Fdd's overnight brief

June 21, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

A rift between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s military leadership is spilling increasingly into the open after the armed forces’ top spokesman said Netanyahu’s aim of destroying Hamas in Gaza is unachievable. – Wall Street Journal

An Israeli military operation freed four hostages in early June. But many more have come home dead in recent months, deepening concerns that time is running out and that the safe return of the hostages may be at odds with Israel’s war goal of destroying Hamas. – Wall Street Journal

The White House expressed deep disappointment over criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the United States on Thursday amid tensions between the two allies over Israel’s war in Gaza. – Reuters

Several Israeli air strikes in the central and northern Gaza Strip overnight and into Thursday killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens of others, according to medics, while tanks deepened their invasion into Rafah in the south, residents said. – Reuters

The U.S. military’s floating pier off Gaza has resumed bringing humanitarian aid into the Israeli-besieged Palestinian territory, the Pentagon said on Thursday, even as aid continues to collect in a nearby marshalling area since the United Nations has not restarted transporting it to warehouses. – Reuters

The Israeli military said Sunday that it was establishing a new safe corridor to deliver aid into southern Gaza. But days later, this self-declared “tactical pause” has brought little relief to desperate Palestinians. – Associated Press

The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on two men: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. – Associated Press

In a major development, Avi Bluth was promoted from the rank of brigadier general to major general as part of taking over the critical post of Central Command, which has responsibility for all of the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision to publicly criticize US President Joe Biden’s administration even though ministers and advisers had recommended against it, according to Israeli television reports aired Wednesday. – Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Israel Katz held a tense meeting on Tuesday with UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag, Katz’s office told The Times of Israel. – Times of Israel

United States officials estimate that as few as 50 hostages in Gaza are still alive, according to a report Thursday, confirming the worst fears of family members who say time is running out for their loved ones after nearly nine months in captivity. – Times of Israel

A senior Hamas official sought to capitalize on comments by the Israeli military’s spokesman that appeared to cast the Gaza war aim of eradicating the terror group as unattainable, as the terror group’s top political leader claimed Israel had already failed to meet its war goals. – Times of Israel

Israel is not prepared for the damage its electricity infrastructure would sustain if a full-scale war were to break out with Hezbollah, the head of the company responsible for planning the country’s electrical systems warned on Thursday, though he later cast that remark as “irresponsible.” – Times of Israel

Top US officials hosted their Israeli counterparts for meetings in Washington on Thursday, as concern in Joe Biden’s administration reportedly mounted over the potential opening of a full-blown northern front to the Gaza war that would see Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system overwhelmed by Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal. – Times of Israel

Two IDF reservists — the son of a judo star and the son of a news pundit — were killed in a Hamas mortar attack in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday, the military announced Friday morning. – Times of Israel

Four days before October 7, surveillance soldiers at the IDF’s Nahal Oz base reportedly observed members of Hamas’s Nukhba commando forces taking part in a major drill along the Gaza border. What the observers had flagged as a “highly irregular” military exercise simulated the simultaneous firing of rockets and storming of Israeli tanks by 170 participating Hamas fighters, according to a Thursday report by the Kan public broadcaster. – Times of Israel

The Biden administration stopped fast tracking weapons to Israel in early January after a pressure campaign from Democratic lawmakers who oppose American support for Israel’s war to eradicate Hamas, a GOP senator said on Thursday. – Washington Free Beacon

Editorial: Hamas has refused to free the hostages it seized on Oct. 7, rejecting Israeli cease-fire offers. Mr. Biden says he wants the war to end, so one would think he’d be squeezing Hamas with every tool in America’s kit. Instead, Mr. Biden squeezes Israel and only Israel. Iran, Qatar and Turkey catch a break, and Hamas concludes it can continue to fight and put Palestinian civilians in harm’s way without paying a price. – Wall Street Journal

Joel Leyden writes: Israel has evacuated its North and its South. If Iran directly enters this holy war of Jihad with a flood of thousands of missiles, will we evacuate the Center? If we are to win this war, we need people who are native English speakers to address a global audience. In the last few months, the Prime Minister’s Office has fired two of the best English-speaking advocates we had in public diplomacy. Eylon Levy and Noa Tishby, we miss you. And it’s not just Israel. As we get slammed in Jerusalem for not controlling the narrative, the antisemitism we fail to neutralize in the media quickly spreads like a malignant cancer to universities and the streets of every city in the United States and Europe. – Jerusalem Post

Irwin J. Mansdorf writes: Peace, in the Western sense, is not what Iran and its Islamist allies seek, but they clearly understand that the West sees the establishment of a Palestinian state as a done deal. By supporting a Palestinian state, they psychologically manipulate Western naivety and promote their interests based on Islamist values. A Palestinian state is only the first step in the plan to establish Iranian “proxy states” that will serve as its diplomatic soldiers in the next war. The Biden administration and the West must oppose this idea as an American interest, not just an Israeli one, because the next war will likely be against the United States. – Jerusalem Post

Fred Naider writes: Appeasing Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iran increases the possibility of continued chaos in the Middle East and even of a thermonuclear conflagration. Europe and the United States, under President Joe Biden’s leadership, must realize that the “day after” can begin only when Hamas and its jihadist brothers are no longer a threat. – Jerusalem Post

Salam Fayyad writes: But none of this will be possible without first unifying Palestine. Indeed, the key to addressing all of these inconvenient truths lies in reuniting Gaza with the West Bank under the PA. It is therefore encouraging that the Security Council’s resolution stressed the need for this reunification. But it is essential for all concerned to know that the PA will not be able to govern both territories unless the Palestinian polity unifies first. The PLO must be more inclusive, and the PA has to govern through a fully empowered government, according to the provisions of its own Basic Law and backed by a broad national consensus. – Foreign Affairs

Iran

In the second live debate on state television, six presidential candidates on Thursday discussed Iran’s economic problems ahead of the country’s June 28 election following a helicopter crash last month that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others. – Associated Press

Iran has summoned the Italian ambassador, who represents Canadian interests in Tehran, after Ottawa listed the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, state media said on Friday. – Agence France-Presse

Supporters of Iranian reformist presidential candidate Masud Pezeshkian have praised his adviser Mohammad Fazeli for storming off the set of a live televised discussion program after a fiery exchange with a hard-line pundit. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The nuclear issue and the crippling impact of sanctions on the Iranian economy, so far largely avoided by the candidates, appear to be turning into an important part of discussions and debates. – Iran International

Patrick Clawson writes: Jalili, on the other hand, would bring a more confrontational tone, though again, it is by no means clear how much the substance of Iran’s policy would change. Qalibaf would presumably want to show that he can make a deal with the West, though there are no indications he would lobby for any real change in the policies to which the United States objects. In short, the election will not have much effect on setting Iran’s foreign policy, which is determined by the Supreme Leader and the rest of the hardline establishment. – Washington Institute

Farhad Rezaei writes: An Iranian bomb could trigger a nuclear race in the Middle East and hasten the U.S. withdrawal from the troublesome region, a strategic advantage for China. Standing up to Iran and blocking CRINK’s influence is hard, but the alternative could spell disaster for the Middle East and beyond. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

The Biden administration will rush the delivery of air-defense interceptors to Ukraine by halting delivery to allied nations, the White House said. – Wall Street Journal

There is only one country that the leaders of the U.S., China and Russia have all visited in the past year: Vietnam. – Wall Street Journal

South Korea will review the possibility of supplying weapons to Ukraine, a presidential official said on Thursday, after the leaders of North Korea and Russia signed a pact pledging mutual defence in the event of war. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that South Korea would be making “a big mistake” if it decides to supply arms to Ukraine and that Moscow would respond to such a move in a way that would be painful for Seoul. – Reuters

Ukraine can use U.S.-supplied weapons to hit Russian forces that are firing on Ukrainian troops anywhere across the border into Russia and not just in Russian territory near Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, the Pentagon said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russia launched a new barrage of missiles and drones at Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, causing “significant” damage to a thermal power plant and maintaining pressure on the electricity grid, Ukrainian officials said. – Reuters

Fires broke out at two Russian fuel depots on Thursday after suspected drone attacks, officials said, the latest in a series of Ukrainian strikes against Russia’s oil industry. – Reuters

Shortly after midnight, several masked men in boats began removing orange navigational aids on the Narva River that separates Estonia from Russia — a watercourse which demarcates the extent of NATO’s reach. – Bloomberg

Serge Schmemann writes: In the end, Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky will survive, as did Goethe and Bach, and Ukraine will be rebuilt and incorporated more closely in the West. But for Russians and those of us who identify even a little bit as Russian, something elemental has been destroyed, and a lot of painful soul-searching lies ahead. – New York Times

George Meneshian writes: If the South Caucasus is subsumed behind Putin’s curtain, and China’s play succeeds in the South China Sea, the West will face a burgeoning union built on autocracy, force and erosion of rights — not on our doorstep either, but in our very midst. – The Hill

Aura Sabadus writes: The stakes are high. If the Ukrainian transit deal is extended beyond this year, it is possible that Central and Eastern European countries will once again become dependent on Russian gas, even if it is sold under a different label. The irony is that unlike a few years ago when there were few alternative gas suppliers, a rising tide of supplies is expected to reach global markets from next year onwards. This could depress prices, and allow Europe to safely diversify. This really isn’t complicated stuff. Europe’s leaders should get their act together and emphatically reject Russian gas, now and for the foreseeable future. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Oleksandr Moskalenko writes: It is possible that at some point Ukraine and its Western backers might move toward talks. But as they consider the numerous Russian regime statements on “peace plans,” they know that these are nothing more than “informational special operations.” The old man in the Kremlin’s true terms for an end to the butchery are unknown. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Hezbollah

Hezbollah has prevented its members from using cell phones when passing between the terror organization’s positions on the border between Syria and Lebanon due to the Israeli strikes on Hezbollah terrorists in Syrian territory, according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. – Jerusalem Post

After the IDF announced that it had approved operational plans for an attack on Lebanon, Hezbollah quickly clarified that the Shi’ite terrorist organization is also preparing for the possibility that Israel will declare war on the Cedar State, as reported on Thursday by Lebanese newspaper Elnashra. According to the report, Hezbollah plans to attack Haifa if Israel expands the fighting and, in the next stage, additional cities, including Tel Aviv. – Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah bombarded northern Israel with some 45 rockets on Thursday after an Israeli drone strike killed one of the terror group’s field commanders. – Times of Israel

Lebanon

Lebanese product designer Tara Tabet does not want to see her country pulled into a full-scale war with Israel, but like many of her compatriots is bracing for possible conflict after new threats by armed group Hezbollah against both Israel and Cyprus. – Reuters

Cyprus reacted with incredulity on Thursday to warnings from Lebanon’s Hezbollah that the island could be dragged into conflict if tensions with Israel blew up into a fully-fledged war. – Reuters

Lebanon’s Hezbollah has new weapons and intelligence capabilities that could help it target more critical positions deeper inside Israel in case of an all-out war, the militant group’s leader warned on Wednesday. – Associated Press

US special envoy Amos Hochstein warned Lebanese officials that if Hezbollah doesn’t cease its near-daily attacks on northern Israel, it could find itself the target of a limited Israeli operation, the Kan public broadcaster reports. – Times of Israel

Middle East & North Africa

A diplomatic crisis has erupted between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a shipment of dates with pits. N12 Diplomatic Correspondent Yaron Avraham reports that the Israeli Agriculture Ministry recently banned the import of a 100-kilogram shipment of dates with pits from the UAE, insisting that only pitted dates are allowed. This move has angered the Emiratis, who have been importing dates for their embassy since the Abraham Accords. – Jerusalem Post

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Thursday condemned the latest attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on ships in the Red Sea, which resulted in the sinking of one and the injury of a crew member in another. – Arutz Sheva

Ehud Yaari writes: All of these measures are even more crucial at a time when Hamas spokesmen such as Ghazi Hamad and various IRGC commanders and other Iranian figures are publicly discussing the prospect of more October 7-style attacks against Israeli communities, this time from the Jordanian and West Bank frontiers. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directly warned the United States and its allies that he is willing to arm North Korea if they continue to supply Kyiv with sophisticated weapons that have struck Russian territory,  raising the stakes for the Western powers backing Ukraine. – New York Times

With ballistic missiles regularly flying nearby, Japan and South Korea need little reminder of the threat that North Korea and its nuclear arsenal poses to its neighbors. But the stunning revival of a Cold War-era mutual defense agreement during a visit this week by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, amped up the pressure on some of the hermit kingdom’s closest neighbors. – New York Times

South Korea’s military fired warning shots after several North Korean soldiers crossed the border on Thursday morning, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. – Reuters

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Russian ambassador in protest of a pact between Russia and North Korea signed in Pyongyang this week, as a Reuters witness saw him enter the ministry building on Friday afternoon. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments on Thursday that Moscow may supply weapons for North Korea after signing a defense pact with Pyongyang are “incredibly concerning,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. – Reuters

Don’t believe the name: The Demilitarized Zone between the two rival Koreas might be the most heavily armed place on earth. Two million mines, barbed wire fences, tank traps and tens of thousands of troops from both countries patrol a divided swath of land 248 kilometers (154 miles) long and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) wide. – Associated Press

China

The Chinese coast guard came in small boats with axes, long knives and spears. They used the crude weapons to slash and puncture the Philippine military’s rubber craft. One Chinese boat rammed a Philippine boat at high speed, severing the thumb of a Filipino seaman who was holding on to the side of his ride. – Wall Street Journal

When President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to revive a joint crackdown on illegal drug trafficking in November, it sent a brief shock wave through the vast network of Chinese suppliers fueling the production of fentanyl. – Washington Post

In the contest of global narratives, China has sought to cast itself as a peaceful nation opposed to dividing the world into rival camps. In contrast, it has accused the United States of building alliances that will drive the world toward a new Cold War. – New York Times

Campaign groups called on the United Nations human rights chief on Thursday to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. – Reuters

The United States and China resumed semi-official nuclear arms talks in March for the first time in five years, with Beijing’s representatives telling U.S. counterparts that they would not resort to atomic threats over Taiwan, according to two American delegates who attended. – Reuters

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday defended President Joe Biden’s increased tariffs on certain Chinese goods as highly strategic but said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s tariff proposals would be much broader and raise costs for consumers. – Reuters

Russia-China trade options have narrowed since the U.S. imposed sanctions last week on the only Russian bank branch in China, but President Vladimir Putin’s Chinese visit last month has helped ensure the two countries have payment alternatives for now, three sources said. – Reuters

China appears to be keeping its distance as Russia and North Korea move closer to each other with a new defense pact that could tilt the balance of power among the three authoritarian states. – Associated Press

Editorial: Beijing disagrees, to put it mildly. The danger is growing that if the U.S. can’t muster the resources to deter China’s growing assertiveness in the region, Beijing will try to make a land grab and dare the U.S. to respond. – Wall Street Journal

Rob Joyce writes: Keeping this country safe in the coming decades will mean developing our own military technologies and tactics as we advance the art of drone warfare. But it will also mean recognizing the threat of drone-based espionage. We wouldn’t willingly give our greatest rival air superiority in wartime. We shouldn’t do it in peacetime, either. Kudos to the members of Congress who have demonstrated such wisdom and foresight in introducing and pushing this bill. We’ll all be better off because of it. – The Hill

Brent Sadler writes: The U.S. energy network is brittle in some regions and unable to adjust easily to surges in demand. In wartime, the consequences of such weaknesses could be an inability to sustain military combat operations and the inability of wartime industry to keep America safe. On the other hand, readiness for this possibility could be a significant advantage that deters China by presenting it with a foe that is able to wage a prolonged war backed by a resilient wartime economy and industry. At the same time, an America that is self-reliant for its operational energy needs would be in a stronger overall strategic position against a China that is reliant on imports of foreign fuels. – Heritage Foundation

Karishma Vaswani writes: We need to avoid a full-blown conflict at all costs, and it is here that AI, if used responsibly, can be useful. There is always the danger that a miscalculation or false positive — when the technology incorrectly identifies a scenario as problematic or concerning when it isn’t — could inadvertently lead to an escalation rather than prevention. But there are more advantages than risks. Rather than allow this to turn into an AI arms race, with each side trying to outdo the other, we should instead look to this technology to help promote regional peace and stability. – Bloomberg

South Asia

A bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation made rare calls for Tibetan self-determination on Indian soil during a visit to the Dalai Lama’s Himalayan home on Wednesday, as speculation mounts over Tibet’s future. – Washington Post

China is pressing India to restart direct passenger flights after a four-year halt, but New Delhi is resisting as a border dispute continues to weigh on ties between the world’s two most populous countries, officials said. – Reuters

Brandon J. Weichert writes: The F-35 should immediately be sold to India to allow for them to better defend their land and to prepare for the inevitable clash with China. If India purchases the Su-57 from Russia because it’s easier to obtain, then the Americans will likely have dealt themselves a critical blow. The U.S. government should be doing everything in its power to ensure India gets the systems it requires, and that those systems be American. – The National Interest

Asia

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Vietnam on Thursday to bolster support from an old ally in Asia amid Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, which has left it increasingly isolated from the West. – Washington Post

President Vladimir V. Putin’s state visit to North Korea appeared to have a singular focus on military matters: The two sides dramatically revived a Cold War-era mutual defense agreement. A day later, in Vietnam, the Russian leader was far less provocative, at least early in his visit. Vietnam values its relations with the United States, which would be jeopardized if Mr. Putin were to make fiery statements about Washington standing beside Vietnamese officials. – New York Times

Thailand hopes to become a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies at the organisation’s next summit in Russia in October, a foreign ministry official said Thursday. – Reuters

Japan is not a party to the South China Sea issue and has no right to intervene in China-Philippines maritime matters, a spokesperson for China’s embassy in Japan said on Friday. – Reuters

Lawmakers in the Philippines, including the head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, are seeking an investigation into a secret U.S. military propaganda operation that aimed to cast doubt among Filipinos about China’s vaccines during the height of the COVID pandemic. – Reuters

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Friday that his country wants to restart annual dialogue with China’s chief of defence to reduce misunderstandings between the militaries, with the matter raised with China’s Premier Li Qiang this week. – Reuters

Escalating violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in recent months may have spurred some Rohingya Muslims to cross into Bangladesh, a key refugee official said, although Dhaka insists it cannot accept more refugees from its war-torn neighbour. – Reuters

Vietnam said on Friday it is willing to talk to the Philippines to seek measures that are in line with the interests of both countries, after Manila last week filed a claim with the U.N. to an extended continental shelf in the South China Sea. – Reuters

The finance ministers of South Korea and Japan will hold a bilateral meeting in Seoul on June 25, South Korea’s finance ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Japan imposed trade restrictions on China-based companies as part of a fresh round of sanctions against individuals and groups supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. – Reuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday rejected the notion that China’s dominance is to be feared, calling China a “true friend” at the end of Premier Li Qiang’s visit to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between their countries. – Associated Press

Taiwan won approval from main benefactor the U.S. to buy hundreds of loitering munitions, as part of a “porcupine strategy” to use such attritable weapons to help defend the country from a potential Chinese military invasion. – Defense News

Clyde Russell writes: Overall, it’s tempting to dismiss the Coalition’s nuclear plans as an expensive fantasy, especially in a country so ideally suited to develop solar and wind. However, the real damage from the nuclear proposal is likely that the energy debate in Australia will descend into a partisan political slanging match, with nuclear and fossil fuels being championed by the right-wing and renewables and storage by their left opponents. – Reuters

Europe

Mark Rutte, the longtime prime minister of the Netherlands, looks set to replace Jens Stoltenberg as NATO secretary general after the last remaining candidate running against him withdrew from the race, paving the way for his selection by allies. – Washington Post

Spain’s Foreign Ministry expressed strong disapproval on Thursday at what it called Argentine President Javier Milei’s “deviation from expected diplomatic norms” in deciding to shun top government officials during a planned visit this week. – Reuters

China’s dumping probe into EU pork imports following duties slapped on Chinese EVs caught Spain’s pig farmers on the hop this week, but the sector has shown it is resilient and is far less vulnerable than the bloc’s car industry. – Reuters

Poland will probably sign a contract with South Korea in September for the delivery of more arms, in particular K2 tanks, Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz was quoted as saying on Thursday by the state news agency PAP. – Reuters

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday said the United States’ upgraded partnership with Vietnam does not require Vietnam to sever ties with Russia or China. – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the NATO military alliance of creating a security threat for Russia and other nations in Asia. – Reuters

Armenia and Azerbaijan, trying to work towards a peace treaty after three decades of conflict, traded fresh barbs on Wednesday after France pledged to supply new arms to Yerevan. – Reuters

Africa

The IMF said on Thursday its executive board approved funding for Tanzania of $786.2 million to help tackle climate change while also completing a separate review allowing for the disbursement of $149.4 million for budget support. – Reuters

Burkina Faso’s military leader Ibrahim Traore appeared on national TV on Thursday to deny reports of mutiny within the army following an attack by al Qaeda-linked insurgents that killed over 100 soldiers near the border with Niger. – Reuters

Mark Toth and Jonathan Sweet write: Putin remains on the march, while Washington’s military footprint in Africa becomes smaller and smaller. Allegorically speaking, there is no equivalent of a Montgomery to retake Tobruk. Nor is there a Gen. George S. Patton waiting in the wings to turn the tide in North Africa as he did at El Guettar in 1942. Instead, the U.S. and the West find themselves exposed in Africa. Our remaining allies are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable, facing down Putin’s growing Afrika Korps on their own. That has to change, and fast. – The Hill

The Americas

Gangs in Haiti have destroyed schools, pharmacies and factories. But they have largely spared one infrastructure network: the country’s telecommunications grid. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration will award nearly $110 million in security and police assistance to Haiti, a U.S. State Department official told Reuters, a move that bypasses a months-long hold on the funds by Republican lawmakers. – Reuters

Eduardo Porter writes: This might not be easy, especially since Washington has turned its back on trade, once the most powerful tool it had to build economic ties and alliances across the world. Still, the United States will have better luck if it arrives in Latin American capitals in civilian dress with promising cooperation prospects than it currently does showing up in military regalia hoping to strong-arm the region’s leaders into accepting Washington’s perceived threats as their own. – Washington Post

Arturo McFields Yescas writes: Mexico and Brazil represent the two largest democracies in Latin America. Their inclination toward global tyrannies is damaging and dangerous. They have preferred to stain their hands with blood defending Putin and his latent threats in the face of an unprecedented nuclear conflict. Although 80 world democracies rejected that approach, the largest democracies of Latin America looked atomized, small and faint-hearted in the face of a great and extraordinary threat to humanity and world peace. – The Hill

North America

Financial institutions are under pressure to guard against financial activity related to the production and sale of illicit fentanyl, amid a campaign by the Biden administration to respond to more overdose deaths. The U.S. Treasury Department’s financial crimes watchdog issued an alert on Thursday asking banks to screen for money flows related to the production of illicit fentanyl. Banks are required to screen transactions by their customers and report suspicious activity. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday announced new sanctions on leaders of a Mexican drug cartel involved in trafficking fentanyl and its pre-cursor chemicals into the U.S. as part of a broader push to try to stem the flow of the deadly synthetic opioid. – Reuters

Mike Pompeo writes: Mexican voters recently gave President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum a broad mandate. It’s hard to believe that her predecessor’s party wishes to put the country on a path toward economic stagnation before she even takes the oath of office. The U.S. is Mexico’s top trade partner and the largest recipient of Mexican exports. American companies are the largest foreign investors in Mexico. AMLO’s reforms would hurt the Mexican and American people alike. The Mexican people, led by Ms. Sheinbaum, must step in now to change this course for their country, and the Biden administration must defend U.S. interests by helping them do so. – Wall Street Journal

United States

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday said no major trading partner appeared to have manipulated its currency last year, but it added Japan to a foreign exchange “monitoring list,” alongside China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Germany, which were on the previous list. – Reuters

TikTok and Chinese parent ByteDance on Thursday urged a U.S. court to strike down a law they say will ban the popular short video app in the United States on Jan. 19, saying the U.S. government refused to engage in any serious settlement talks after 2022. – Reuters

Kathleen Kingsbury writes: Beyond testing, history tells us that having even a single nuclear weapon on earth risks accidents and miscommunications that could mean Armageddon. Throughout the Cold War, human beings have, by luck, stepped in to prevent such catastrophe. We know the consequences of testing, however, and those mistakes should never be repeated. – New York Times

Cybersecurity

France’s cybersecurity agency is warning that a hacking group linked to  Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is endangering the country’s diplomatic interests. – The Record

The United Nations Security Council is set to debate cybersecurity on Thursday as part of South Korea’s presidency for the month of June. – The Record

Qilin, the ransomware group behind an attack that has disrupted healthcare across London, has listed the victim organization Synnovis on its darknet extortion site. – The Record

An organization for educators in Texas sent out breach notifications over the last week warning of a cyberattack that exposed sensitive information. – The Record

The Department of Homeland Security plans on spending the next two years focusing on looming threats to critical infrastructure, including artificial intelligence, supply chain concerns, and the growing tension with the People’s Republic of China. – CyberScoop

The Commerce Department will ban the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs from selling its software to U.S. consumers, the latest move by the Biden administration to curtail the Russian company’s operations in the United States. – CyberScoop

Defense

The Defense Innovation Unit plans to spend most of its nearly $1 billion fiscal 2024 budget to accelerate existing projects and add new ones in technology areas like counter uncrewed aerial systems and space transport. – Defense News

House lawmakers want the Pentagon’s commercial technology hub to expand its partnerships with Israel and Taiwan to bolster the countries’ defense-industrial bases. – Defense News

A top NATO official said today that while the alliance is already incorporating open source intelligence into its work, the alliance needs to undergo a more dramatic “cultural change” in how it views OSINT amid the explosion of publicly available data relevant to military operations. – Breaking Defense