Fdd's overnight brief

March 21, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israeli security officials are quietly developing a plan to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip that could eventually create a Palestinian-led governing authority there, Israeli and Arab officials said, causing a fierce backlash from Hamas and creating divisions in Israel’s war cabinet. – Wall Street Journal

The United States would cut off funding for the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza under a spending agreement on track to soon become law, according to two people familiar with the plan. – New York Times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Republican senators on Wednesday that Israel will continue its efforts to defeat the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, senators told reporters after he addressed a party lunch. – Reuters

The Israeli military said on Thursday that it killed more than 50 Palestinian gunmen over the past day in fighting around the Gaza Strip’s Shifa hospital. – Reuters

Israel has submitted written assurances as required by the U.S. State Department stating its use of American-supplied weapons are not being used to violate humanitarian laws in Gaza, a U.S. official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A senior Hamas official said on Wednesday that Israel’s response to the group’s latest Gaza ceasefire proposal was negative after mediators handed it over. – Reuters

Canada has not approved new arms export permits to Israel since Jan. 8 and the freeze will continue until Ottawa can ensure the weapons are used in accordance with Canadian law, the government said on Wednesday. – Reuters

IDF troops are operating in the town of Nur al-Shams near the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, according to an IDF statement on Wednesday night. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF killed five Hamas senior officials in Rafah, southern Gaza, over the past week thanks to intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Military Intelligence, the IDF reported Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Two Palestinians have been killed in clashes during an Israeli army raid in the West Bank’s Nur Shams refugee camp, close to Tulkarem, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry. – Times of Israel

Joe Lieberman writes: I enjoyed working with Mr. Schumer during our years in the Senate together. He is an excellent legislative leader and became a personal friend. But in this case, I believe he has made a grievous mistake. I hope he can find a way to say so and then lead his fellow Democrats to support Israel—and the shared values and interests of our two great democracies. – Wall Street Journal

Adam Rasgon writes: With experts warning of imminent famine in Gaza, prolonged debates about postwar governance come at the cost of Gaza’s residents, said Mr. Okal, the political analyst from Gaza City. “Complete chaos has taken hold and the people are paying the price,” he said. “But what can they do? All they can do is raise their hands and pray to God.” – New York Times

Marc Champion writes: It’s up to Netanyahu to prove the IPC’s famine predictions wrong. Israel may not be a member of the International Criminal Court, but if he fails to act and the worst happens, that won’t stop its prosecutors from pursuing a well-deserved case a against him. – Bloomberg

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: But absent: a) ending the rocket fire completely within a reasonable amount of time; b) creating a trend and momentum in which Hamas can no longer quickly reconstitute large forces and is limited to small uncoordinated cells of terrorists; and c) developing a third party that successfully replaces Hamas in food distribution, internal law and order, and rebuilding of Gazan society (including rooting out Hamas leadership) – Israel, unfortunately, may still manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. – Jerusalem Post

Ariel Vogel Valk writes: Israel’s economy, security capabilities, and technological innovations make it a valuable partner. The notion that the road to Washington passes through Jerusalem enhances this further. Notwithstanding, Israel must maintain its expediency with the same long-term thinking as its Arab allies – present and future. – Jerusalem Post

Iran

Iran and its terror proxies continue to threaten the U.S., including assassination attempts on U.S. leaders and residents, according to a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing Wednesday. – Fox News 

An influential cleric and the representative of the country’s supreme leader in the northeastern province of Khorasan Razavi has called those who didn’t vote in recent elections “inconsequential,” even though they comprised almost 60 percent of the electorate as turnout hit a record low. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

An Iran-linked hacking group claims to have breached the computer network of a sensitive Israeli nuclear installation in an incident declared by the ‘Anonymous’ hackers as a protest against the war in Gaza. – The Record

Ashka Jhaveri, Kathryn Tyson, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld, and Brian Carter write: Iran’s inflation rate is approximately 44 percent, according to Iranian media. The actual inflation rate is likely higher given Iranian officials and media’s tendency to fabricate economic statistics, however. Western and diaspora media recently reported that many Iranians refrained this year from buying goods that they normally would for Nowruz, such as new clothes and sweets, due to high prices. – Institute for the Study of War

Russia & Ukraine

Russian missiles streaked into Kyiv early Thursday in the biggest assault on the Ukrainian capital in weeks, injuring at least 10 people and damaging several residential buildings and industrial facilities, according to local officials. – New York Times

Under tremendous pressure to come up with billions of dollars to support Ukraine’s military and backfill its members’ own dwindling arsenals, the European Union said Wednesday that it had devised a legal way to use frozen Russian assets to help arm Ukraine, just as it was considering other mechanisms to bolster its defense industries. – New York Times

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a trip to Kyiv on Wednesday that a major U.S. aid package that has been blocked by Republicans for months would “get to Ukraine” and vowed that Washington’s support would continue. – Reuters

Russia’s Belgorod region has come under increasing Ukrainian attacks this month as the invasion by Moscow grinds into its third year. – Associated Press

Deadly attacks on Russian regions bordering Ukraine are increasingly bringing home the costs of Vladimir Putin’s invasion. That doesn’t yet mean people are turning on the Russian president over the war. – Bloomberg

Adam Taylor writes: And while European partners may struggle to make up for America’s deep pockets, recent comments by France’s Emmanuel Macron and other leaders suggest they may be willing to meet a Russian escalation in other ways. If this is all part of the plan, it certainly isn’t one for peace. The fight for Ukraine has not become more peaceful, but more desperate — and all this without Trump having won office. – Washington Post

Jamie Dettmer writes: “Because time favors Russia, not Ukraine.” Because “on the Russian side, they’re adapting for a long war; they have rebuilt their country completely with war in mind. It’s an authoritarian country that’s completely under the control of the power vertical. The first priority is Russia must be defeated,” he said. From Putin’s point of view, “If Russia loses, it will undergo a transformation inside. If it wins, it will dominate Europe. – Politico

George Scutaru and Matthew Boyse write: Putin has not surrendered his goal of taking Odessa. Gaining access to the mouth of the Danube is not an impossible objective. While all eyes are on the Donbas, it is essential to keep Putin’s additional priorities in Ukraine in mind, however far-fetched they may seem in the present. Continued U.S. support is vital to assist Ukraine in resisting Putin’s onslaught. He must be stopped before Odessa lest he continues further west along the Black Sea littoral. – The National Interest

Middle East & North Africa

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday began his sixth trip to the Middle East since the eruption of conflict between Israel and Hamas, his latest bid to compel Israel to ease its assault on the battered territory and identify a post-conflict plan that could lead to a Palestinian state. – Washington Post

A senior official from the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah has made a landmark trip to the United Arab Emirates to facilitate the release of more than a dozen Lebanese nationals detained there, four sources close to Hezbollah told Reuters. – Reuters

Arab foreign ministers and a top Palestinian official will meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo on Thursday as he pushes for a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip during his latest tour of the region. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and efforts to increase aid to Palestinians. – Reuters

A French Navy helicopter destroyed a Houthi combat drone in the southern Red Sea to protect merchant ships, the EU’s mission in the Red Sea, known as Aspides, said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States decided to bring Qatar in to participate in the construction and management of the temporary pier in Gaza, that will bring humanitarian aid into the Strip, despite Israel’s objections. “Qatari involvement in a port in Gaza would be a dream come true for Hamas and it is too bad that Israel missed the gravity of the situation in time to stop it,” according to an Israeli official. – Ynet

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s ambassador to Australia said on Thursday he was willing to be questioned by the anti-corruption agency over allegations he tried to manipulate a probe into the death of a marine last year when he was defence minister. – Reuters

South Korea’s government will take final steps to suspend the licenses of striking junior doctors next week as they refuse to end their weekslong walkouts that have burdened the country’s medical services, officials said Thursday. – Associated Press

An appeals court in Montenegro on Wednesday confirmed that a South Korean mogul known as “the cryptocurrency king” will be handed over to his native country. – Associated Press

North Korean unmanned aerial vehicles that closely resemble sophisticated American drones are a sign the despotic regime is seeking to modernize its military beyond attention-grabbing missiles, according to a U.S. military leader. – Defense News

China

As China wraps its authoritarian rule more tightly around this once-boisterous metropolis, no corner of society has been left untouched. – Wall Street Journal

China said on Thursday it is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to the “denigration and smearing” by the United States of the new Hong Kong security law passed earlier this week. – Reuters

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating on Thursday and highlighted Beijing’s desire for U.S. ally Australia to have an independent foreign policy, Beijing said. – Reuters

The Philippines said a Chinese Navy ship “shadowed” its coast guard vessel en route to a Philippines-occupied island in the South China Sea in the latest incident between the two nations asserting overlapping maritime claims. – Bloomberg

John Calabrese writes: However, it might be the case that Beijing has underestimated the depth of the psychological trauma Oct. 7 had inflicted on Israeli society. Beijing’s actions during the ensuing conflict are likely to have reinforced the belief among many Israelis that China will exploit or endanger Israel to advance its own interests. Although Israel may find it impractical to completely disengage from China — and is unlikely to do so — it can adopt a realistic engagement strategy without harboring any illusions, and with a new strategic understanding of its own interests. – Middle East Institute

South Asia

India will bring in and prosecute 35 Somali pirates its navy captured on a hijacked ship off Somalia, a navy official said, in a departure from its recent practice of rescuing vessels and crew but leaving the disarmed pirates at sea. – Reuters

A U.S. diplomat urged Pakistan on Wednesday to investigate reported irregularities with last month’s general election and re-run the vote in affected constituencies if it found credible evidence of interference. – Reuters

The U.S. government recognizes Arunachal Pradesh as part of India and “strongly opposes” any unilateral attempts to advance territorial claims in the northeastern Indian state that shares a border with China, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Pakistani security forces on Wednesday repulsed a gun and bomb attack by militants on a complex outside the strategic port of Gwadar, which killed all eight militants and two soldiers, officials said. – Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held separate phone calls on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy and discussed strengthening ties with both, ahead of a visit by the Ukrainian foreign minister to New Delhi. – Reuters

The school year in Afghanistan started Wednesday but without girls whom the Taliban barred from attending classes beyond the sixth grade, making it the only country with restrictions on female education. – Associated Press

India’s investigation into US claims of an attempted murder of a Sikh leader in New York found that rogue operatives not authorized by the government had been involved in the plot, according to senior officials familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

Zachary Faria writes: The lack of accountability has been glaring ever since the withdrawal happened. That is especially true with Biden, the man in charge with whom the buck is supposed to stop. Biden shoulders the burden for these failures, no matter how much he wants you to forget about it. – Washington Examiner

Asia

Vietnam’s Communist Party has ruled the country for nearly half a century, often priding itself on unity and longevity. It is one of the world’s last remaining Communist dictatorships. – New York Times

A feared former general won last month’s presidential election in Indonesia, official results released on Wednesday showed, confirming unofficial projections. – New York Times

Outgoing President Joko Widodo is trying to take control of one of Indonesia’s biggest political parties to retain the influence he racked up during a decade in power and protect it from his successor Prabowo Subianto, four members of the ruling coalition told Reuters. – Reuters

Taiwan’s top security official said on Thursday he does not currently recommend President Tsai Ing-wen visit the South China Sea given the possible risk to her flight from “interference by relevant countries” given China’s military presence there. – Reuters

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Wednesday that he will halt overseas travel for two months as public criticism of his tours abroad grows. – Reuters

Thailand’s national police chief and one of his deputies were temporarily suspended under the order of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Wednesday, as accusations that the deputy was involved in an illegal online gambling ring sparked concerns about a possible power struggle in the police department. – Associated Press

Myanmar’s military government is escalating violence against civilians as it faces more setbacks on the battlefield from a range of pro-democracy and ethnic armed groups, a U.N.-backed independent expert on human rights warned Wednesday. – Associated Press

Malaysia’s government is poised to make King Ibrahim Iskandar the “honorary” head of the police force, a new position that may see the monarch expanding his powers in the Southeast Asian nation. – Bloomberg

A son of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn has secured a government-issued identification card and a Thai passport, and now intends to move back to the Southeast Asian country after living abroad for nearly three decades, according to the Bangkok Post. – Bloomberg

James Crabtree writes: Nonetheless, the blithe approach in Asian capitals toward a very possible Trump return remains a serious misjudgment. When a storm is approaching, it is rarely wise to look on the bright side, hoping everything will be fine just because it went OK the last time the weather turned bad. In Asia, just as elsewhere, it would be smarter to batten down the hatches. – Foreign Policy

Europe

European countries are waking up to Russia’s danger, but the cost of building robust defenses able to withstand a potential U.S. pullback is so great that it threatens Europe’s post-Cold War social model. – Wall Street Journal

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar unexpectedly quit Wednesday, saying he felt he was no longer the best person for the job and paving the way for a new leader ahead of coming elections. – Wall Street Journal

Britain’s House of Lords dealt a sharp setback to the government on Wednesday, voting to amend the Conservative Party’s flagship immigration legislation and potentially delay a contentious plan to put asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda. – New York Times

The leader of Portugal’s centre-right Democratic Alliance, Luis Montenegro, said on Wednesday he expected the president to invite him to form a new government once the remaining ballots from abroad have been counted following a parliamentary election on March 10. – Reuters

Slovakia dismantled its dedicated state graft prosecution unit on Wednesday despite European Union concerns, but seemed unlikely to face anytime soon hefty financial penalties akin to those Hungary received over rule of law defects. – Reuters

Belarusian authorities said Wednesday they have launched dozens of raids to target those suspected of “extremist” activities in new efforts by the political opposition to create “people’s embassies” abroad. – Associated Press

Vaughan Gething was elected first minister of Wales on Wednesday, becoming the first Black leader of a government in the U.K. – Associated Press

Editorial: NATO’s military presence in the region, cyberdefenses and activities to protect critical Baltic Sea infrastructure should all be bolstered to reflect the heightened threat and reject Russia’s interference in Baltic state affairs. Deterrence depends on both capabilities and credibility — but also communications. As Putin strengthens his grip on power, all three remain essential if the conflict isn’t to escalate. – Bloomberg  

Africa

Her chest tightening in panic, Taiba Hassan Adam watched as a group of men splashed gasoline on the small brick and grass house. Their comrades kept their rifles trained at her. Hassan Adam’s three youngest children—10-year-old Mohamed, 8-year-old Awadia and 7-year-old Faiz—were stuck inside. – Wall Street Journal

Ayub Ibrahim had just walked out of the jungle. His feet still ached. A month earlier, he had left his home in Somalia, fleeing a civil war, he said, traveling first to Turkey, then Brazil and finally crossing on foot through a 66-mile expanse of wilderness known as the Darién Gap. – New York Times

Senegal will hold its delayed presidential election on Sunday amid an unusually tense political mood after President Macky Sall failed to postpone the vote and two key opponents were released from prison, handing momentum to the opposition. – Reuters

Two executives from Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, will remain in detention for at least two more weeks in Nigeria after appearing in court for the first time on Wednesday and even though they have not been charged with a crime, their families said. – Reuters

The United States on Wednesday pledged about $47 million in new humanitarian assistance for the emergency response in Sudan and neighboring countries, including Chad and South Sudan, the U.S. State Department said in a statement. – Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Biden offers rhetorical alarm about the world’s growing disorder, but he refuses to put the U.S. on a footing appropriate for this new era of global conflict that would mobilize the military and covert resources to counter it. More trouble is coming. – Wall Street Journal

The Americas

The U.S. on Wednesday facilitated the safe departure of American citizens from Haiti’s capital, transporting more than a dozen people by helicopter to the Dominican Republic as civil unrest escalates. – Wall Street Journal

Suspected gang members were killed during an attack on the Petion-Ville neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Haiti’s capital, as a clash with police and locals pointed to a resurgence of vigilante justice while the state remains absent. – Reuters

Venezuela attorney general Tarek Saab said on Wednesday that two people close to opposition candidate Maria Corina Machado had been arrested, prompting Machado to call the charges leveled at her team “completely false.” – Reuters

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sharply criticized a Texas law that would empower state law enforcement authorities to arrest people suspected of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, saying Mexico will not accept anyone repatriated by Texas. – Reuters

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (Ret.) writes: We cannot, however, play hero and attempt to “save” Haiti — civil order cannot be restored by an outside force at the expense of the Haitian people’s right to self-determination. It’s possible to help our Haitian friends while respecting the sovereignty of their nation. So let’s help the people of Haiti to restore peace and stability, and support their return to an independent, civilian government. – The Hill

Carrie Filipetti writes: In the opposition, we see an echo of the Venezuela that was once the most educated and wealthiest nation in South America. In them, we see an echo of the Venezuela that was a model for democracy in the region. But more importantly, in them—and Maria Corina Machado—we do not just see an echo of the past. We see a symbol of the future. The Biden administration claims it rewards women with courage. Why, then, do we see them trying to penalize one in Maria Corina Machado? – The National Interest

United States

The U.S. Justice Department is considering whether to allow Julian Assange to plead guilty to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information, according to people familiar with the matter, opening up the possibility of a deal that could eventually result in his release from a British jail. – Wall Street Journal

Jon Kyl writes: The U.S. government’s first responsibility is to protect the American people—particularly from nuclear annihilation. To do so, Washington needs conventional and nuclear forces strong enough that no adversary would ever be tempted to attack. As the commission concluded: “The challenges are unmistakable; the problems are urgent; the steps are needed now.” – Wall Street Journal

Heino Klinck writes: Doubting our closest ally’s offer to invest in our economy will only disappoint our friends and satisfy our adversaries around the world. To reject the U.S. Steel-Nippon deal will undercut one of America’s greatest strengths—its alliances with like-minded partners such as Japan—and strikes a stark contrast to the president’s own words in 2022: “The alliance between our two countries is stronger than it’s ever been and it’s as important as it has ever been.” – The National Interest

Lawrence J. Korb and Stephen J. Cimbala write: Additionally, the timing for activating missile defenses in response to a credible warning of an attack will also be influenced by available technology and human decisionmaking processes. In all cases, the rule must be to convey continued confidence in the ability of the United States to react to nuclear first use or first strike with appropriate and deliberate responses, sensitive to policy guidance and the requirements for deterrence and defense. – The National Interest

Cybersecurity

The U.S. government is warning state governors that foreign hackers are carrying out disruptive cyberattacks against water and sewage systems throughout the country. – Reuters

Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell said she’s considering holding a public hearing on TikTok and social media following a classified briefing Wednesday with US intelligence officials. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it is sanctioning two Russian nationals and two companies for a disinformation campaign that allegedly sought to “impersonate legitimate media outlets.” – The Record

Smokeloader malware used by Russia-linked cybercriminals remains one of the major tools for financial hacks in Ukraine, according to a recent report. – The Record

David Kaye writes: Finally, there must be a transparent human rights risk assessment and public oversight of this legislation to limit political intimidation and empower civil society and independent agencies. By taking a content-only focus, with all the tradeoffs that involves, the current race to crack down on Internet harms is unlikely to solve the problems and may lead only to new forms of politicized speech control. – Foreign Affairs

Friso Bostoen writes: US startups will not be these challengers, either. Only the large gatekeepers have the needed resources and infrastructure to take advantage of the DMA. Microsoft, for example, is the sole company besides Google that owns an at-scale English-language web index. If Google is to lose the search engine throne, Bing is the best bet to emerge as the new king. That outcome certainly will not be the mark of a protectionist policy. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Defense

Australia and the United Kingdom on Thursday signed a new defence and security cooperation agreement that makes it easier for their defence forces to operate together in each other’s countries. – Reuters

Congressional leaders released details of a $1.2 trillion deal to keep open most US government agencies through Sept. 30, acting just days before a Saturday deadline for a partial government shutdown. – Bloomberg

The U.S. Navy sets a fleet goal of 381 ships, up from 373, in a new long-range shipbuilding plan. – Defense News

The U.S. Army is poised to be the largest player in the first round of Replicator projects, according to the service’s top acquisition official. – Defense News

A proposed Czech-led bulk artillery ammunition purchase for Ukraine is picking up steam, as countries commit to bank-rolling the effort while sourcing shells from non-European vendors. – Defense News

Max Bergmann writes: The best option is for NATO leaders to push for a greater European role when the alliance convenes in Washington this summer. The United States should use its influence to advocate for European integration, and it should throw its support behind the kinds of EU defense efforts that Washington has historically opposed. A stronger, less dependent Europe would meet the United States as a genuine partner, giving Washington new reason to commit to the relationship. NATO, after all, will be more valuable as an alliance between two military powers than it is as a team led by just one. – Foreign Affairs

Long War

A German federal court said Wednesday it had rejected a woman’s appeal of her 14-year sentence for allowing a 5-year-old Yazidi girl she and her husband enslaved when they were members of the Islamic State group in Iraq to die of thirst in the sun. – Associated Press

Aaron Y. Zelin and Ilana Winter write: Moreover, the absence of U.S. forces would likely spur Turkey to accelerate its campaign against Washington’s main local partner on the ground, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who would be compelled to pull even more resources away from the counter-IS mission. Iran and the Assad regime would also have more space to take territory in eastern Syria. In light of these scenarios, it is no surprise that IS has apparently been underreporting its attacks in Syria to lull U.S. and coalition forces into leaving. – Washington Institute

Karen M. Sudkamp writes: If lessons from the Global War on Terror were learned, warnings by veteran soldiers, intelligence officers, diplomats, and humanitarian workers about these and other issues with the war in Gaza would have been heeded. Their calls for a ceasefire would have been answered. These experts — including myself — have 20 years of experience trying to keep the world secure. In addition to the needless destruction and tragic loss of life in Gaza, from a military and intelligence perspective, all the hard-gained lessons from the Global War on Terror have been wasted. – War on the Rocks