Fdd's overnight brief

January 26, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israel’s conflict with Hamas is set to be a long one—with both sides struggling to accomplish their fundamental aims and no clear path to any kind of enduring peace. Israel has sworn to destroy Hamas as a significant military and political force. Hamas is committed to the long-term goal of erasing the Israeli state. – Wall Street Journal

 America’s spy chief prepared to head to Europe for talks aimed at bringing an end to the war in the Gaza Strip, as tensions boiled over between Qatar and Israel after weeks of strained negotiations over a hostage deal. – Wall Street Journal

As the war in Gaza rages on, and both sides battle for support and public attention, supporters of Israel are making use of tools that allow them to mass report pro-Palestinian content as violating a platform’s rules. – Washington Post

Qatar has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of hurting efforts to secure the release of hostages after a leaked recording appeared to catch the Israeli leader criticizing the country, which has been a key mediator in talks. – New York Times

An Israeli strike on Gaza City killed 20 Palestinians and wounded 150 who were queuing for food aid on Thursday, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said, in what a Palestinian coalition called a “war crime.” – Reuters

The head of the World Health Organization called for a ceasefire and a “true solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in an emotional plea to the global health body’s governing body on Thursday where he described conditions in Gaza as “hellish”. – Reuters

The United States has created a channel with Israel to discuss concerns over incidents in Gaza in which civilians have been killed or injured by the Israeli military and civilian facilities have been targeted, two U.S. officials with knowledge told Reuters. – Reuters

Hamas said on Thursday that if the International Court of Justice issues a ruling calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian movement will abide by it as long as Israel reciprocates. – Reuters

Israel faces a growing risk of damaging its peace with neighboring Egypt as its military pushes the offensive against Hamas further south in the Gaza Strip. Already, the two sides are in a dispute over a narrow strip of land between Egypt and Gaza. – Associated Press

“Hamas is collapsing within its own tunnels,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said to soldiers of the Yahalom unit of the Combat Engineering Corps in a visit to the unit training base on Thursday, according to the Defense Ministry Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

As the war in Gaza rages on, the U.S. is finalizing three major military aircraft sales to Israel in a series of meetings with a delegation headed by Israeli Defense Ministry director general Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir. – Haaretz

Editorial: At the meeting with the heads of the pre-army programs, representatives from the army and Defense Ministry said that the criticism of the plan was well-taken, but they also asked that preparations be made for the early drafting of the students. That must not be agreed to: The two entities need to develop a new, fair plan. The army and the Defense Ministry need to eliminate such blatant discrimination. – Haaretz

Clarissa Ward writes: As a democracy with a vibrant free press, Israel, like the United States, purports to hold itself to high standards. The freedom to report the news is not only a cornerstone of democracy, but also a fundamental human right. According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” should be protected. – Washington Post

Gabriel Epstein writes: Hamas has extraordinary incentives to skew the numbers in this way, and international media and NGOs have repeated its figures without caveats, giving credence to suspicions of Israeli misconduct and fueling accusations of war crimes and even genocide. – Washington Institute

Iran

The U.S. secretly warned Iran that Islamic State was preparing to carry out the terrorist attack early this month that killed more than 80 Iranians in a pair of coordinated suicide bombings, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese officials have asked their Iranian counterparts to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing, four Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

Iranian dissidents living inside the Islamic Republic and in exile held a hunger strike on Thursday to protest the surge of hangings in Iran, which included most recently a participant in the 2022 protest movement who activists say had mental health difficulties. – Agence France-Presse

Russia & Ukraine

A Russian court imposed one of the longest sentences given to a woman in the country’s modern history on Thursday for the killing of a prominent pro-war blogger, an attack that hit at the heart of the Kremlin’s unofficial wartime propaganda machine. – Wall Street Journal

Judges at the World Court will hand down a judgment on Wednesday in a case in which Ukraine accused Russia of violating an anti-terrorism treaty by funding pro-Russian forces, including militias who shot down a passenger jet, and discrimination. – Reuters

Ukrainian drones attacked a Rosneft-owned oil refinery in southern Russia in the latest such strike on Russian energy infrastructure, a Ukrainian source said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine expects to start construction work on four new nuclear power reactors this summer or autumn, Energy Minister German Galushchenko told Reuters on Thursday, as the country seeks to compensate for lost energy capacity due to the war with Russia. – Reuters

Prominent Russian nationalist ex-militia commander Igor Girkin, who accuses President Vladimir Putin and the army brass of failure in the war in Ukraine, was convicted by a Moscow court on Thursday of inciting extremism and jailed for four years. – Reuters

Kyiv reiterated it received neither a written nor verbal request from Russia to secure airspace around the area of Belgorod where a Russian military transport plane crashed, Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov told Radio Svoboda. – Reuters

Ukraine is working to organise a visit by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said on Thursday, the first visit since Russia’s invasion by a figure widely seen as the most sympathetic to Moscow of all leaders of NATO states. – Reuters

Boris Nadezhdin has become a dilemma for the Kremlin as he seeks to run in the March 17 presidential election. The question now is whether Russian authorities will allow him on the ballot. – Associated Press

European Union leaders are moving toward an agreement next week to transfer some €50 billion ($54.1 billion) in aid to Ukraine, Latvia’s leader said. President Edgars Rinkevics said an agreement for Kyiv will either involve a deal with all 27 member states, or a “different mechanism” that would work if unanimity isn’t achieved. – Associated Press

Leon Aron writes: They might pay lip service to the regime, while waiting for “all this” to end. This is a rather thin reed on which to sustain a war of attrition. If the West stays in the race — steady, firm and patient in its support for Ukraine — and lets the mole of the senseless, criminal and profligate war do its job this year, the outcome of Putin’s marathon is far from predetermined. – Washington Post

Turkey

Turkey’s president finally approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO on Thursday, ending months of delay and leaving only Hungary standing in the way of Stockholm’s membership of the military alliance. – Reuters

Turkey is considering opening new border crossings with eastern neighbour Iran, President Tayyip Erdogan said late on Wednesday after talks with his Iranian counterpart, as they seek to revive sagging economic relations. – Reuters

Robert Ellis writes: Turkey’s Erdogan has also taken a clear stand in support of Hamas, designating them “mujahideen,” a liberation group, rather than a terror organization. After air strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen, Erdogan has accused the United States and UK of trying to turn the Red Sea into “a sea of blood.” – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

The Biden administration’s so-called “day after” plan for the Gaza Strip has not been going well, especially in eliciting support from America’s partners in the Middle East. – Wall Street Journal

Kuwait’s interior ministry on Thursday foiled a plan by a militant cell to attack Shi’ite Muslim places of worship, state news agency (KUNA) reported. Security personnel monitored the cell’s movements and arrested three people described as members of a terrorist organisation, KUNA said. The three were Arabs, it added without going into more detail. – Reuters

An explosive drone struck Khor Mor gas field in the Sulaimaniya region of northern Iraq on Thursday, two sources told Reuters, adding the explosion had caused limited damage but no one had been injured. – Reuters

Britain and the United States on Thursday said they had imposed co-ordinated sanctions on four key Houthi figures for their roles in supporting or directing attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. – Reuters

Arash Reisinezhad and Mostafa Bushehri write: As the rift between Saudis and Emiratis widens, there is a likelihood that their improving relations with Moscow, Beijing, and even Iran may accelerate as a counterweight to each other. This, in turn, could weaken the effectiveness of the U.S. strategy in the Middle East and prompt a reevaluation by the White House of the region’s significance. Within this context, the alignment of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh with U.S. policies in the region should not be taken for granted. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, could take some form of lethal military action against South Korea in the coming months after having shifted to a policy of open hostility, U.S. officials say. – New York Times

North Korea said Friday it was hosting a visit by a Chinese government delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong, as it continues its efforts to strengthen ties with Beijing and Moscow in the face of deepening confrontations with Washington. – Associated Press

Kim Jong Un’s bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks has revived speculation that the North Korean leader might be preparing for war. But Kim has at least one fresh reason to avoid plunging into conflict: North Korea’s economy is quietly improving, with growth on pace to reach the fastest level in nearly a decade. – Bloomberg

China

Ian J. Stones, a British business executive, worked in China for four decades, including with big U.S. firms such as General Motors and Pfizer before setting up his own consulting firm. Then, in 2018, he disappeared from public view. Stones has been detained in China since then with no public mention of the case from Chinese or U.K. authorities. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese leaders have signaled deepening concerns about the economy by unleashing a burst of measures aimed at reviving growth and steadying markets. The response—triggered most recently by a stock-market selloff—shows new urgency and marks a shift from only a week ago, when Chinese authorities sought to project confidence in the economy. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is flying to Thailand to discuss the Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping and a range of other issues with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, U.S. officials said. – Wall Street Journal

A Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that India-China border tensions were “an issue left over from history and not the whole of China-India relations”. – Reuters

Simmering tensions in the South China Sea between China and several Southeast Asian nations now regularly spark direct confrontation. Fighting in Myanmar against the military government that seized power three years ago has grown to the point that most say the country is now in a civil war. – Associated Press

Heather Williams writes: The Department of Defense used the opportunity to stress the importance of operational safety in the Indo-Pacific region and freedom of navigation. While these dialogues did not yield any concrete arms control agreements, they have the potential to be a meaningful foundation for future progress. Another potential future forum for progress is the P5 process, which China will lead for one year starting in August 2024. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

South Asia

Pakistan has credible evidence linking Indian agents to the killings of two of its citizens on its soil, its foreign secretary said on Thursday, raising tensions between the two neighbouring arch-rivals. – Reuters

India’s government has not told its defence personnel to pull out from Maldives following a request from Male, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar told broadcaster CNN-News 18 on Thursday. – Reuters

India’s Jindal Stainless Ltd has cut its exports forecast for the fiscal year ending March due to freight disruptions in the Red Sea and faltering demand in Europe and the United States, a top executive said. – Reuters

Asia

Voting began on Friday in the tiny Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu in a national election that is being closely watched by China, Taiwan, the US and its ally Australia, amid a tussle for influence in the region. – Reuters

Vietnam’s defence ministry said on Friday it will organise an international arms fair in December, as it seeks to diversify its arms supplies and expand cooperation in arms production and exports. – Reuters

The Philippines and Vietnam will agree to boost coastguard cooperation during a visit to Hanoi next week by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, officials said, a move that risks angering China. – Reuters

To mitigate China’s growing tech influence and establish a foothold in the budding artificial intelligence ecosystem, Taiwan budgeted some NT$17.4 billion ($555.6 million) through 2026 to develop expertise and tools in the industry. – Bloomberg

Karishma Vaswani writes: This kind of active resistance by parliamentarians and civil society is essential, and should continue. Indonesia’s democracy is in its infancy. If it was a person, it would barely be out of university, just starting to make their way in the world. Learning from the past is instructive: Bringing that period back is not. – Bloomberg

Europe

The U.K. said on Thursday it would pause negotiations with Canada on a comprehensive liberalized-trade treaty, citing a lack of progress. Canada said talks stalled over agriculture, and British reluctance to increase market access for the Canadian agrifood sector. – Wall Street Journal

France’s Constitutional Council struck down dozens of provisions from a contentious immigration bill, a sweeping rebuke of legislation that fractured the ranks of President Emmanuel Macron. The court’s nine judges ruled that more than a third of the bill’s articles violated the constitution, largely on procedural grounds. – Wall Street Journal

French farmers blocked highways and dumped crates of imported produce on Thursday, demanding urgent action on low farmgate prices, green regulation and free-trade policies as swelling protests moved closer to Paris. – Reuters

The president of Europe’s Court of Human Rights said on Thursday Britain had a legal obligation to comply with its injunctions after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would ignore such orders over his plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda. – Reuters

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Thursday he was not aware of a swap offer that would see German Taurus cruise missiles going to Britain and Ukraine receiving British Storm Shadow systems in return. – Reuters

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: A serious economic-security strategy would ask such questions. Europe’s current crop of politicians don’t seem up to the task. The ray of hope is that voters are starting to bristle at the bad political decisions that have the side effect of increasing European vulnerability to China, particularly as concerns climate policy. Given enough electoral routs, perhaps economic security will get its day after all. – Wall Street Journal

Ben Dubow writes: Even if Dodon wins this fall, he will find little political support to steer away the country from its European course. With inflation back under control and trade reconfigured away from Russia, the most painful economic costs of disentanglement are over, and with it, Russia’s most powerful leverage. By winning majority support in a referendum for EU accession, Sandu could ensure her legacy far beyond this election. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Africa

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken wrapped up a four-nation tour through Africa on Thursday with a visit to Angola, an oil-rich former Cold War battleground that has become the site of a struggle for 21st-century economic influence. – New York Times

Mali’s junta ended a 2015 peace deal with Tuareg separatist rebels on Thursday in a move that could further destabilise the conflict-torn West African nation. – Reuters 

Around 20 civilians were killed in an attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, the army and M23 rebels said, accusing each other of launching the assault. – Reuters

Human Rights Watch said Thursday that Burkina Faso’s security forces last year killed at least 60 civilians in three different drone strikes, which the group says may have constituted war crimes. – Associated Press

A high court in Ghana has sentenced to death six people, including three soldiers, after convicting them of plotting to carry out a coup against the country’s government in 2019. – Associated Press

Stephen Blank writes: Moscow has also repeatedly expressed its desire to build a base in Algeria to no avail and one in Angola in the South Atlantic in 2023.  Its objectives are clear. And those ambitions — hegemonic influence, economic exploitation for its benefit and long-term naval bases — represent the quintessence of imperialism. – The Hill

The Americas

In Haiti, as the number of murders soar and kidnappings rise, even the police are fleeing. With no elected president in office and a prime minister widely seen as illegitimate, calls for the government’s ouster are now being heard from an unlikely source: a brigade of armed officers ostensibly responsible for protecting environmentally sensitive areas. – New York Times

The head of the United Nation’s drugs and crime office on Thursday warned of a “vicious cycle” of arms trafficking to increasingly powerful Haitian gangs, fueling an internal conflict and worsening violence across the Caribbean. – Reuters

Six Catholic nuns who were kidnapped in the Haitian capital nearly a week ago have been released alongside two more hostages, the archbishop of Port-au-Prince said in a statement late Wednesday. – Reuters

Latin America

Talks over a territorial dispute pitting Venezuela against Guyana yielded commitments on Thursday to avoid violence or threats, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro revived claims over an oil-rich region on their shared border. – Reuters

Argentine President Javier Milei’s “omnibus” bill, a sprawling reform package ranging from tax hikes to privatizations, has cleared its first hurdle in Congress with a green light from a lower house committee. It now faces far tougher obstacles. – Reuters

Brazil’s Abin spy agency allegedly conducted illegal surveillance on at least three Supreme Court Justices and a former Lower House speaker during Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, according to Supreme Court documents unsealed on Thursday. – Reuters

Iván Ulchur-Rota writes: But this unity can’t be the product of fear and misinformation. The circulation of disinformation that occurred that week, and that we are continuing to see today, should serve as a reminder to all Ecuadoreans and the world to remain cautious, so that no one — criminal or politician — is able to exploit our legitimate outrage in favor of chaos or the undermining of democracy. – New York Times

United States

Donald Trump’s free-form stump speeches bounce around the globe, ticking off problems and grievances with foreign governments. Until recently, world leaders had tuned him out. Now they are parsing Trump’s words and making plans for the possibility he will return to the White House. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for an official visit to the United States on April 10, the White House said on Thursday. – Reuters

Alabama on Thursday executed convicted murderer Kenneth Smith, who held his breath in vain as officials asphyxiated him with nitrogen gas, the first use of a new method of capital punishment since lethal injections began in the U.S. four decades ago. – Reuters

The Biden administration’s review of new natural gas export terminals is expected to last up to 15 months, according to two people familiar with the planning, a move that could tamp the brakes on the fast-growing business and clash with some of the president’s foreign policy priorities. – Politico

Editorial: The House punted negotiations before Christmas on the theory that Ukraine could hang on until February without a fresh weapons infusion. Now another month has passed. The U.S. is careening into a moment of growing dangers around the world. Both a tighter border and a vote for a stable Europe are in the American interest. Better to act now than to fail and live with the consequences. – Wall Street Journal

Cybersecurity

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is visiting South Korea on Friday and meeting leaders of chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. Altman is expected to discuss potential partnerships for making chips, the sources said, declining to be identified. – Reuters

Several major Ukrainian state organisations on Thursday reported cyber attacks on their systems, in the latest wave that a source close to the government blamed on Russian intelligence. – Reuters

The United States Secret Service is reestablishing a federal committee to advise the agency on cyber investigations, according to a notice on the Federal Register. The Cyber Investigations Advisory Board aims to be an industry and expert advisory panel for the Secret Service, according to the notice, which is scheduled to be officially published on Friday. – Cyberscoop

Christopher Thomas and Sarah Kreps write: To stay in the game, Washington needs more tools than are currently at its disposal. It needs to help key U.S. partners build technical capabilities and local capacity, ensuring that those partners make technology investments that are favorable to the United States. If the United States is to succeed in the competition between two globe-spanning tech ecosystems, investments of American capital and expertise cannot stop at the water’s edge. – Foreign Affairs

Defense

The Pentagon has no formal approach to report or track sightings of unidentified flying objects, an internal watchdog said, the latest in a government push to get more serious about incidents that some pilots have pointed to as evidence of extraterrestrial visitation. – Bloomberg

China and Russia have launched satellites that are meant to inspect and repair other spacecraft but could be used to attack US assets, according to a new report from the US Space Force. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Army is asking industry for ideas on how best to procure a second interceptor for its Indirect Fire Protection Capability aimed at destroying cruise missile threats, according to a Jan. 25 request for information posted to the government contracts website Sam.gov. – Defense News

The U.S. Marine Corps is looking more closely at how to leverage alternate ships to keep its forces at sea, amid an amphibious ship shortage a top Marine called the “single biggest existential threat” to the service. – Defense News