around, Luxembourg’s foreign minister said. – Reuters

Portugal’s centre-left Socialist Party (PS) has extended its lead as the favourite to win the most votes in a snap general election on March 10, although it remains far from a parliamentary majority, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday. – Reuters

Belarusian authorities on Tuesday arrested several dozen people in raids marking the latest in a relentless crackdown on dissent, a local human rights center said. – Associated Press

The upper house of Britain’s Parliament has urged the Conservative government not to ratify a migration treaty with Rwanda. It’s a largely symbolic move, but signals more opposition to come for the stalled and contentious plan to send some asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to the African nation. – Associated Press

Emil Avdaliani writes: But the heightened sensitivity around the icon also feeds into the tensions inside the country. As crucial parliamentary elections near, events such as the icon display will be used by both the opposition and the ruling party. Stalin’s ghost still influences Georgian politics more than 70 years after his death. That’s an achievement, of sorts. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Top U.S. diplomats, worried about Islamist insurgencies spreading through western Africa, are urging stable countries on the region’s coast to insulate themselves by improving government services and addressing divisive grievances before it is too late. – Wall Street Journal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the United States is determined to remain a strong security partner for Nigeria, whose military is backed by the U.S., Britain and other allies in a long war against Islamist insurgents. – Reuters

Rwandan authorities accused Burundi’s leader of making “incendiary allegations aimed at inciting division among Rwandans,” raising tensions that persist after Burundi closed all border crossings with Rwanda earlier this month. – Associated Press

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it conducted airstrikes in Somalia over the weekend that killed three al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants and that there were no civilian casualties. – Associated Press

Norman Ishimwe Sinamenye writes: Even worse, by ignoring the problem of Rwandan refugees and failing, like previous leaders, to create conditions for their safe return, Kagame is setting Rwanda up for the next round of violent strife in the country, which will endanger both Rwandans and the migrants that the United Kingdom sends there. The U.K. and Rwanda’s international partners will have a share of responsibility if they don’t do enough to prevent this. – Foreign Policy

Latin America

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday offered cooperation to his Ecuadorian counterpart Daniel Noboa to boost security amid escalating violence in the Andean country. – Reuters

Venezuelan opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado on Tuesday announced an alliance with political parties and civil society organizations that will help organize her campaign to challenge President Nicolas Maduro, and she called for an exact date for the elections. – Reuters

A U.S. judge on Tuesday appointed a new lawyer to represent Juan Orlando Hernandez and delayed his drug trafficking trial a week after the former Honduran president claimed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sent a rabbi to “infiltrate” his defense team. – Reuters

North America

A Canadian judge ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the country’s constitution when he invoked extraordinary powers in 2022 to end a weekslong protest in the capital against Covid-19 vaccine mandates. – Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump put himself on the cusp of clinching the Republican presidential nomination after New Hampshire voters handed him a decisive victory in Tuesday’s primary. – Bloomberg

Editorial: By the way, Harvard simultaneously announced a task force to fight Islamophobia, in keeping with the new habit on the left that antisemitism can’t be condemned by itself. Most Americans will shake their heads and wonder how many degrees you need to behave as foolishly as Harvard’s leaders. – Wall Street Journal

Jason L. Riley writes: A traffic alert sent out by airport officials last weekend warned travelers to expect delays “due to a group in vehicles exercising first amendment rights in roadway.” The vehicles were occupied by opponents of Israel’s war against Hamas, and for the past several months demonstrators have been throttling highways and byways across the nation to draw attention to their cause. – Wall Street Journal

Danielle Pletka writes: The time has come to listen to the criticism of U.N. skeptics and to reassess U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing uncritically, and, for the most part, without accountability to a mass of international organizations that more often than not actively oppose U.S. values and allies. The question is not whether the United States should withdraw from the United Nations entirely. Simply cutting dollars to the least worthy of U.N. bodies will, at the very least, begin the process of ending the waste, fraud, hatred, and abuse that characterizes the work of too much of the United Nations. – The Dispatch


North Korea is developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for everything from how to respond to COVID-19 and safeguard nuclear reactors to wargaming simulations and government surveillance, according to a new study. – Reuters

For the second time in six months, Microsoft has disclosed that spies affiliated with a foreign intelligence service breached the company’s systems and accessed the emails of senior company executives. And for the second time in as many months, officials in Washington along with security researchers and executives are arguing that the company simply isn’t doing enough to secure its systems. – CyberScoop

Lahav Harkov writes: “The incredible attachment to your culture and respect for religion that is lost in the West…The knowledge that if you don’t maintain your history you disappear. I look at this country and see babies everywhere, including in liberal Tel Aviv, and I have great respect, even envy. These are things that I see, respect and admire in Israel and would like to see them revived in the Western world.” – Jewish Insider


NATO signed on Tuesday a $1.2-billion contract to make tens of thousands of artillery rounds to replenish the dwindling stocks of its member countries as they supply ammunition to Ukraine to help it defeat Russia’s invasion. – Associated Press

A growing number of bipartisan lawmakers is questioning President Joe Biden’s legal authorities to conduct strikes on Yemen’s Houthis. – Defense News

Taiwan’s largest private shipbuilder has started building an anti-submarine warfare frigate expected to relieve stress on the fleet. – Defense News

German drone maker Quantum Systems has recorded a three-fold increase in aircraft deliveries to Ukraine, with demand driven by the need of Kyiv’s forces to find the enemy after dark, according to company officials. – Defense News

BAE Systems said it successfully tested a counter-drone capability on one of the U.S. Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles in a recent live-fire event. – Defense News

Jan Kallberg writes: A great article in the June 2023 issue of US Army’s Military Review titled “The Graveyard of Command Posts” puts its finger on the issue of command survival, but it will take several years before the changing operational environment has led to successful adaptation, with all the risk that entails in the meantime. I’m confident enough of the problem to say that if the introduction of drones, a sudden disruptive technology, had been a medical problem then a solution would already have been found. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Peter Suciu writes: The U.S. is now unable to provide any additional aid as Congress would need to approve additional funding. More than $110 billion in aid for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel remains stalled over disagreements between Congress and the White House over other policy priorities, notably additional security for the U.S.-Mexico border. – The National Interest