Fdd's overnight brief

March 14, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said in a statement Wednesday that at least one of its staff members was killed and 22 were injured when Israeli forces struck one of its food distribution centers in southern Gaza. The Israeli military acknowledged the strike, saying it had targeted a Hamas commander. – Washington Post

Israel’s justice ministry said Wednesday it was questioning an officer who fatally shot a youth accused of shooting a firework at security forces in East Jerusalem. – New York Times

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that it had killed a senior Hamas operative in an airstrike in southern Lebanon, the latest in a series of targeted killings there following the deadly Hamas-led attacks against Israel on Oct. 7. – New York Times

The Biden Administration is expected to impose new sanctions on two illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank that were used as a base for attacks by “extremist” Israeli settlers against Palestinians, Axios reported late on Wednesday, citing three U.S. officials. – Reuters

The military has made preparations for the arrival of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip by sea, the IDF announced on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

IDF troops detected and eliminated on Wednesday a terrorist squad that had attempted to launch a rocket from the center of the Gaza Strip into the Gaza border communities, the military announced on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post  

Editorial: Here’s a rule the US and Israel would be wise to honor, especially with the US approaching its election in November and Israel likely facing its new election in the not-too-distant future: You stay out of my elections, and I’ll stay out of yours. – Jerusalem Post

David Ignatius writes: Finally, on the baseline question of what Gaza will look like “the day after,” U.S. and Israeli officials agree there is still no clear answer. That’s one reason Biden mistrusts Netanyahu. The White House doubts the Israeli leader has a sound strategy for ending a conflict that has brutalized Israel, has had a shattering effect on Palestinian civilians and is increasingly harmful to U.S. interests around the world. – Washington Post

Andreas Kluth writes: Any and all of these measures would be an escalation by Biden. But it wouldn’t be a unilateral escalation. Having talked tougher on Israel in his State of the Union address and then drawn his red line, Biden must follow through, if he wants to prevent a terrible conflict from becoming even worse. – Bloomberg

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: Simply put: absent a gross miscalculation on one side or the other, the mutual interests of both sides are to avoid a general war, and nothing about that has changed from October until now. – Jerusalem Post

Francesca Block and Eli Lake write: “To have our representatives, the people that are supposed to be making our workplace more supportive, be making us feel scared when we walk in the door at work,” Goldstein said, “that’s the opposite of helping us do our job.” – The Free Press

Iran

Iranians have looked for opportunities in recent months to display defiance against the rules of the clerical government. In Tuesday night’s annual fire festival, many found a chance. – New York Times

The United States has asked Panama to ban Iranian vessels sanctioned by Washington from using its flag, U.S. State Department special envoy Abram Paley said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The US has held secret talks with Iran this year in a bid to convince Tehran to use its influence over Yemen’s Houthi movement to end attacks on ships in the Red Sea, according to US and Iranian officials. – Financial Times

The Biden administration on Wednesday reapproved a sanctions waiver that unlocks upwards of $10 billion in frozen funds for the Iranian government, according to a copy of the notice submitted to Congress late Wednesday and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. – Free Beacon

Erfan Fard writes: As Nigeria grapples with an array of security challenges, the shadow of Iran’s Quds Force looms large, representing a new front in the geopolitical contestation of Africa. The involvement of the Quds Force, through its support for the IMN and collaboration with Hezbollah, signifies Iran’s ambition to project power and influence far beyond its borders. This development demands vigilant and coordinated responses from both regional and international actors, underscoring the need for a comprehensive strategy to navigate the shadows cast by Iran’s activities in Nigeria, and ensure the continent’s long-term stability and security. – Algemeiner

Russia & Ukraine

In a three-day election that leaves no room for doubt, Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to win a fifth term on Sunday, allowing him to stay in power until 2030 — and, should he run again, to 2036. – Washington Post

The $300 million in new weaponry the United States is sending to Ukraine, the first American military aid package in months, will help Ukraine hold off Russian troops for a few weeks, analysts say, but it will not change the overall situation on the battlefield, where Moscow currently has the advantage. – New York Times

The war in Ukraine ended that, with Western sanctions and other restrictions increasingly cutting Russia off from European markets. In response, Moscow has expanded ties with the countries more willing to do business with it — China to the east, and, via a southern route, India and the countries of the Persian Gulf. – New York Times

President Vladimir Putin appealed on Thursday to voters, including in annexed parts of Ukraine, to be united in determining Russia’s future by casting ballots in this week’s presidential election which he is all but certain to win. – Reuters

Russian forces launched three-dozen drones across several Ukrainian regions overnight, hitting civilian infrastructure, authorities in Ukraine said on Thursday. – Reuters

Editorial: ” Lithuania’s State Security Department said Navalny’s associates were “the most dangerous opposition force capable of exerting real influence on Russia’s internal processes,” adding that the attack was likely an effort to stop them, according to Reuters. The Kremlin has repeatedly targeted Mr. Putin’s enemies overseas, including in NATO territory. The attack on Mr. Volkov is another escalation and shows how little he respects national borders or the West’s reaction. – Wall Street Journal

George Weigel writes: “Ukrainians will continue to defend themselves,” they wrote, because “recent history has demonstrated that with Putin there will be no true negotiations.” Any agreement with a dictator who has denied Ukraine’s nationhood wouldn’t be “worth the paper on which it is written.” Russia’s goal, as Mr. Putin has stated, is the eradication of Ukraine. Ukraine’s aim, the bishops declared, is the defense of “freedom and dignity to achieve a peace that is just.” – Wall Street Journal

Adam Taylor writes: “They would not want to see internal strife imperil Russia’s geopolitical position, and they would not want to give up the ideological constructs Putin has assembled,” Kimmage and Lipman wrote. “Putin has done enough to ensure that whoever follows him is likely to be his heir.” As Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in November, Putin’s eventual successor may not change Russia that much. – Washington Post

Joy Neumeyer writes: These younger cohorts, who’ve crowded into cinemas to see “The Master and Margarita,” are leading the creative effort to imagine a country where the future is not the past and evil no longer masquerades as good. They sense a revelation that Bulgakov did not live to see: Though culture may buttress a dictator, it can also break power’s spell. – New York Times

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write: This is what Putin aims for in these elections. It makes him the keystone to the present Russian state; without him, it collapses. But of course, that also means that when the regime tumbles into rubble, as all regimes do, his legacy will fall with it. Any reader of history books, good or bad, should know that. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Mykyta Vorobiov writes: Navalnaya has stressed her desire for a free, peaceful, and prosperous Russia. It is an excellent opportunity for Ukraine to engage with the opposition, and show that it wants a fruitful dialog with Russia the moment it returns to its senses and abandons Putin’s bloody, imperialist dreams. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Can Kasapoğlu writes: Ukrainian forces persisted in their strikes against critical Russian platforms and facilities. They conducted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attack in Rostov Oblast featuring dozens of drones, allegedly engaging an A-50 Beriev aircraft parked at the Taganrog plant. Russia uses this facility for the maintenance and repair of its rare aerial assets, including the A-50, making it a critical hub for the sustainability of Russian air power. Ukrainian strikes also caused economic damage in Russia. According to British intelligence, Russia’s oil refining capacity might have temporarily plunged due to the Ukrainian UAV strikes, leading to higher gasoline prices as Russia’s elections near. – Hudson Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said the Iranian-backed Houthi militants fired one anti-ship ballistic missile from Yemen into the Gulf of Aden, but it caused no damage to any vessels. – Reuters

A U.S. Congress-mandated group cut short a fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia after officials in the kingdom ordered a Jewish rabbi to remove his kippah in public, highlighting the religious tensions still present in the wider Middle East. – Associated Press

Three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church were fatally stabbed in an attack at a monastery in South Africa and a suspect has been arrested, police said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Three and a half years after hundreds of tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate ignited at the Beirut port, setting off one of the world’s biggest non-nuclear explosions, Lebanese and French officials put forward a plan for reconstruction and reorganization of the port Wednesday. – Associated Press

Qatar National Bank and Qatar Charity are seeking the identities of individuals who supplied documents underpinning a lawsuit brought by the family of an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State group, according to legal documents filed in the US. – Bloomberg

Senior Turkish officials will discuss security issues, particularly Turkey’s operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq, with their counterparts in Baghdad on Thursday, a Turkish defence ministry official said. – Reuters

Amit Segal writes: Maybe Mr. Netanyahu should go over Mr. Biden’s head and speak to the U.S. people directly. According to a recent Harvard Caps-Harris poll, the American public supports Israel much more than the president does. And I’d like to remind my fellow Israelis that it’s important for us to distinguish, or at least not conflate, the American government with the American people. – Wall Street Journal 

Halil Karaveli writes: At stake is not only the outcome of the Istanbul election, as important as it is. If narrow-minded nationalism prevails among Turkish progressives, the authoritarian AKP regime—which has run the country for more than 20 years—will become entrenched and outlast Erdogan. – Foreign Policy

Korean Peninsula

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit South Korea next week and hold a meeting on Monday with his counterpart, Cho Tae-yul, the foreign ministry in Seoul said on Thursday. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guided a military demonstration involving a new battle tank, state media KCNA reported on Thursday, in the latest show of force by the isolated state as South Korea and the United States wrapped up joint drills. – Reuters

U.S.-South Korean talks on sharing the cost of keeping American troops in South Korea are on track and ahead of schedule, but the U.S. side does not necessarily see a hard deadline ahead of the November U.S. election, a senior Biden administration official told Reuters. – Reuters

China

When a landmark science and technology agreement between the U.S. and China reached its expiration in late February without an extension, it plunged the academic community in both countries into uncertainty. Neither country confirmed an extension for nine days. – Wall Street Journal

China appointed Chen Xiaodong as vice foreign minister, the human resources ministry said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, will visit Australia and New Zealand from March 17 to 21, a spokeseperson said on Thursday at a regular press briefing. – Reuters

China’s launch of a DRO-A/B satellite from Xichang satellite launch centre on Wednesday was not successful, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. – Reuters

City officials in eastern China apologized to local journalists after authorities were shown pushing them and trying to obstruct reporting from the site of a deadly explosion, in a rare acknowledgment of state aggression against journalists. – Associated Press

Harrison Kass writes: That may be so, but I’m less certain. I am not convinced that Russia and China are so strategically aligned that they would embark on the world’s first multi-nation aircraft carrier-building effort. I’m not convinced that China would invest its own resources to expand Russia’s naval prowess. There are cheaper, more efficient, lower-risk, and more effective ways to facilitate Russia’s disruption of U.S. objectives. – The National Interest

South Asia

Behind the doors of a small, non-descript office in the heart of New Delhi lies the headquarters of an electoral trust run by just two men that is the largest-known donor to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a Reuters review of public records. – Reuters

India’s defence ministry on Wednesday signed contracts worth 80.73 billion rupees ($975.06 million) with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HIAE.NS), opens new tab to buy 34 indigenous advanced light helicopters for its army and coast guard, the government said. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund will hold a crucial round of talks with Pakistan’s newly elected government this week to determine whether the country has met conditions for receiving the much needed final $1.1 billion tranche of a $3 billion bailout, officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

An Indian government-instituted panel recommended that national and state elections should be carried out at the same time to cut costs and improve efficiency. – Bloomberg

China will help Pakistan overcome its foreign debt woes by extending financial assistance to the South Asian country, according to its consul general in Lahore. – Bloomberg

Andy Mukherjee writes:  By then, India’s religious minorities, left-wing politicians and liberals may have lost the fight to keep the republic secular. The structure of the economy would also have changed with investment-led growth and spending by a narrow elite extending their dominance over mass employment and consumption. – Bloomberg

Asfandyar Mir and Andrew Watkins write: But if policymakers are seeking to use nonrecognition to compel a regime to reconsider its policies, they are likely to meet failure. Thus, a coercive approach that only involves the United States and likeminded allies, without the full support of China and other regional powers, is unlikely to prove effective. And in the case of Afghanistan, it is a leaky ship that the Taliban may ultimately manage to sink. – Foreign Affairs

Asia

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has no authority to probe his predecessor’s deadly war against drugs. – Reuters

Vietnam’s foreign ministry on Thursday said international law and the rights and interests of other countries must be respected, responding to a question about China’s demarcation earlier this month of a baseline in the Gulf of Tonkin. – Reuters

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 19 to tackle cooperation and security matters, the office of the Manila leader said in a statement late on Wednesday night. – Reuters

Vietnam’s imports of weapons last year slowed to a trickle as it worked to diversify supplies away from Russia, data released on Monday show, while experts warned the country could be vulnerable during a regional conflict. – Reuters

Taiwan dispatched coast guard boats on Thursday to join a rescue mission at China’s request after a fishing vessel capsized near the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands, amid heightened tension in the sensitive Taiwan Strait. – Reuters

The camps of the two Indonesian presidential candidates who appear to have lost in an election last month said Thursday they plan to challenge the official results in the Constitutional Court with allegations of widespread fraud. – Associated Press

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra began his first public appearances since leaving detention, with an early morning visit to a shrine in Bangkok on Thursday before flying to his home province of Chiang Mai in the country’s north. – Associated Press

David Kearn writes: The proposal to plan and prepare to execute tactical nuclear operations against a Chinese invasion force in the Taiwan Strait is myopic. It is an unnecessary solution to a military problem that is otherwise completely detached from U.S. national security or diplomatic interests. With dubious value as a deterrent, it would be dangerous and self-defeating, with long-term deleterious consequences for the United States, its alliance relationships, and its position in the world. – War on the Rocks

Europe

For Germany — a country that knows something about how extremists can hijack a government — the surging popularity of the far right has forced an awkward question. – New York Times

The European Union has lifted sanctions against a Russian technology tycoon, in a rare break from a policy of punishing the country’s elites for the invasion of Ukraine. – New York Times

Britain unveiled a new definition of extremism on Thursday in response to an eruption of hate crimes against Jews and Muslims since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, although critics said the change risked infringing on freedom of speech. – Reuters

Britain’s government outlined plans on Wednesday to stop foreign states from owning newspapers, potentially giving ministers the power to block Abu Dhabi-backed RedBird IMI’s bid to buy the Telegraph. – Reuters

An Italian appeals court refused on Wednesday to send a suspected Palestinian militant to Israel, saying he risked “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” if he was extradited. – Reuters

A senior official in ex-Soviet Moldova said on Wednesday Moscow was breaking laws by printing ballot papers in the separatist region of Transdniestria ahead of this week’s Russian presidential election. – Reuters

Dutch politician Geert Wilders said on Wednesday he was ready to forego the job of prime minister in an effort to facilitate the formation of a new right-wing government, nearly four months after an election in which his party won most votes. – Reuters

The regional president of Catalonia has called an early election for May 12 after his minority government failed to pass a budget for Spain’s wealthy northeast region that includes Barcelona. – Associated Press

Austria said Wednesday it has ordered two diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Vienna to leave the country. An Austrian official said the expulsions were related to spying activities. – Associated Press

Poland is recalling 50 of its ambassadors as part of efforts by the new, pro-European Union government to improve diplomatic missions at a challenging time, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The diplomats had all been appointed by the previous, right-wing administration. – Associated Press

Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, telling German lawmakers Wednesday that prudence is not a weakness while insisting that he trusts Kyiv. – Associated Press

A senior U.S. official on Wednesday urged Kosovo and Serbia to make tough decisions to restart talks and “move forward” on normalizing ties. – Associated Press

Denmark wants to increase the number of young people doing military service by extending conscription to women and increasing the time of service from 4 months to 11 months for both genders, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Africa

Gunmen who kidnapped 286 students and staff from a school in northern Nigeria last week have demanded a total of 1 billion naira ($620,432) for their release, a spokesman for the families of the hostages and a local councillor told Reuters. – Reuters

Backers of detained opposition presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye are taking his campaign to the streets of Senegal with posters and bracelets, drumming up support in the hope he will be released before the vote. – Reuters

Some Sudanese residents cut off from mobile networks for weeks due to war between rival military factions are using Starlink satellite connections to access the internet, as regular coverage started to return to other parts of the country. – Reuters

The head of Sudan’s army has told troops it will press to take more ground after its most significant advance in an 11-month-old war against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as a charity warned of a rising risk of hunger-linked deaths. – Reuters

The 23 crew members of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship boarded by pirates off Somalia this week have been taken hostage, and a European Union vessel is tracking the ship as it heads toward the coast, the EU’s maritime security force said Wednesday. – Associated Press

South Africa’s foreign minister says her country’s citizens who fight in the Israeli armed forces or alongside them in Gaza will be arrested when they return home, deepening the rift between the nations after South Africa lay accusations of genocide against Israel at the United Nations’ top court. – Associated Press

Adem Kassie Abebe and Zelalem Moges write: Ethiopia’s political, security, and economic dilemmas have expanded and threaten to further undermine the viability of the state and exacerbate the already dire political and security situation in a vitally important Red Sea corridor. The establishment of legitimate governments in Amhara and Oromia and the launching of a genuine elite dialogue are critical to stave off worst-case scenarios, including possible state collapse. – Foreign Policy 

The Americas

The United States has sent a specialized Marine unit to help secure the U.S. Embassy in Haiti as the country struggles through a political transition amid rising gang violence, authorities said Wednesday. – Washington Post

Even as gangs terrorized Haiti, kidnapped civilians en masse and killed at will, the country’s embattled prime minister held on to power for years. – New York Times

Alexander Causwell writes: Unless CARICOM, the U.S. government, and all who have a say or stake in Haiti accept that we are facing an insurgency, not a gang problem, the prospects of resolving Haiti’s crisis remain dim. Haiti can only be brought under control by a military deployment operating under rules of engagement that recognize armed groups as combatants. Otherwise, anarchy will prevail, with attendant consequences for the people of Haiti and the security of the Caribbean Basin. – Foreign Policy 

Latin America

Hundreds of Peruvian police officers raided dozens of properties around the country on Wednesday, arresting 18 people as part of an investigation into illegal arms trafficking and its role in the murder of an Ecuadorian presidential candidate last year. – Reuters

Police in Brazil arrested a man on Tuesday after he hijacked a bus and shot two people at a bus station in Rio de Janeiro before holding 17 people hostage for about three hours. – Reuters

Adam DuBard writes: If Biden bows to GOP pressure and concludes that the perfect is the enemy of the good, all sides would be back to square one. From this unenviable position, the onus would be on the U.S. to demonstrate how it could ensure that the next five years aren’t as mutually destructive as the last. – The Hill 

Richard Holwill writes: But what Ecuador’s gangs do not have is popular support. These criminal groups have alienated the country’s population, while the president enjoys very high approval ratings. Ecuadorians are overwhelmingly in opposition to the chaos of rule by drug gangs. Gangs may soon find that they are battling not a weak government, but a united society. – Foreign Policy

United States

Pressure is mounting for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to address aiding foreign allies as House Democrats and Republicans tee up opposing measures that would supersede House GOP leadership and trigger votes on bills funding Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the U.S. border. – Washington Post

Editorial: The House bill now moves to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Mark Warner and Marco Rubio seem open to it, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer merely promised to take a look. At the very least he ought to let the Members go on record with a vote. – Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Kristof writes: Biden may also be helped by a recognition that some of his antagonists don’t have core values so much as a box of tricks. That brings me to Senator Katie Britt, who in her response to the State of the Union address was caught in deceptions about human trafficking to try to hurt Democrats. – New York Times

Cybersecurity

It was a signature feat for the country that made industrial policy famous. In less than two years, an $8.6 billion semiconductor factory on a plot the size of 40 football fields sprang up amid the cabbage fields here. – Wall Street Journal

A presidential advisory report on improving the resilience of critical infrastructure sectors won the approval of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts Wednesday, particularly around better funding for the agencies that are supposed to help them protect against cyberattacks. – CyberScoop

Joshua Stein writes: What role should generative AI play in our political life? In authoritarian states, they give a voice to the voiceless. In countries where politicians are free to make political representations without threat of imprisonment, their role could be limited. Either way, Yas Gaspadar and fellow bots look sure to shake up elections. – Center for European Policy Analysis

James Andrew Lewis writes: Legislation and executive branch authorities can minimize risk while allowing TikTok to continue to operate. Broader solutions could include finally passing a national privacy law, expanding transparency into software supply networks, and restricting cases where the use of Chinese technology creates risk. Not all Chinese technology creates risk, but real risks can be mitigated, including those attributed to TikTok. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Rishi Iyengar writes: “I think the ham-handed lobbying effort that we saw late last week should be a wake-up call—and perhaps it was for Congress—about how the Chinese Communist Party could order TikTok to mobilize the American electorate in support of its own policy goals,” she said. “This is as insulated from politics as we’re going to get … especially in an election year.” – Foreign Policy 

Defense

The U.S. and Japanese militaries will resume flights of Osprey aircraft in Japan after completing necessary maintenance and training following a fatal crash in southern Japan last November, officials said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The Pentagon is exploring options to build a second track to test hypersonic systems that can travel at speeds above Mach 5. – Defense News

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security has given a green light to continue development of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, India’s indigenous fifth-generation fighter jet. – Defense News