Fdd's overnight brief

June 17, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

It was common knowledge in Nuseirat that the Al-Jamal family was close to Hamas, according to local residents who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. But they said few people in the densely populated area in central Gaza knew of the secret locked in the small, darkened room in the family’s apartment. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s military said it would pause fighting along a narrow strategic route in southern Gaza each day to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, seeking to address security issues raised by aid groups and demonstrating Israel’s growing hold over the territory.  – Wall Street Journal

Tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border remain high, as Hezbollah launched hundreds of rockets and drones at northern Israel in the last three days, while the Israeli military has turned to a medieval device to launch fireballs into southern Lebanon to clear brush where it says militants are hiding. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Department of State on Friday levied sanctions on a right-wing Israeli group involved in disrupting Gaza aid deliveries as Washington seeks to avert a deepening humanitarian crisis and tamp down risks of inflaming the conflict. – Wall Street Journal

Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday in one of the single deadliest incidents for Israel’s military since the start of the war. – Washington Post

In interviews with nearly a dozen Gaza residents in recent months, a number of them said they held Hamas responsible for starting the war and helping to bring death and destruction upon them, even as they blame Israel first and foremost. – New York Times

The U.S. military said on Friday that it would be temporarily moving a pier that was built off the coast of Gaza by the United States to deliver aid to the war-torn enclave, where world health authorities say there is “catastrophic hunger” and malnutrition, to keep it from being damaged in expected rough seas. – New York Times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized plans announced by the military on Sunday to hold daily tactical pauses in fighting along one of the main roads into Gaza to facilitate aid delivery into the Palestinian enclave. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war cabinet, an Israeli official said on Monday, in a widely expected move that came after the departure from government of the centrist former general Benny Gantz. – Reuters

Hamas’ response to the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal is consistent with the principles put forward in U.S. President Joe Biden’s plan, the group’s Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech on the occasion of the Islamic Eid al-Adha on Sunday. – Reuters

There is a “very real” risk that a miscalculation along Lebanon’s southern border could trigger a wider conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli military, two U.N. officials in Lebanon warned on Saturday. – Reuters

The Security Cabinet is set to vote at its next meeting on a series of measures against the Palestinian Authority and countries that unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office. – Jerusalem Post

Daniel Z. Feldman writes: Current efforts in the ICJ and the ICC travel in the opposite direction. The threat to moral civilization is grave. Unaccountable terrorists—the new death squads—can massacre and kidnap babies, women and the elderly and hide behind innocents […] Legal strategies that erase the distinction between the two sides invert Nuremberg’s accomplishment. They sublimate morality to a superficial legality. It isn’t just the legacy of Nuremberg that is at stake; it is the defense of civilization. – Wall Street Journal

Jason Willick writes: But as the Israel-Gaza war grinds on, there’s also a case that Biden’s current course of triangulation, impotent exhortations and endless failed negotiations is the most politically damaging, and least moral, of all. It’s time for Biden to make a choice and defend it politically: Israel’s terms, or Sinwar’s. – Washington Post

Zina Rakhamilova writes: While any civilian death is a tragedy, there is presently no way of knowing the civilian-to-combatant ratio in the battle – and the death toll is not Israel’s responsibility. Hamas shouldn’t have taken hostages in the first place and should not have placed them in a civilian populated area. If Hamas had not tried to kill the rescuers, the IDF would not have needed to use the firepower they did to suppress those who were shooting at them. Hamas and the Palestinians who collaborated with them should not have fired RPGs into a crowd. – Jerusalem Post

David Petraeus, Meghan L. O’Sullivan, and Richard Fontaine write: After many years of counterinsurgency efforts, the United States ultimately failed to prevent the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. And in Iraq, Washington struggled to sustain hard-won gains after its last combat troops departed and Maliki pursued divisive, sectarian initiatives. But Israel is relying on American support to defeat Hamas and to find a way forward in Gaza. And although Israel may not want to emulate the American approach in places such as Iraq (even the elements that worked), it should not ignore the valuable lessons it can find in the experiences of its closest ally  – Foreign Affairs

Bruce Hoffman writes: What is clear is that Israel has pledged to continue military operations in Gaza indefinitely in pursuit of its aim of completely suppressing Hamas. To this end, the IDF has carved a “strategic corridor” that runs east to west across Gaza and divides the territory in two. It has also established at least three forward operating bases in the corridor there that will serve as a hub for ongoing IDF raids deep into either side of the corridor. It remains to be seen whether this network of secure bases can enable Israel to avoid becoming bogged down in a prolonged counterinsurgency in Gaza through this raiding capability. – Council on Foreign Relations

Iran

Iran on Saturday released two Swedish citizens, including a European Union official, in exchange for an Iranian convicted in Stockholm of committing war crimes for his role in the 1988 mass executions in the Islamic Republic. – Wall Street Journal

For more than four decades, since the 1979 revolution that installed a conservative theocracy, the country has made the detention of foreign and dual nationals central to its foreign policy. For Iran, the approach has paid off. For the world, it has been a troubling trend. – New York Times

Iran called upon the Group of Seven on Sunday to distance itself from “destructive policies of the past”, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, referring to a G7 statement condemning Iran’s recent nuclear programme escalation. – Reuters

Saeid Golkar and Kasra Aarabi write: No matter who the aging ayatollah de facto appoints to succeed Raisi as president — be it Jalili or Ghalibaf — one thing is certain: Khamenei’s determined “railway track” will not be altered by the next president. If anything, the election result may reveal the supreme leader’s view on the performance of the young and hardline managerial class […] Either way, there will only be one real winner in the upcoming “vote” — Khamenei himself. – War on the Rocks

Luis Fleischman writes: Countries hostile to America and the rest of the West seek alliances with Iran, and Iran’s proxies seek alliances with criminal groups. These illegal groups either directly ally with the state (in the case of Venezuela) or erode the state’s authority […] Powerful criminal organizations, present throughout Latin America, could benefit the Islamic Republic, its proxies, camp terrorist attacks, and hostile activities […] U.S. policymakers should take this scenario into account and develop policies that could help prevent it. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

Russia said its security forces stormed a detention center in the city of Rostov-on-Don and killed six men linked to Islamic State who had taken two guards hostage there. The uprising came less than three months after the militant group carried out a deadly terrorist attack at a Moscow concert hall. – Wall Street Journal

Yet almost everything about the family from number 35 Primožičeva street was a carefully constructed lie, according to Slovenian and Western intelligence officials. Gisch’s real name is Artem Viktorovich Dultsev, […]an elite officer in Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, according to the officials and court documents.  – Wall Street Journal

Scores of countries at a two-day summit in Switzerland joined Ukraine on Sunday in calling for “dialogue between all parties” to end the war with Russia. But Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said he remained steadfast in opposing any negotiations that could require his country to cede territory. – New York Times

The training near Grozny highlights the evolution of ethnic loyalties that is manifest in this war. Some of those now training there were last in Chechnya as young conscripts for the Russian Army, fighting against Chechens who were part of the separatist movement. – New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin said on Friday that Russia would be ready to order a cease-fire in Ukraine and enter negotiations with its government if Kyiv were to withdraw troops from the four regions that Moscow has claimed as its own and drop its aspirations to join NATO. – New York Times

The church’s erasure from view is part of a sweeping crackdown inside Russian-held territory on religious groups that aren’t under Moscow’s control, especially the evangelical Christian faiths the Kremlin considers instruments of U.S. influence in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

With Russia and Ukraine locked in their third year of all-out war, there is no clear path to military victory for either side. Nor are there immediate prospects for a ceasefire and an eventual peace plan, with both sides sticking to irreconcilable positions. – New York Times

Russia will hold the espionage trial of detained U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich, who denies charges of collecting secrets for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), behind closed doors later this month, a court in the city of Yekaterinburg said on Monday. – Reuters

Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children is an attempt to steal the country’s future and has left the youngsters with deep psychological scars, campaigners from Ukraine said on Saturday as they called for international efforts to bring them home. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris pledged America’s unwavering support for Ukraine and announced more than $1.5 billion in aid for the country’s energy sector and its humanitarian situation as a result of Russia’s 27-month invasion. – Reuters

Editorial: The G-7 plan is an improvement over the status quo, but it also reflects the failure of the G-7 to agree to confiscate all of the Kremlin assets. The U.S. wants to do it, but the Europeans are afraid of the precedent. The precedent they should be more worried about is that a marauding nation can start the largest land war in Europe since World War II, killing hundreds of thousands, yet still think it can get its money back if it decides to strike a peace agreement sometime down the road. – Wall Street Journal

Alexander J. Motyl writes: Far more disturbing for both China and Russia is the very real possibility of Russia’s losing the war or getting so battered that Putin, his regime, and the brittle state come under internal attack by Russians and non-Russians within Russia […] If Putinite Russia goes this way, China will face a painful choice: to watch its colony go down in flames or to try to prop it up, at great cost to itself. The resulting maelstrom may teach rump Russia that it will never again be an empire. China may learn that possessing megalomaniacal colonies just isn’t worth the trouble. Ukraine, meanwhile, will enjoy watching Moscow and Beijing squirm. So should the West. – The Hill

Arthur Herman and Brandt Pasco write: Just as the original Marshall Plan served to halt the spread of Soviet influence over postwar Western Europe, the rapid reconstruction of Ukraine as a vibrant, free market economy will be a bulwark against Russian imperial designs in Eastern Europe. It can also open a new chapter for Europe as a whole and demonstrate how democracy and freedom can be rekindled from the ashes of war. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Crew members of a Greek-owned coal vessel were forced to abandon ship after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched an attack using a remote-controlled sea drone, according to the U.S. military.  – Wall Street Journal

In recent weeks, assailants have targeted several U.S. and American-style food chains as part of an economic boycott of brands they say help fund the Israeli military’s actions in Gaza. The attacks […]began in late May after Iranian-backed Shiite militias called on their followers to protest the businesses. – Washington Post

Yemen’s Houthis said on Sunday that they had attacked two civilian ships along with an American destroyer in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, their latest effort to disrupt shipping in what they say is support for Palestinians in Gaza. – Reuters

The U.S. military unleashed a wave of attacks targeting radar sites operated by Yemen’s Houthi rebels after one merchant sailor went missing and the vessel he was on caught fire in the latest Houthi strike on shipping in the crucial Red Sea corridor, authorities said Saturday. – Associated Press

Yemen’s Houthi rebels and its internationally recognized government are locked in a fight for control of the country’s banks that experts warn is threatening to further wreck an economy already crippled by nearly a decade of war. – Associated Press

Korean Peninsula

The loudspeakers deployed by South Korea to wage psychological warfare against North Korea faced audits and legal battles claiming they are too quiet, raising questions over how far into the reclusive North their propaganda messages can blast. – Reuters

The US, South Korea and Japan will sign a deal to formalize their security partnership against threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons, cementing ties before America inaugurates its next president in January. – Bloomberg

For months, Russia watchers have known President Vladimir Putin would be heading to North Korea [..]But this long-expected visit is now said to be just days away: South Korean sources suggest it could be as soon as Tuesday, and satellite images have also spied apparent preparations under way in North Korea. – BBC

China

For years, Beijing has denied Western allegations of human-rights violations in Xinjiang, with China portraying the region as infected by a violent strain of religious extremism that needs to be eradicated. Now, at least for a domestic audience, China’s propaganda system is promoting a far more idyllic view of the region. – Wall Street Journal

China is in the midst of a “significant” expansion of its nuclear capabilities and may have as many intercontinental ballistic missiles as the United States or Russia by 2030, according to a new global analysis of nuclear weapons. – Washington Post

Near the end of three years as the United States’ chief representative in Taiwan, Sandra Oudkirk has some parting advice: Avoid panic about China’s combative language and moves, but don’t grow numb to the risks. – New York Times

Throughout the Group of 7 summit meeting in Puglia, China has been the lurking presence: as the savior of “Russia’s war machine,” in the words of the summit’s final communiqué; as an intensifying threat in the South China Sea; and as a wayward economic actor. – New York Times

Taiwan is not seeking war with Beijing, and its policy is to build up a defensive, multi-level deterrence capability to make it harder for China to capture the island, Taiwan Defence Minister Wellington Koo said on Monday. – Reuters

The U.S. is as many as 15 years behind China on developing high-tech nuclear power as Beijing’s state-backed technology approach and extensive financing give it the edge, a report said on Monday. – Reuters

China views the annexation and “elimination” of Taiwan as its great national cause, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te said on Sunday, telling cadets at the military’s premier academy they must know their enemy and not give in to defeatism. – Reuters

China’s Wuhan Tianyu Information Industry said on Sunday the U.S. including it on a sanctions list was a “unilateral” act that could affect the data security company’s foreign exchange settlements. – Reuters

Nathan Levine writes: Observation and assessment of Western cultural, ideational, and overall civilizational strength or decline already helps to shape almost every aspect of China’s policies, both foreign and domestic. To ignore this would be to get China wrong and even to misjudge geopolitics as a whole […] The CCP under Xi Jinping has made cultivating a civilizational “spirit of struggle” central to its mission while judging the West’s loss of the confidence to defend itself to be a fact of historic significance. At least for the sake of their own defense, Westerners may want to explore the possibility of thinking along similar lines. – Heritage Foundation

South Asia

The Indian novelist Arundhati Roy could face serious charges over comments she made 14 years ago about Kashmir after an official from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday authorized her prosecution under a stringent anti-terrorism law. – Washington Post

A key Pakistani militant group behind scores of gun and bomb attacks on Sunday announced a rare cease-fire with security forces during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. – Associated Press

Mihir Sharma writes: Modi’s reappointment of his ministers seeks to tell waverers within these institutions that nothing has changed. The opposition needs to convince them otherwise. Spineless and crumbling institutions help incumbents to stay in power; the opposition must prioritize rebuilding them if it wants a real shot at power. […] Even as Indians gave Modi another chance to rule, they demanded that other parties create a real alternative. India’s long-beleaguered opposition should not let them down. – Bloomberg

Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Hanoi this week, multiple officials said, highlighting Communist-ruled Vietnam’s loyalty to Russia and triggering a U.S. rebuke. – Reuters

Australia and China will take steps to improve military communication to avoid incidents, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after meeting Premier Li Qiang on Monday, in the first visit to the country by a Chinese premier in seven years. – Reuters

Australian writer Yang Hengjun’s suspended death sentence has been upheld by Beijing’s High People’s Court, with the decision relayed to Australian officials two weeks before China’s Premier Li Qiang arrived in Australia, his supporters said on Sunday. – Reuters

A Philippine supply ship dangerously approached a Chinese ship resulting in a slight collision after it illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, the Chinese coast guard said on Monday, a claim which Manila’s military said was “deceptive and misleading”. – Reuters

Tens of thousands of Muslim minority Rohingya are feared to be caught in fighting in western Myanmar, as a powerful armed ethnic group bears down on junta positions in a coastal town on the border with Bangladesh, which is reluctant to accept them. – Reuters

Thailand faces a critical week of court cases that could trigger a political crisis in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, with the fate of the prime minister and the main opposition hanging in the balance. – Reuters

The Philippines filed a claim with the U.N. on Saturday to an extended continental shelf (ECS) in the South China Sea, a waterway where it has had increasingly confrontational maritime disputes with China. – Reuters

The legal team for a former top official in the ethnic Armenian administration of Nagorno-Karabakh has alleged in a letter to a U.N. official that the politician has been tortured while in custody in Azerbaijan. – Reuters

The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia is shortening its overnight curfew and reopening its international airport that was closed to commercial flights for more than a month because of deadly violence that wracked the archipelago where pro-independence Indigenous Kanaks want to break from France. – Associated Press

Myanmar’s military government has launched a major effort to block free communication on the Internet, shutting off access to virtual private networks, or VPNs, which can be used to circumvent blockages of banned websites and services. – Associated Press

China will include Australia in its visa waiver program, Premier Li Qiang announced after meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Canberra, in the latest sign of warming relations between the two countries. – Bloomberg

Fiona Kelliher writes: What Cambodia’s next wave of domestic resistance might look like, as well as how opposition groups might manage relationships with Western governments, is not yet clear. Exiled former political leaders are no longer embedded in day-to-day politics, while those inside the country don’t enjoy the same public closeness with diplomats they once did. The opposition figure who attended the meeting with European diplomats said Candlelight Party leaders were focusing “internally” on helping local elected officials and otherwise have “taped our mouths shut.” – Foreign Policy

Europe

Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union more than four years ago, has had far-reaching impacts on the U.K. economy and the world’s largest trading bloc. It has been blamed for further hobbling an already weak economy, scaring off business investment, feeding inflation and failing to stem record levels of immigration, causing many voters to have buyer’s remorse.  – Wall Street Journal

The State Department on Friday designated the largest neo-Nazi group in Sweden and its leaders as terrorists, only the second time it has applied the label to a white supremacist group known for a long history of violence. – New York Times

European Union leaders will debate policy goals for the next five years from defence to the economy, and who to place in top EU jobs, when they convene in Brussels on Monday. – Reuters

Swedish fighter jets intercepted a Russian military aircraft after it briefly violated Sweden’s airspace on Friday east of the Baltic island of Gotland, the Nordic country’s armed forces said on Saturday. – Reuters

European Union ambassadors agreed on Friday formally to start accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, the Belgian EU presidency said, adding this would take place at intergovernmental conferences on June 25. – Reuters

Peter Pellegrini was sworn in as the president of Slovakia on Saturday in a ceremony that took place amid heightened security following an assassination attempt on his close ally, populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, a month ago. – Associated Press

Germany is in talks with Uzbekistan over a migration pact that could include the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers so that Berlin does not have to make any direct deals with the Taliban, according to people familiar with the plan. – Bloomberg

Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was re-elected after the pro-business Democratic Alliance party said it had joined the ruling African National Congress in a national unity government, ushering in a fragile new era of coalition politics 30 years after the end of apartheid. – Wall Street Journal

Christopher A. Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, paid a rare visit to sub-Saharan Africa this week to discuss counterterrorism strategies with regional partners at a time when both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are gaining momentum on the continent. – New York Times

Al Qaeda affiliate Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) group has claimed responsibility for what it said was attack on June 11 that killed over 100 Burkina Faso soldiers in Mansila area near the border with Niger, the SITE Intelligence Group said on Sunday. – Reuters

At least seven people have been killed in unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, local officials said on Saturday, after people took to the streets to protest against a surge in deadly attacks by suspected Islamist rebels. – Reuters

Justice Malala writes: Although it’s termed a government of national unity, Friday’s agreement is really a “grand coalition” — two of the biggest parties (the DA got 22% of the vote) are coming together. Should they find the marriage intolerable, the other players in the unity government cannot maintain a majority — and the ANC may be forced into the arms of the EFF or the MK Party. The consequences would be significant: Ramaphosa would be forced out, policy would become unstable, and many of the economic reforms Ramaphosa has brought about would be stalled. Corruption, a key characteristic of the Zuma administration, would be enabled. – Bloomberg

J. Peter Pham writes: By aligning the interests of African nations and G7 members in securing the traditional and cutting-edge infrastructure the continent needs, both can respond to China and other competitors as well as secure access to critical minerals. Then, it will be up to America and its partners to identify and actually deliver the resources required to build out the edifice of greater cooperation. – The National Interest

The Americas

Haiti will replace the head of its national police force, Frantz Elbe, with former chief Rameau Normil, the prime minister’s office said on Friday, as the country faces a gang crisis that has displaced over half a million people. – Reuters

Colombia hopes to sign and begin to implement a peace deal with the Segunda Marquetalia armed group before current President Gustavo Petro leaves office in just over two years, the head of the government’s negotiating team said on Friday. – Reuters

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week. – Reuters

North America

Canadian lawmakers “knowingly or through willful blindness” accepted money from foreign powers, colluded with foreign officials to “improperly” interfere in parliamentary business to “the advantage of the foreign state,” and gave information obtained in confidence to a foreign intelligence officer. – Washington Post

An Indian citizen accused of attempting to kill a Sikh separatist in New York has been extradited to the U.S. ahead of an expected federal court appearance, people with knowledge of the situation confirmed. – Washington Post

Editorial: On Tuesday night, protesters vandalized the homes of Brooklyn Museum board members and the co-op building of museum director Anne Pasternak. The vandals marked the doors of their homes with upside down red triangles, a symbol used by the al-Qassam brigades, the military arm of Hamas, to identify targets. These families now need protection from the New York Police Department. America has an antisemitism problem that is growing in its extremism, and these days it is mainly on the political left. Don’t be surprised if it soon breaks out into violence. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: Pleadings for peace in the face of evil are moral perversity, not sophistication. If U.N. cheerleaders want the organization to survive, they can gamble on a second Biden term, conduct meaningful reform, or come to terms with the reality that it could dissolve much as the League of Nations did when powerful countries abandoned it. – Washington Examiner

John K. Paglia writes: While AI and blockchain technologies promise to transform our society, their potential can be realized only if America’s elected representatives understand and embrace such innovations with thoughtful and forward-looking policies. The Biden administration’s approach to cryptocurrency and AI regulation seems rooted in a fear of the unknown and a desire to maintain the status quo. This short-sighted strategy could leave the U.S. lagging behind in the global race for technological leadership — and that is an outcome that should be avoided at all costs.  – The Hill

Cybersecurity

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are investigating alleged Russian cyberattacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure as possible war crimes, four sources familiar with the case have told Reuters. – Reuters

A proposed cybersecurity certification scheme (EUCS) for cloud services should not discriminate against Amazon, Alphabet’s Google and Microsoft, 26 industry groups across Europe warned on Monday. – Reuters

The Kremlin is attempting to interfere in the Moldovan presidential election and referendum on European Union membership later this year, a joint statement from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada has warned. – The Record

Defense

NATO is in talks to deploy more nuclear weapons, taking them out of storage and placing them on standby, in the face of a growing threat from Russia and China, the head of the alliance said on Monday. – Reuters

The Air Force’s aircraft fleet is replete with fighters, bombers, tankers and other aircraft that are still flying after decades or even generations. But the service’s planned collaborative combat aircraft probably won’t last even a single generation before they need to be replaced or heavily overhauled, Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin said Thursday. – Defense News

The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a $911.8 billion topline for the National Defense Authorization Act, a move that would shatter spending limits imposed by last year’s debt ceiling deal. – Breaking Defense