Fdd's overnight brief

January 8, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, says the scale and severity of the Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas deeply shook Israelis’ sense of security and profoundly altered the way they view the world around them. – Wall Street Journal

Israel and Egypt are negotiating the future of a corridor between Egypt and Gaza that Israel says has been used by Hamas to smuggle weapons and people through underground tunnels and is key to destroying the militant group. – Wall Street Journal

At least 79 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Israel-Gaza war since Oct. 7, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In the first 10 weeks of the war, more journalists were killed than have ever been killed in one country over an entire year, according to the CPJ in December. – Washington Post

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank are now without a source of income; hundreds of Israeli employers have been deprived of the labor that keeps their businesses running. – Washington Post

As the war in the Gaza Strip ended its third month on Sunday, with top diplomats touring the region to try to stop the conflict from spreading, Israel said it had broken up Hamas’s command structure in northern Gaza and signaled that it would not change its objective of dismantling the group’s capabilities across the ravaged territory. – New York Times

The families of Americans held hostage in Gaza since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel have released a television ad to press for urgent action to rescue their loved ones. – New York Times

Israeli police killed a young Palestinian girl in a car at a West Bank crossing when they opened fire on another car suspected of a ramming attack, Israeli emergency services said. – Reuters

Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said on Sunday, and an Israeli police officer was killed, Israeli officials said. – Reuters

Chinese shipping firm COSCO has suspended shipping to Israel, Israeli financial news website Globes reported on Sunday. – Reuters

Israel has named its former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak as its addition to an International Court of Justice panel due this week to hear a genocide allegation filed against it, an Israeli official said on Sunday. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Arab leaders on Sunday that Washington opposes the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza or the occupied West Bank, as he looked to kickstart talks on Gaza’s post-war future. – Reuters

Hezbollah has struck an air traffic control base in northern Israel, the Israeli military said Sunday, and warned of “another war” with the Iran-backed militant group. – Associated Press

South Korea’s spy agency said Monday that Hamas is using weapons made in North Korea to fight Israel in Gaza, according to a report in the South Korean outlet Yonhap. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF spokesman in Arabic responded on Friday evening to a speech given by the Secretary-General of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, hours earlier, during which the Lebanese leader bragged about the damage he claimed had been caused to Israel, according to a report from Maariv. – Jerusalem Post

The assassination of deputy Hamas head Saleh al-Arouri has complicated Qatar’s efforts to arrive at a second deal for the release of hostages in Gaza, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Doha on Sunday as he stressed that efforts to reach an agreement were still ongoing. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The degree to which the US stands by Israel will give an indication to these actors about whether they are better off leaning on the US or, perhaps,  others – China, Russia or Iran – for their security. For three months, America has admirably stood by Israel, even at the risk of a domestic political price for Biden. This is obviously tremendously important for Israel; it also boosts America’s reputation globally as a reliable ally. – Jerusalem Post

Yair Rosenberg writes: But American criticism won’t stop the far right from continuing to force the issue. The energy that once went toward dismantling the Supreme Court will now be channeled into resettling Gaza. The battle over the judiciary may have reached a cease-fire, but the struggle over the future of Gaza has only just begun. – The Atlantic


Iranian authorities have arrested 11 people linked to Wednesday’s bomb blasts in the central Iranian city of Kerman that killed dozens of people, the country’s Intelligence Ministry said in a statement published in state media. – Washington Post

President Biden and his top national security aides believed last summer that the chances of conflict with Iran and its proxies were well contained. After secret talks, they had just concluded a deal that led to the release of five imprisoned Americans in return for $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds and some Iranian prisoners. – New York Times

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards vowed on Saturday to reach “the enemy” far and near as tensions soar on key shipping routes where Tehran’s allies have been attacking vessels. – Reuters

France’s foreign minister said on Saturday that she had told her Iranian counterpart that the risk of a Middle East regional conflagration had never been greater and that Tehran and its proxies needed to end their destabilising activities. – Reuters

Iranian authorities have whipped a woman 74 times for “violating public morals” and fined her for not covering her head, the judiciary said. – Agence France-Presse

David McCormick writes: Biden and Casey’s Iran policy is appeasement, and that’s why the Iranians feel confident enough to go on offense against Israel and against American sailors. We need a comprehensive strategy to strangle the regime economically, weaken its proxies, and confront at home and abroad an ideology based on hate. – Wall Street Journal

Mihir Sharma writes: Russia buys drones from Iran, collaborates with the Saudis on oil prices, and is building a nuclear reactor that will provide 10% of Egypt’s power. BRICS’s doubling in size won’t make it a more coherent threat to the West. It might, however, reduce the West’s leverage over countries like Russia or Iran. And, with wars blazing in both Gaza and Ukraine, that’s no small thing. – Bloomberg

Russia & Ukraine

From a bunker on the southeastern front, it’s easy to hear how Ukraine’s supply of artillery ammunition has dwindled. For every five or six incoming Russian shells, the Ukrainians fire back once or twice. As the war approaches its third year, Russia is on the offensive, backed by an economy on a war footing. – Wall Street Journal

Almost two years after Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict has reached a pivot point. Western financial help and ammunition supplies for Ukraine are running low, while public support is showing some cracks. – Wall Street Journal

She is part of a generation of Ukrainian teenagers living through a conflict entering its third year with no end in sight. Raised during a pandemic — then through gunfire and bloodshed — Kate, like many of her peers, is unsure what it means for her future. – Washington Post

 At least 11 people were killed, including five children, after a Russian missile attack on a residential area in the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk and a neighboring village, Ukrainian officials said Saturday. – Washington Post

So, deep inside a position that soldiers call “the black forest” in eastern Ukraine, the medical corps of the 63rd Mechanized Brigade tries to remain hidden. The zero line — where Russian and Ukrainian forces are squared off in trench lines within sight of each other — is only a mile or two away. – New York Times

The first warning was a blip, a small anomaly picked up by radar scanning the skies over Ukraine. Within seconds, it became clear that the blip was a Russian ballistic missile streaking in Kyiv’s direction at several times the speed of sound. – New York Times

Russia plans to produce more than 32,000 drones each year by 2030 and for domestic producers to account for 70% of the market, the TASS news agency cited First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov as saying on Saturday. – Reuters

Russia launched 28 attack drones and three cruise missile at Ukraine overnight, Ukraine’s air force said on Sunday, adding that its air defence systems destroyed 21 of the drones. – Reuters

Russia launched a large-scale missile attack across Ukraine at the start of peak morning hours on Monday, hitting residential and industrial facilities and injuring several people, Ukraine’s officials said. – Reuters

Editorial: Russia keeps conducting attacks in Ukraine that are recklessly close to NATO territory. Moscow is now moving ahead on military integration with Minsk. Russia has stationed S-400 surface-to-air and Iskander short-range missiles there. Mr. Putin’s provocative nuclear move in Belarus is a reminder of what’s at stake in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes:  Just as a decade ago, when Putin used men without insignia to launch his attack on Crimea, he might easily seek to bribe, cajole, and undermine without fingerprints. He may not risk an attack on Armenia, given how each attempt to pressure the country ends badly for Moscow, but he could try a 1999 Armenian parliament-style attack in Vilnius, Riga, or Tallinn. – Washington Examiner

Mykola Hryckowian writes: Stockpiles must be replenished, and new manufacturing capacity must be brought online in Eastern Europe. Unless the war leads to the overthrow of the current Russian regime, the likelihood of future wars in Eastern Europe is high. It is in the U.S. strategic interest to ensure Ukraine wins this war and that Ukraine and the eastern front of NATO are ready for the next one. Beefing up Ukrainian industrial potential should be a natural part of this preparation. – The National Interest


Militants in Lebanon launched about 40 rockets into Israel on Saturday—one of the largest such barrages in recent months—as the Biden administration’s top diplomat arrived in the region to defuse an escalating Middle East crisis resulting from the war in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the powerful armed group Hezbollah, pledged on Friday that it would not negotiate peace with Israel until the war in Gaza ends — a statement that came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken began a diplomatic tour around the Middle East to defuse regional tensions amid deepening fears of a wider conflict. – New York Times

Adnan Nasser writes: A response from Hezbollah is inevitable. Otherwise, Hezbollah will be seen as hesitant and giving into fear in the eyes of the enemy. However, the chance of retaliation turning into a full-scale war like Gaza is still low. Most likely, it will be a “proportional” response. Whatever shape it takes, one can never be sure. Yet, when it does happen, no one should be surprised. Now, we wait. – The National Interest


Turkey looks set to ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO in the coming weeks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday, signalling an end to a saga that has frustrated Washington and its allies. – Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday named several of his party’s candidates for March’s nationwide election. – Associated Press

A court in Istanbul has ordered 15 of 34 people detained on suspicion of spying for Israel be held in prison awaiting trial, Turkey’s justice minister said late Friday. – Associated Press


European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell sounded the alarm on Saturday about Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict in a spillover from Israel’s war with Hamas. – Reuters

The information display screens at Beirut’s international airport were hacked by domestic anti-Hezbollah groups Sunday, as clashes between the Lebanese militant group and the Israeli military continue to intensify along the border. – Associated Press

Arab media reported three airstrikes in the area of ​​Ayta al-Sha’ab in southern Lebanon on Sunday night. The reports claimed that the strikes were sent from Israel, which has not been confirmed by any Israeli source. – Jerusalem Post

Arabian Peninsula

Tiny Qatar has managed to punch above its weight in mediating some of the world’s biggest disputes, including the war in Gaza. Yet as it raised its profile in Washington, the Gulf state has landed some of its American advocates in legal troubles of their own. – Wall Street Journal

The United Arab Emirates is set to put 84 people on trial for terror-related offenses, state media said Saturday, a decade after a similar mass trial of government critics. – Agence France-Presse

Qatar’s regime was hit with a pressing call for US officials to investigate its  alleged threats to American security over its access to sensitive atomic and weapons information on Thursday in a letter from The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP). – Jerusalem Post


The shipping companies that move goods on one of the world’s busiest trade routes for factories, stores, car dealerships and other businesses face an excruciating decision. They can send their vessels through the Red Sea if they are willing to risk attacks by the Houthi militia in Yemen and to bear the cost of sharply higher insurance premiums. – New York Times

Six small craft approached a merchant vessel about 50 nautical miles from the Yemeni city of Mocha on Saturday before leaving the area, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) organization said. – Reuters

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, said that any country to involve itself with the United States-led Red Sea coalition will lose its maritime security and be targeted. – Reuters

The US and its allies have weighed striking Yemen’s Houthi militants after telling them to either halt their attacks on ships in the Red Sea or face unspecified action. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia

Germany is prepared to allow further deliveries of Eurofighter jets to Saudi Arabia, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday. – Reuters

Oil prices fell by more than 1% on Monday on sharp price cuts by top exporter Saudi Arabia and a rise in OPEC output, offsetting worries about escalating geopolitical tension in the Middle East. – Reuters

The Saudi Ministry of Energy and NEOM company signed on Sunday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on enhancing cooperation in the energy fields, the Saudi state news agency reported. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

An attack that killed dozens of people in Iran this week showed the potency of Islamic State and its ability to inflame tensions in the Middle East and Central Asia, after years of setbacks in its former strongholds. – Wall Street Journal

America’s top diplomats are converging on the Middle East as they make a full-court press to prevent the war in the Gaza Strip from sparking a broader, more destabilizing regional conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Jordan army said on Saturday five drug dealers who infiltrated from Syria carrying large hauls of weapons and drugs were killed in day-long clashes along the country’s northern border. – Reuters

India’s defence ministry is providing protective escorts to Indian container ships in the high seas around the Red Sea as the security situation there continues to simmer, a government source said on Friday. – Reuters

Alex Almeida and Michael Knights write: The implications of the image are serious: an Iranian cruise missile was either being moved inside Iraq or possibly fired from inside the country. In Militia Spotlight’s assessment, Babil is not a likely launch location for a strike on Israel using a missile with a range of 700-800 kilometers; locations further westward in Iraq would be better for that purpose. Yet Babil could be a launch point for a longer-ranged Quds variant to reach Israel. –  Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

North Korea will launch a military strike immediately in response to any provocation, Kim Yo Jong, the sister and key ally of leader Kim Jong Un, said on Sunday, as it fired artillery shells near its border with the South for the third day in a row. – Reuters

The United States is unlikely to cut back its forces in South Korea even if former U.S. president Donald Trump wins re-election, the South’s minister tasked with matters related to neighbouring North Korea said in a television interview – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent messages of sympathy to the leaders of Iran and Japan on Saturday, state media said, after the countries were hit with deadly bombings and earthquake respectively this week. – Reuters


China will sanction five U.S. military manufacturers in response to the latest round of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday. – Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday the most urgent task for Sino-U.S. relations is to establish a correct understanding and cooperation between the two sides, stressing it is “no longer an option … but an imperative” for the world. – Reuters

The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, will pay a state visit to China from Jan. 8 to 12, the Chinese foreign ministry said in statement on Friday, in what would be a high-profile snub to the island nation’s huge neighbour India. – Reuters

China said its security agencies found another incident of spying in which the British Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, used a foreigner in China to collect secrets and information. – Reuters

US intelligence indicates that President Xi Jinping’s sweeping military purge came after it emerged that widespread corruption undermined his efforts to modernize the armed forces and raised questions about China’s ability to fight a war, according to people familiar with the assessments. – Bloomberg

Mark Leonard writes:  This could have enduring consequences for Ukraine, which derives the legitimacy for its struggle from the order-breaking nature of Russia’s aggression. And if, at some point in the future, Xi makes the fateful decision to invade Taiwan, he will surely hope that his stance on the Gaza war has made it more likely that the global South will line up behind Beijing rather than Washington. – Foreign Affairs

South Asia

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh was headed toward a fourth consecutive term in office as voting ended on Sunday in a low-turnout election that had been marred by a widespread crackdown on the opposition. – New York Times

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a minibus explosion in the Afghan capital late Saturday that killed at least five people. – Associated Press

The Maldives government has suspended three deputy ministers for disparaging India’s prime minister, an official said on Sunday, during a dip in ties with its powerful neighbour. – Reuters


Indonesian presidential frontrunner Prabowo Subianto suffered a barrage of attacks in a heated election debate on Sunday, with his two opponents taking aim at his military procurement strategy as defence minister, calling him reckless and wasteful. – Reuters

Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected three more Chinese balloons flying over the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, one of which crossed the island, the latest in a spate of such balloons the ministry says it has spotted over the past month. – Reuters

Laws banning the Nazi salute and the display or sale of symbols associated with terror groups came into effect in Australia on Monday as the government responds to a rise in antisemitic incidents following the Israel-Gaza war. – Reuters

A Myanmar rebel alliance has gained control of a key town along the country’s volatile northern border with China after weeks of fierce fighting with junta troops, the alliance and the junta said. – Reuters

Airstrikes by Myanmar’s military on a village under the control of the pro-democracy resistance in the country’s northwest have killed at least 17 civilians, including nine children, local residents and a human rights group said Sunday. – Associated Press

A roadside bomb exploded Monday near a van carrying police assigned to protect workers in an anti-polio immunization campaign in restive northwestern Pakistan, killing at least six officers and wounding 10 others, officials said. – Associated Press


France requires more than the six new nuclear plants currently planned and possibly needs to build more than 14 new plants, its energy minister said, just days before a parliamentary debate begins on the issue. – Reuters

The European Union should form its own combined army that could play a role in peacekeeping and preventing conflict, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said. – Reuters

Britain said it plans to spend 300 million pounds ($380 million) on a new programme to produce advanced nuclear fuel suitable for the next generation of power-generating reactors, seeking to dislodge Russia as the main international supplier. – Reuters

Denmark’s donation of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will be delayed by months, the Berlingske newspaper reported, citing the Nordic country’s ministry of defense. – Bloomberg

Polish farmers who had blockaded a border crossing to Ukraine ended their protest after reaching an agreement with the government that met their demands, Poland’s state news agency PAP reported Saturday. – Associated Press

Omar G. Encarnación writes: Mr. Sánchez’s amnesty deal stands in striking contrast to what his opposition is proposing. The playbook for defeating separatism in Catalonia deployed by the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Vox hinges on prosecuting people for nonviolent offenses, banning separatist parties and rallying the Spanish electorate against Catalonia. – New York Times

Lionel Laurent writes: In a world breaking up into regions, Europe is talking the talk but not walking the walk. Macron has said the 21st century will be a “maritime” one — he and his neighbors should do more than keep their heads above water. – Bloomberg



Most of the drones that once monitored jihadist activities in volatile African countries have been grounded. Most of the Americans posted at the $110 million base, near the city, Agadez, Niger, sit idle, epitomizing the uncertain future of the United States’ counterterrorism efforts in West Africa: difficult to abandon, even as business as usual is, for now, out of the question. – New York Times

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed a law nullifying an agreement by the breakaway Somaliland region to grant Ethiopia access to the Red Sea in return for recognition as an independent nation, he said late on Saturday. – Reuters

The United States said on Friday it was troubled by comments from Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who last week called on citizens of the small African country to stone gay people. – Reuters

Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Friday vowed to continue a nine-month war between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), rejecting the latest peace efforts. – Reuters

Latin America

Ecuador’s “most-wanted prisoner”, the leader of the Los Choneros criminal group, disappeared from the jail where he was being held, authorities said on Sunday and launched an operation to locate him. – Reuters

Argentina’s cash-strapped government will raise $3.2 billion in hard currency in order to meet debt repayments via an issuance of 10-year bills to the central bank, according to a decree in the official gazette on Friday. – Reuters

Peace talks between Colombia’s government and the largest FARC dissident group managed to get the rebels to suspend kidnappings, free 10 hostages, and reduce clashes with the country’s military in under three months, a government negotiator said on Friday. – Reuters

Mexican authorities in the violence-plagued southwestern state of Guerrero said they were investigating a gruesome massacre that took place in a part of a remote desert where two rival criminal groups have been fighting for control. – Reuters

United States

The top Democrat and Republican in the U.S. Congress on Sunday agreed on a $1.59 trillion spending deal, setting up a race for bitterly divided lawmakers to pass the bills that would appropriate the money before the government begins to shut down this month. – Reuters

Top Biden administration officials say they are monitoring the situation in the Red Sea for its impact on American households as attacks on ships crossing the critical shipping lane threaten to raise prices for consumers in a presidential election year. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Administration officials should also quietly encourage dialogue between Nippon Steel and union leaders, and urge Democratic allies in Congress to stop fanning protectionist flames. Biden likes to claim his administration’s policies are aimed at deepening ties with allies and strengthening the ability of US companies to compete. He shouldn’t stand in the way of a deal that would accomplish both. – Bloomberg

Mark Green writes: The Arctic plays a crucial role in our security, and failing to focus on the region has put us on a collision course on the world stage. The U.S. needs to reassert our interests as adversaries work to expand economically and militarily. – Wall Street Journal


A robotic lander built by a private company was bound for the moon on Monday in an attempt to make the first U.S. lunar soft landing in half a century, after launching to space aboard a new Vulcan rocket debuted by a joint venture of Boeing (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N). – Reuters

Mark R. Whittington writes: The congressional mandate to secure the Earth-moon Lagrange Points would cause accusations of weaponizing space from certain quarters. However, with China still developing anti-satellite weapons, space has already been weaponized. – The Hill

Michael Poznansky writes: It might, for example, signal to Iran and North Korea that the United States does not have the appetite to support the victims of aggression once a conflict becomes protracted, or at the very least that it cannot defend more than one country in one region at a time. All this could encourage further adventurism. By continuing to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, the United States can send a powerful signal to a broader range of rivals: unprovoked aggression will not go unpunished. – Foreign Affairs