Fdd's overnight brief

June 25, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

As Israel nears the end of major combat operations in the city of Rafah, its leaders are preparing for an extended counterinsurgency campaign that would reduce the number of troops tied down in Gaza but could still leave the enclave mired in violence and instability. – Wall Street Journal

The prospect of a full-scale war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group terrifies people on both sides of the border, but some see it as an inevitable fallout from Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza, particularly as cease-fire negotiations have faltered. – Associated Press

Two Israeli air strikes targeting aid supplies killed at least 11 Palestinians in Gaza on Monday, medics said, as Israeli tanks pushed deeper into Rafah in the south and fought their way back into areas in the north they had already subdued months ago. – Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel remained committed to its proposed Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal, and his military chief said the remaining Hamas forces in the southern Gaza city of Rafah were nearly dismantled. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Monday said a video of a wounded Palestinian man strapped on a military jeep by Israeli forces was “shocking” and urged a swift investigation to hold those responsible to account. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pressed Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on the need for Israel to swiftly develop a robust post-war plan for Gaza and ensure the tensions with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border do not escalate further. – Reuters

Crammed in the back of a pickup truck, smeared with blood, three Israeli hostages are being filmed by their jubilant Palestinian captors. That is how Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, and Eliya Cohen, 26, and Or Levy, 33, all abducted on Oct. 7, were taken into the Gaza Strip, a video made public on Monday shows. – Reuters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres accused Israel on Monday of spreading misinformation about him during the more than eight-month-long war between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas in the Gaza Strip. – Reuters

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency was sued on Monday by dozens of Israelis who accused it of aiding and abetting the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. – Reuters

Germany is extremely concerned about rising violence on Israel’s border with Lebanon and the growing risk of a full-blown regional conflict, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on a visit to the region on Monday. – Reuters

An Israeli commission investigating suspected wrongdoing in government purchases of submarines and missile boats from Germany issued a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. – Reuters

The exiled leadership of Hamas plans to flee Qatar to seek safety in Iraq as pressure mounts on key figures to accept the proposed ceasefire deal first outlined by President Biden that would allow for the release of hostages and a cessation of hostilities. – New York Sun

The sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was reportedly killed in an IDF attack on the Shati refugee camp in Gaza on Tuesday, Israeli media, citing Palestinian sources, reported on Tuesday morning. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: The stakes are high, which makes the U.S. policy of publicly trying to deter Israel even harder to figure. Israel is less likely to be compelled to fight Hezbollah if 70,000 Israelis can return to their homes safely in northern Israel. This means quieting Hezbollah’s rocket fire and convincing it to remove its fighters from the buffer zone in Southern Lebanon. But Hezbollah has no reason to do that if it thinks it can keep firing away and President Biden will protect it from the consequences. – Wall Street Journal

Naftali Bennett writes: While Israel is in Iran’s crosshairs today, it is only one battleground in a global war between the forces of freedom and those that would extinguish it. I was in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, and in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Both acts of pure evil remind us that we must always be prepared to fight for our freedoms. If Gaza is returned to Hamas and further ground is ceded to Iran’s allies in the region, terror will soon return to the streets of New York. – Wall Street Journal

Marc Champion writes: This will delight Hamas and keep Netanyahu’s government from collapse. In the longer term, it promises disaster for Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian people. Tens of thousands of Israelis protested at the weekend, calling for the return of all hostages and early elections to elect a government better able to lead Israel out of the cul-de-sac of violence that Netanyahu and Hamas have led it into. They were right. – Bloomberg

Boaz Golany writes: From November onwards, the Biden administration has steadily increased its criticism of Israel for supposedly not paying enough attention to the evolving “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and others have kept on calling for a ceasefire. – Jerusalem Post

Erwin Van Veen and Hamidreza Azizi write: Essentially, the United States, as well as major European and regional powers, have about six months — before the next U.S. administration takes office — to work with Iran and Israel, if necessary via track 1.5 mediation, to establish a clear set of red lines as well as protocols that structurally reduce the risk of regional conflict escalation. Such measures could include the establishment of fast hotlines via trusted intermediaries like Oman or Qatar, or even the establishment of demilitarized zones in southern Lebanon, northern Israel, and western Syria. – War on the Rocks

Iran

Iranian officials insisted for decades that the law requiring women to cover their hair and dress modestly was sacrosanct and not even worth discussion. They dismissed the struggle by women who challenged the law as a symptom of Western meddling. – New York Times

Iran’s presidential candidates discussed the country’s foreign policy Monday in a three-hour live debate, promising to seek better relations with other nations and work to have sanctions on their country lifted. – Associated Press

The United States and its key European allies clashed with Iran and Russia over Tehran’s expanding nuclear program, with the U.S. vowing “to use all means necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran” in a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday. – Associated Press

Iran and Bahrain have agreed to start talks about the release of Iranian funds frozen in Bahrain and resuming diplomatic ties, Iran’s state media reported on Monday. – Reuters

Iran has issued an appeal for new negotiations toward reviving a multilateral nuclear agreement against the backdrop of deepening geopolitical tensions and worsening unrest across the Middle East. – Newsweek

Joseph Epstein and Hussain Ehsani write: It is no wonder that Sunnis are much more disillusioned than Shia. They are more neglected, oppressed and killed by a regime that’s heavily unpopular even among Persian Shias. The regime’s disdain for them is so blatant that even loyal Sunnis aren’t allowed to participate in the farce of Iranian elections. According to a top Sunni cleric, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, no Sunni has ever been made a minister. Today, Iran doesn’t have any Sunni governors or even ambassadors. – The Hill

Jacob Olidort writes: Soon, it will lose a proxy in Gaza. The only successful regional escalation was by the Houthis, over whom Iran had little direct control. If preventing Hamas from replicating its actions on October 7 is not justification enough to support unconditional aid to Israel, then preventing its patron, the Iranian regime, from planning its own future should be. – National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

A terrorist attack that killed at least 20 people over the weekend in Dagestan exposes some of Russia’s growing security weak spots deep in its hinterland, as the Kremlin focuses instead on pursuing its war in Ukraine and silencing its political opponents in Moscow and St. Petersburg. – Wall Street Journal

Russian lawmakers on Monday quickly blamed external forces, including Ukraine and NATO, for terrorist attacks on Sunday that killed at least 20 people in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region of Russia in the North Caucasus that has long been a hotbed of violence by Islamist militants. – Washington Post

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine removed one of his top generals from his post on Monday amid public criticism that the commander’s decisions had led to excessive casualties. – New York Times

Ukraine’s top official for Europe says the war-torn country is on an “irreversible” course of Western integration after the European Union agreed to formally start entry negotiations this week. – Associated Press

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the American ambassador on Monday to protest what it says was the use of U.S.-made advanced missiles in a Ukrainian attack on Russian-annexed Crimea that reportedly killed four people and wounded more than 150. – Associated Press

The U.S. is expected to announce Tuesday it is sending an additional $150 million in critically needed munitions to Ukraine, as Russia accuses Ukraine of using U.S.-provided munitions to strike inside Russia or Russian-held territory, according to two U.S. officials. – Associated Press

The European Union on Monday slapped new sanctions on Russia over its war on Ukraine, targeting Moscow’s shadow fleet of tankers moving liquefied natural gas through Europe as well as several companies. – Associated Press

Ukrainian troops trying to hold their ground on the eastern front in Donetsk region may still be outnumbered by Russian forces, but the “shell hunger” that plagued them for months as ammunitions started to run out is now behind them. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that Ukraine has hit more than 30 Russian oil processing and storage facilities.The Ukrainian military has stepped up attacks on Russian oil infrastructure this year, seeking to disrupt oil supplies to the Russian army and curb Moscow’s revenues to finance its war against Ukraine. – Reuters

Russian double-tap missile attack killed at least five people and wounded 41 others, including four children, in the eastern Ukrainian town of Pokrovsk on Monday, regional officials said. – Reuters

Russia, the world’s biggest nuclear power, has started updating its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, citing an earlier statement by President Vladimir Putin. “President Putin has said that work is under way to bring the doctrine into line with current realities,” Peskov told a briefing, without elaborating. – Reuters

The European Union will open membership talks with Ukraine on Tuesday, giving the country a political boost in the midst of its war against Russia’s invasion, although a long and tough road still lies ahead before it could join the bloc. – Reuters

Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said that the two Russian-Israeli hostages would be the first to be released if a hostage-ceasefire agreement is made in an interview with Russian state media agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Editorial: But the costs of his war are mounting for Russia as well, and becoming ever harder to disguise. Time isn’t necessarily on his side. Putin’s actions speak volumes. His proposal for talks in exchange for territory should be read as just his latest attempt to divide the allies and throttle Western support. Thanks, but no thanks. – Bloomberg

Ariel González Levaggi and Vladimir Rouvinski writes: By showing a military presence in the Caribbean, Moscow is not only responding to NATO’s activities in Ukraine but also asserting its influence in the United States’ “near abroad.” This strategic maneuver requires Latin American nations to balance their diplomatic and security policies wisely beyond active nonalignment due to the stakes of the game. Regional cooperation and dialogue will be crucial in addressing the challenges posed by extra-hemispheric powers and ensuring that Latin America and the Caribbean are prepared to protect their interests in the context of the rapidly changing international security environment. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Middle East & North Africa

Morocco has begun sending 40 tons of medical aid to Palestinians in war-torn Gaza, the Moroccan foreign ministry said on Monday.The aid includes surgery equipment and supplies to treat burns and fractures as well as medicine for children, it said. – Reuters

A possible attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Monday targeted a ship further away from nearly all of the previous assaults they’ve launched in the Gulf of Aden, officials said, potentially part of a widening escalation by the group. – Associated Press

U.S. officials trying to prevent a bigger Middle East war are issuing an unusual warning to Hezbollah: Don’t assume that Washington can stop Israel from attacking you. The American message is designed to get the Lebanese-based Shiite militia to back down and de-escalate the brewing crisis along the Israeli-Lebanese border, a person familiar with the discussions said. – Politico

Mohammed Salih writes: In short, Sadr’s ambitions are not matched by his means of realizing them. The rebranded movement signifies more of a fresh stage in his political work rather than a new political project altogether or a new political reality in Iraq. In other words, there will be more continuity than change in the Sadrist Current’s behavior and Iraqi politics at large—though with more emphasis placed on its immediate Shia arena of support and rivalry. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

One of South Korea’s deadliest chemical fires led its president to call for improved industrial safety measures, after at least 22 people were killed at a lithium-battery factory. – Wall Street Journal

Seventy four years after the Korean War began, North Korean troops are building new fortifications, occasionally inviting warning shots from South Korean counterparts across a border that has been frozen in a state of war. – Reuters

Among the trash that balloons carried over the border from North were articles printed with Hello Kitty characters, badly worn clothing, and soil containing traces of human faeces and parasites, South Korea said on Monday. – Reuters

China

China and the European Union are open to holding talks on the EU’s recent decision to sharply raise tariffs on imports of Chinese-made electric vehicles, officials from both sides say. – Associated Press

China on Monday dismissed Canadian complaints about what Ottawa said were “credible reports” of human rights violations in the western region of Xinjiang, saying Ottawa should focus instead on its own issues with discrimination. – Reuters

Mitigation pleas for Hong Kong’s biggest ever national security trial against the city’s democratic opposition kicked off on Tuesday, in what is expected to be the final stage before sentencing that could see some defendants jailed for life. – Reuters

China’s coastguard said on Monday it took “necessary control measures” against and “drove away” four Japanese fishing vessels and several patrol boats which entered the “territorial waters” of Diaoyu Islands between June 20-24. – Reuters

Reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Palestinian officials said on Monday, underlining dim chances of Palestinian unity even as Israel presses its Gaza offensive. – Reuters

Jorge Guajardo writes: The latter can be maintained longer-term. The goal of these tariffs should be to allow domestic industry to catch up to Chinese innovation, not isolate it forever. Whether they make cars, consumer electronics, or batteries, Western companies will need to stand up to the global free market eventually. – Foreign Policy

Michael Schuman writes: Xi’s policies are realpolitik at its coldest. The most significant payoff may come in Ukraine. Wars are supposed to have no winners, but the power-hungry and unscrupulous can take advantage of suffering to forward their own interests. Beijing could be a big winner from Kyiv’s pain. – The Atlantic

South Asia

Sri Lanka expects to sign a debt restructuring agreement with a group of creditor nations on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told Reuters – a major step forward in the country’s efforts to pull itself out of a severe economic crisis. – Reuters

Thousands of people have been displaced in India’s north-eastern state of Assam and at least 37 people have died in heavy rain, floods and landslides in the last two months, officials said on Monday. – Reuters

India’s worsening water shortage, triggered by high consumption amid rapid economic growth and frequent natural disasters, can negatively impact the South Asian nation’s sovereign credit strength, Moody’s Ratings said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Pakistan’s government is making efforts to build a nationwide “consensus” before it launches a new military operation against militants, the defense minister said, a move that comes after China showed concerns following attacks on its projects in the South Asian country. – Bloomberg

Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing made a rare apology to a prominent Buddhist monastery after its abbot was killed by security forces last week, a development that could trigger widespread protests among the monks who traditionally support the military. – Bloomberg

Asia

Leila de Lima, a former senator in the Philippines who was detained for six years after she criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, was cleared on Monday of the last of the charges that the authorities had held her on. – New York Times

The U.S. State Department on Monday boosted Vietnam’s ranking in a human-trafficking report, even as it cited concerns that the Southeast Asian country had failed to investigate government officials complicit in trafficking crimes. – Reuters

The Philippines is working hard to bring China back to the table for talks to resolve differences in the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Thailand will resume sending agricultural workers to Israel this week after an eight-month hiatus, the Thai labour ministry said on Monday, with a target of having more than 10,000 of its citizens working in the country by year-end, – Reuters

Australia Prime Minster Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday he wanted Julian Assange brought back home to Australia as soon as possible, after the WikiLeaks founder left Britain before an expected guilty plea to violating U.S. espionage law. – Reuters

Indonesia’s national data center has been compromised by a hacking group asking for a $8 million ransom that the government says it won’t pay. – Associated Press

Karishma Vaswani writes: The fence-sitting that Puri talks about is indicative of how the region is often seen as being torn between the US and China, unable to forge its own way beyond the two great superpower rivals. But this is a reductive a prism through which to view Asia. Increasingly, the region is charting its own course, just as it should. – Bloomberg

Europe

The long legal battle over Julian Assange may finally be nearing an end. It has been a sprawling, almost surreal drama — involving the United States, Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and Australia — that saw the 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder holed up in cramped rooms and held in prison cells for a quarter of his life. – Washington Post

Jordan Bardella, the president of France’s far-right National Rally, insisted at a news conference on Monday that he would be a prime minister for all French people if his party won the country’s upcoming snap elections, even as he defended his party’s proposal to bar French citizens with dual nationalities from certain “sensitive” jobs. – New York Times

Greece on Monday accused neighboring North Macedonia’s new center-right government of breaking a historic deal on the country’s name, warning that this could harm its hopes of one day joining the European Union. – Associated Press

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Monday during a visit to Beijing that he hoped China would help find a solution for peace in Ukraine that respects international law. – Reuters

The prospect of a politically extreme party with little or no government experience reaching power after France’s parliamentary elections is worrying investors, the chief executive of Paris stock market operator Euronext said on Tuesday. – Reuters

European Union governments agreed to use 1.4 billion euros ($1.50 billion) in profits from Russian frozen assets for arms and other aid to Ukraine, prompting Hungary to accuse fellow EU members of a “shameless” rule breach to bypass its objections. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Monday that a victory for the far left or the far right in this month’s snap election could spark “civil war.” Macron said the far-left France Unbowed and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally both pursued divisive policies that stoked tensions between communities. – Politico

The far-right National Rally wants to ensure that French nuclear weapons can only be used for France’s own defense, according to a manifesto released Monday that pledges to “preserve full sovereignty over our nuclear deterrent.” – Politico

Africa

After decades of wielding political, military and economic power across Africa, France is scaling back its presence on the continent as it faces significant resentment in many African countries. Yet one nation has emerged as an exception: Rwanda. – New York Times

EU countries adopted sanctions against six people in Sudan on Monday over the war between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that has engulfed the country. – Reuters

Protesters in Kenya were set to stage nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday against new tax hikes, seeking to build on momentum that has, in the span of a week, turned an online, youth-led movement into a major headache for the government. – Reuters

Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations on Monday accused Ethiopian troops of making illegal incursions across their shared border, leading to confrontations with local security forces. – Reuters

A revenge attack triggered by a cattle raid earlier this month has killed at least 17 people in northern South Sudan and forced oil workers to evacuate from the Toma South oil field, a local official said on Monday. – Reuters

Ghana has reached an agreement in principle with two bondholder groups to restructure around $13 billion of its debt, it said on Monday, making it the second African country this month to reach the final stages of a debt overhaul. – Reuters

The Americas

The Colombian government and the Segunda Marquetalia armed group began peace talks on Monday, part of President Gustavo Petro’s efforts to end 60 years of war in his country. – Reuters

Canada said on Monday it was considering whether to impose tariffs on China-made electric vehicles as it seeks to align itself with allies against what they see as a heavily subsidized Chinese industry. – Reuters

The first Kenyan police officers assigned to tackle rampant gang violence in Haiti are leaving Kenya on Tuesday and are set to arrive this week, the U.S. State Department said on Monday. – Reuters

Argentina entered a technical recession in the first quarter of the year, official data showed on Monday, and job losses mounted amid a tough austerity drive by libertarian President Javier Milei who is prioritising restoring fiscal order. – Reuters

Brazil has deported a Palestinian man and his family after Brazilian federal police were alerted by the United States that a “Hamas operative” was traveling to the South American country, Brazilian authorities said on Monday. – Reuters

Earl Anthony Wayne and Lila Abed write: Mexico’s new president has a powerful mandate. Still, she faces many challenges, including weakened government capacity, serious fiscal limits, high popular expectations, and her mentor and predecessor trying to secure his legacy of “transformation.” The next several months will set the tone for the Sheinbaum presidency and indicate the quality of partnership that the United States and Mexico will be able to build going forward. – The National Interest

United States

In November last year, President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to boost engagement between ordinary Chinese and Americans, part of an effort to repair fraying ties ahead of a tense election year in the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Discussions between Russia and North Korea about what Pyongyang gets in return for weapons supplies to Moscow could relate to North Korea’s nuclear long-range missile development, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said on Monday. – Reuters

Opponents of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza staged a protest that evolved into brawling and one arrest outside a Los Angeles synagogue over the weekend in violence condemned by President Joe Biden and the city’s mayor, who called for more police patrols. – Associated Press

US President Joe Biden on Monday condemned the violence that occurred during an anti-Israel protest outside the Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles on Sunday. – Arutz Sheva

Editorial: Typical United Nations perfidy. Soon after the cease-fire, well-armed Hezbollah forces set up camp — read fortifications — right next to the UN peacekeepers’s positions on the border. No wonder Israelis are leery of any diplomatic guarantees, which they know its enemies are bound to violate. Hence the importance of America affirming its support for its Mideast ally in the face of any threats, lest Iran get ideas about “using any suitable methods.” – New York Sun

Walter Russell Mead writes: Given America’s external and domestic challenges these days, talk of U.S. decline has become fashionable again. After a long look at Europe, I’m not convinced. Lubbock isn’t Lübeck. Our pains are growing pains rather than the aches of old age. As long as we keep developing new technologies, integrating immigrants and generating wealth on a staggering scale, American society will be too dynamic for decadence and too busy for decline. – Wall Street Journal

Minxin Pei writes: It has been remarkably successful in rooting out genuine reformers from its senior ranks in the post-Cold War era. We may have to wait decades to see the end game of the US-China rivalry. But applying the wrong lessons of the Cold War will not help the US win, especially because Chinese leaders seem to have a better grasp of how the Soviets lost it. – Bloomberg

Seth Mandel writes: And it is certainly a choice by the president of the United States to join such figures at political events and praise them to the heavens. The leadership of America’s political, media, and academic institutions have chosen this path. No one’s participation in any of this is unintentional. And very few hands are clean. – Commentary Magazine

Cybersecurity

Apple is imposing unfair restrictions on developers of applications for its App Store in violation of a new European Union law meant to encourage competition in the tech industry, regulators in Brussels said on Monday. – New York Times

At least six companies have alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission that the fallout from the ransomware attack on automotive industry software provider CDK Global has had a negative or disruptive impact on their operations, according to recent filings with the agency. – CyberScoop

The Department of Homeland Security has released its long-awaited report focused on reducing the ways artificial intelligence could exacerbate chemical and biological threats. – FedScoop

Six hackers who have previously been connected to either Russian state-sponsored or financially motivated cyberattacks targeting the European Union and Ukraine were added to the EU’s sanctions list on Monday. – The Record

The Russia-linked threat actor CopyCop is trying to influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election using fake news websites and generative artificial intelligence, researchers have found. – The Record

Defense

The U.S. will have fully cleared out of one air base in Niger as it continues to move personnel and equipment from the African country ahead of a September deadline to complete its withdrawal, according to the head of U.S. Africa Command. – Defense News

Four U.S. Marine F-35B Lighting II dropped seven GBU-32 500-pound guided bombs on targets floating off the coast of Western Luzon in the South China Sea in a first-of-its-kind bilateral exercise last week. – USNI News

The Pentagon said Monday it remains confident that it will be able to respond to ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea after a Navy aircraft carrier strike group departed the region and it was unclear when another carrier group might arrive. – Military.com

Hawaii-based Army units are continuing to play a central role in U.S.-Philippine relations as tensions mount between China and the Philippines. – Military.com

U.S. Africa Command is evaluating how to best apply technology with allies and partners to monitor rising adversarial influence, terrorism and other emerging threats as forces hustle to withdraw American military assets from Niger and Chad, and Western nations’ physical presence across the continent broadly shifts, Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley told DefenseScoop. – DefenseScoop

Editorial: Delay has been the Pentagon’s dance partner all spring. Program after weapons program has fallen behind its production schedule, which means cascading costs for taxpayers and declining readiness for the military. The problem stems from choosing systems that are too complicated, too exquisite and too costly to maintain — and relying on just a handful of prime contractors, most of which face little or no competition. On June 17, the Government Accountability Office, in its annual survey of 76 leading procurement programs, described the Pentagon as “alarmingly slow” in fielding weapons for every service. – Washington Post