Fdd's overnight brief

March 26, 2024

In The News

Israel

About a week after the U.S. and other Western countries froze funding to a U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees called Unrwa in late January, its top official flew to the Arab Gulf, hoping wealthy Arab monarchies would save the organization at a time when it is the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza. – Wall Street Journal

The United Nations Security Council approved a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza after the U.S. allowed it to pass by abstaining, prompting Israel to withdraw from coming high-level meetings with the Biden administration. – Wall Street Journal

New video has surfaced that undercuts the account of an Israeli military paramedic who said two teenagers killed in the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Oct. 7 were sexually assaulted. – New York Times

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would have reacted the same way Israel did after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, but that Israel was losing international support and should wrap up its war against the Islamist group in Gaza. – Reuters

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said on Monday it has informed mediators that it will stick to its original proposal on reaching a comprehensive ceasefire, which includes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a return of displaced Palestinians. – Reuters

As the U.N. Security Council demands an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and concerns grow that famine may take hold, the territory’s hungry civilians are foraging for a wild green plant called Khobiza for lack of anything else to eat. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will likely discuss U.S. concerns over Israel’s planned military operation in Rafah with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday, the State Department said. – Reuters

Israel will stop working with the U.N. Relief Works Agency in the Gaza Strip, a government spokesperson said on Monday, accusing the aid agency of perpetuating conflict. – Reuters

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, said on Monday that countries should pressure Israel to stop attacking Lebanon following a U.N. Security Council decision calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. – Reuters

Emmanuel Macron is hardening his stance on Israel, warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France intends to submit a resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire. – Bloomberg

US Vice President Kamala Harris warned Israel against a major attack on the Gazan city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have sought refuge as the war against Hamas continues. – Bloomberg

The US has deemed Israel to be in compliance with a new national security memorandum after it received a written assurance from Jerusalem that it is using American weapons in line with international law and is not blocking humanitarian assistance in Gaza. – Times of Israel 

The economy of the Gaza Strip has been ravaged by the Hamas terror group, whose years-long rule over the Palestinian enclave has devastated the lives of the local population independent of Israeli military operations, according to a new study. – Algemeiner

Israeli officials gave even odds to chances of reaching a deal to release hostages held in Gaza Sunday, as reports indicated that Jerusalem had softened its position and could be willing to release hundreds more Palestinian prisoners than initially agreed to in an initial phase of an accord. – Times of Israel 

Seventeen Senate Democrats said in a statement on Friday that they believe Israel is in violation of the administration’s memorandum placing conditions on U.S. military aid to allies. – Jewish Insider

Editorial: If Mr. Biden thinks his escalating fight with Israel is risk-free, think again. The March Harvard CAPS Harris poll finds that 63% of voters support a cease-fire only after Hamas releases the hostages and is removed from power. Two-thirds say Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. Americans don’t want to see Hamas survive to repeat Oct. 7. The President can’t become Obstacle No. 1 to an Israeli victory without endangering his own in November. – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: This is the tragedy of the moment. By the looks of it, Netanyahu will soon give the order to attack Rafah, killing more terrorists but also causing even worse suffering for the two million civilians in the Gaza Strip, and even more isolation of Israel in the world. The US will then have to answer, by restricting arms shipments and letting the UN condemn Israel. When that time comes, the US may not even abstain. – Bloomberg

Steve Israel writes: If Netanyahu accepts Speaker Johnson’s invitation to speak to Congress without consent and support from both parties and the president, thus tacitly supporting the party whose congressional dysfunction delays crucial funding, he’ll find fewer Democrats willing to walk with him as he enters the chamber for the second time in 10 years. Perhaps he’ll use that to win an argument that most will forget, but he will lose the unforgettable essence of the U.S.-Israeli relationship: bipartisanship. – The Hill

David Singer writes: Emboldened by these clearly anti-Israel UN decisions – increasingly strident Moslems have caused Jewish communities worldwide to become greatly concerned for their own safety as they foment demonstrations around the globe calling for Palestine from the River to the Sea to be free of Jews – supported by lawyers from Australia to artists in the USA signing letters calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza War. Under Guterres’s leadership the UN has become the epicentre for fostering anti-Israel hatred and Jew-hatred. The UN has lost its moral compass and is sowing the seeds for its own demise. – Arutz Sheva 

Dan Perry writes: It they had, Israel would have faced an enemy army on the very edge of its main cities, not in a southern hinterland surrounding Gaza. This is the evil genius of Hamas. They wanted to convince Israelis not to allow a Palestinian state—and it has worked. Pressuring Israel to move forward on this now will only help Netanyahu cling to power. Deny him that gift, Biden. – Newsweek

Yaakov Katz writes: America does not have to blindly accept Israeli policy—especially when it disagrees—but there is a way for friends to manage their disagreements. What is happening now is bad for Israel and for the United States. There is a war that needs to be won against an enemy that needs to be defeated. It is time Israel and the U.S. work together, and not—as the UNSC vote seems to show—against one another. – Newsweek

Iran

Israeli security forces stopped advanced weapons, including shrapnel charges and anti tank mines, from being smuggled into the West Bank from Iran, the military said on Monday. – Reuters

Iranian media reported that Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, is traveling to Tehran for the second time since the October 7 attack and will meet with Islamic Republic officials, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. – Iran International 

Alon Ben-Meir writes: Based on my research and contacts in the region, every country mentioned above welcomes such an alliance, as they see it as the cornerstone of regional stability. The US should make it clear that the new alliance is not meant to threaten Iran, and in fact, the allied states would cooperate with Tehran on regional security and develop extensive commercial ties if it chose to become a constructive player. – Jerusalem Post

David Albright and Mohammadreza Giveh write: There is no evidence of a review, or at least an adequate review, of the security and non-proliferation implications of the JCPOA’s articles on nuclear power cooperation with Iran. The JCPOA provided an avenue for Iran to acquire many relevant technologies to design and build reactors and manufacture key equipment and reactor components. There is now a growing risk of their misuse and spread. – Institute for Science and International Security

Alex Vatanka writes: The Islamic Republic says this visa-free policy for the Gulf states is part of its broader effort to expand relations and cooperation, especially in the field of strengthening people-to-people ties. The challenge for Bahraini officials is how to navigate a possible détente with Tehran without creating any openings for the Iranian regime to interfere in Bahrain’s delicate political balance of power domestically or spark concerns from its strategic Western partners. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Russian president Vladimir Putin said Monday that the deadly attack on a Moscow concert venue was carried out by radical Islamist actors, but he continued his earlier attempts to pin it on Ukraine. He cast doubt on whether a branch of the Islamic State had orchestrated it, saying there were many “unanswered questions,” including whether the United States was covering up Kyiv’s role in the assault. – Washington Post

Ukrainians have reacted with a mixture of concern and mockery to the narrative pushed by the Kremlin and Russian state media that Ukraine was behind the terrorist attack Friday on a Moscow concert hall, a claim made despite the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility. – New York Times

Russia and Western countries have traded barbs over a deadly attack by gunmen that killed 137 people in a concert hall outside Moscow. The U.S. and other Western officials said they had intelligence linking it to an Islamic State branch, and pointed to a warning they gave before the attack. – Reuters

Any global peace summit on Ukraine that excludes Russia is simply “absurd” and will fail, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in an interview published on Tuesday. – Reuters

Debris from a Russian missile attack wrecked part of a three-storey building in central Kyiv on Monday morning and wounded at least 10 people across the city, officials said. – Reuters

Russia’s security state has been ruthlessly effective at detaining Vladimir Putin’s opponents but was caught off guard by a mass shooting near Moscow, raising questions about its priorities, resources and intelligence gathering. – Reuters

Russia launched missiles against Kyiv for the third time in five days and also targeted other regions Monday as Moscow escalated its aerial bombardment of Ukrainian cities while the front line in the war remains largely stationary. – Associated Press

Russian troops have approached within a mile of Chasiv Yar, although Moscow is unlikely to seize the Donetsk city in the coming months, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said. – Newsweek

Ivo Daalder and Karen Donfried write: And when Finland joined NATO last April, as a direct result of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO’s land border with Russia more than doubled. Sweden’s accession earlier this month turned the Baltic Sea into a NATO lake. For all these reasons, the war has been a strategic failure for Russia. The day Ukraine formally joins NATO will be Russia’s ultimate strategic defeat—and Ukraine and all of Europe will be the safer for it. – Foreign Affairs

Iraq

An Iraq court has acquitted a police officer previously convicted and sentenced to death for leading a group that gunned down well-known analyst and government adviser Hisham al-Hashemi more than three years ago in Baghdad, court officials told Reuters on Monday. – Reuters

Iraq’s government and oil companies working in the country’s north blamed each other for delays in resuming a key pipeline to Turkey, divisions that could keep the link shut for even longer. – Bloomberg

Fawzi al-Zubaidi writes: All these steps require political will and the acknowledgement that solving these issues—in spite of the compromise they require—is an urgent necessity. Otherwise, inaction on these files and an ability for Erbil and Baghdad to solve their internal issues will bear negative consequences for all. – Washington Institute

Renad Mansour writes: The only challenge to this system and its elites remains the public, who protest and call for a better life. The key, then, for the United States and its allies is ensuring that their strategy supports these civil society movements and finds a way to reduce everyday conflict. That, not military strikes, is the way to peace. – Foreign Affairs

Middle East & North Africa

Friday’s bloodbath at a suburban Moscow concert hall is but the latest reminder of how effectively Baghdadi’s brutal vision is being carried out. While his self-proclaimed Middle East “caliphate” is in ruins, a constellation of Islamic State regional affiliates is gaining strength in many parts of the globe, fueled by a mix of traditional grievances as well as new ones, including the war in Gaza, counterterrorism officials and experts say. – Washington Post

The Yemen-based Houthi militants renewed their threats against Saudi Arabia, warning it not to support US strikes against the group. – Bloomberg

Houthi rebels launched a series of anti-ship ballistic missiles at a Chinese-owned and -operated oil tanker, according to the U.S. Central Command, in a move that has angered Beijing. – Newsweek

Shady ElGhazaly Harb writes: Yet democratization and upholding human rights remain essential soft powers. Autocrats like Sisi already prefer aligning with China, who absolve them from any commitment to human rights. With support for China growing, displays of hard power such as military showdowns and trade wars will become the main arenas for competition. – Foreign Policy

China

In an annual rite of spring, China this week has been pitching American and other Western corporate executives on the country’s prospects. The difference this year: a franker-than-usual recognition of the mounting concerns around China’s economy, from more senior-than-usual officials. – Wall Street Journal

To get the economy back on track, China is trying to champion its domestic companies and reassure entrepreneurs that it’s ready for business. Its efforts are running into a problem: an online army of Chinese nationalists who have taken it upon themselves to punish perceived insults to the country — including from some of China’s leading business figures. – New York Times

Hackers linked to the Chinese government launched a state-sponsored operation that targeted New Zealand’s Parliament in 2021, the country’s security minister said on Tuesday. – Associated Press

China’s Liu Jianchao, head of the international department of the Communist Party, will visit Singapore from March 25 to 28 at the invitation of Singapore’s foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan, according to a statement from Singapore’s foreign ministry Monday evening. – Reuters

The Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Monday charging seven Chinese nationals with working under the guise of a Wuhan tech company to coordinate cyber-attacks targeting politicians and American companies on behalf of the Chinese government for over a decade. – FOX News

China says it is committed to “resolute measures” after it clashed with a Philippine resupply mission for the second time this month in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands archipelago. – Newsweek

Zac Morgan writes: But unless and until the United States and its allies can restore deterrence, we must lift our (five) eyes to the Canadians and learn from their experience in dealing with the aftermath of Chinese election interference. After all, it could happen here. – The National Interest

 

South Asia

The U.S. is closely following reports of the arrest of Indian opposition figure Arvind Kejriwal and encourages a fair legal process, a State Department spokesperson said on Monday after Germany’s reaction to the case sparked a protest from India. – Reuters

Militants attacked a Pakistan naval airbase killing at least one paramilitary soldier while security forces killed all five of the assailants in retaliatory fire, officials said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Pakistan plans to ask the US to relax possible sanctions around a natural gas pipeline project from neighboring Iran. The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is planning to give the US administration “political and technical” reasons to secure waivers, Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik told reporters. The pipeline project “cannot bear the burden of sanctions,” he said. – Bloomberg

Asia

Japan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a plan to sell future next-generation fighter jets that it’s developing with Britain and Italy to other countries, in the latest move away from the country’s postwar pacifist principles. – Associated Press

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will agree next month to tighter military cooperation, including talks on the biggest potential change to Washington’s East Asia command structure in decades, two sources said. – Reuters

Hong Kong’s leader John Lee said on Tuesday it would become “common practice” not to grant people convicted of national security offences early release from prison under the city’s new national security law. – Reuters

Taiwan tested its air defences on Tuesday in early morning drills using surface-to-air missiles, and air, land and naval forces, saying it would continue to intensify training in the face of China’s frequent military activities nearby. – Reuters

The Indonesian army issued a rare apology on Monday and said 13 soldiers had been arrested after a video emerged showing a man being tortured by troops in the country’s Papua region, where armed separatists have clashed with security forces for years. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son discussed expanding cooperation in semiconductors and supply chain diversification in a meeting on Monday in Washington, the State Department said. – Reuters

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Charge d’Affaires of the Australian embassy in Moscow on Monday to complain about a social media post condemning the holding of Russian presidential elections on parts of Ukraine Moscow claims to have annexed. – Reuters

Thailand started the delivery of aid to military-ruled Myanmar on Monday, in a humanitarian initiative that seeks to pave the way for talks between warring camps after three years of instability and violence triggered by a coup. – Reuters

New Zealand said on Monday a free trade agreement with the European Union would come into effect on May 1, after the country’s parliament ratified the deal. – Reuters

Manila has published videos showing a Philippine boat being pummeled by Chinese water cannons as it attempted to carry out the U.S. defense treaty ally’s latest routine supply mission to a contentious South China Sea military outpost. – Newsweek

Nadia Schadlow writes: The U.S. can reduce Taiwan’s isolation by encouraging partnerships between American and Taiwanese technical universities, with U.S. universities creating campuses and degree programs in Taiwan and Taiwanese students coming to study in America. Our joint goal should be to make coercing Taiwan more costly for the Chinese Communist Party and thereby preserve the status quo. – Wall Street Journal

Europe

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will find out on Tuesday whether the High Court in London will allow him to appeal against his extradition from Britain to the United States or if his British legal challenges have finally come to an end. – Reuters

President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that the gunmen who killed 137 people in a concert hall outside Moscow were part of an Islamic State branch that was behind foiled attempts to attack France over the past few months. – Reuters

Italy followed France on Monday in stepping up security following the attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall and the claim of responsibility by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. – Associated Press

When Leo Varadkar shocked his party and the nation by quitting as Ireland’s prime minister, only one politician appeared ready to seize the moment: Simon Harris. – Politico

Africa

Bassirou Diomaye Faye is the anointed candidate of Senegal’s popular and controversial opposition politician Ousmane Sonko. Mr. Faye’s main rival, the governing party candidate Amadou Ba, conceded in a statement congratulating his rival on Monday for winning in the first round. – New York Times

A proposal by France, Denmark and Sweden to restrict used-clothing exports from the European Union could hurt the clothing resale industry in Kenya, which employs 2 million Kenyans, a representative of second-hand clothes sellers said. – Reuters

Zambia said on Monday it had reached agreement with a group of private creditors on restructuring $3 billion of its international bonds in a major step that brings the country closer to emerging from its long-delayed debt rework. – Reuters

The main pipeline carrying oil from South Sudan through Sudan for export has been suffering stoppages since last month due to problems linked to the war between Sudan’s army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to three Sudanese officials. – Reuters

An explosion at a small hotel located near a police station in northeastern Kenya killed four people, including three officers, and wounded several others on Monday, authorities said. – Associated Press

South Africa’s government moved to reaffirm ties with the US as lawmakers in Washington discuss a bill that seeks to review the bilateral relationship between the two nations amid geopolitical differences. – Bloomberg

Areej Elhag writes: They must be regarded by other actors as partners in building Sudan’s peaceful future. Achieving peace and stability in Sudan is impossible without addressing the roots of women’s problems and fully ensuring their rights. The time has come to change the narrative and focus efforts on building a future that secures for women the status they deserve in leading and laying the foundations of peace for a new Sudan. – Washington Institute

The Americas

Canada on Monday began evacuating from Haiti Canadians who want to leave as gang violence spreads, prioritizing those who are vulnerable, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said. – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron, who criticized Brazil’s previous government for failing to protect the rainforest, will arrive on Tuesday in the Amazon at the start of a three-day visit to the South American country. – Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted Guatemala’s president, Bernardo Arevalo, at the White House on Monday to bolster his fledgling government and discuss how to reduce migration from Central America. – Reuters

The diplomatic crisis that erupted one month ago when Brazil’s president likened the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two has begun to calm down, Israel’s envoy in Brasilia said on Monday. – Reuters

The main Venezuelan opposition coalition said early Tuesday that electoral authorities didn’t let it register its presidential candidate as the deadline ended, in what it called the latest violation to the citizens’ right to vote for change in the South American country. – Associated Press

Editorial: The U.S. needs a president willing to be tough with Latin American leaders such as Obrador, Nicolas Maduro, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and Daniel Ortega. He should not lift the Cuba embargo and should raise sanctions against Venezuela, not reduce them. If Obrador and his socialist allies complain, Washington should raise taxes on remittances that all of these countries depend on. – Washington Examiner

James B. Foley writes: A military intervention in Haiti is understandably abhorrent to the Biden administration given the multiple security challenges the United States is juggling around the world. But the situation has deteriorated to the point that Washington might have no choice but to mount an abbreviated operation to supplant the gangs and facilitate a political transition. – Washington Post

United States

A month ago, the White House was openly considering a string of executive actions to curb migration at the southern border. But no announcements were made. – Politico

Harlan Ullman writes: But post-mortems on Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, likewise, were scathing. The only conclusion is that U.S. elected leaders never seem to learn. Learning why that is the case, however necessary, is less important than taking corrective action. The U.S. should know what to do. But will we ever do it? The retreat from the next Saigon or Kabul will prove that the answer, tragically, is no. – The Hill

Seth Mandel writes: America’s allies have been put on notice. Taking the easy way out a couple times can easily lead to a blanket policy of moral laziness, and the coalition of democracies will have to either pick up the slack or cede the field to Russia, China, and Iran. – Commentary Magazine

Cybersecurity

The Biden administration hit alleged Chinese hackers with sanctions and criminal charges on Monday while the British government accused Beijing of hacking the U.K.’s electoral register to steal the personal details of tens of millions of voters, part of a global push by allies to condemn China’s expanding aggression in cyberspace. – Wall Street Journal

A U.S. senator is raising questions about a report that $7.5 million was stolen by cyber thieves from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last year. – The Record

Ted Cruz and Phil Gramm write: Letting the administration seize control over AI and subject it to the demands of its privileged political constituencies wouldn’t eliminate bias, stereotyping or the spreading of falsehoods and racism, all of which predate AI and sadly will likely be with us until Jesus comes back. Mr. Biden’s policies will, however, impede AI development, drive up the costs of the benefits it brings, and diminish America’s global AI pre-eminence. – Wall Street Journal

Joshua Rovner writes: It is possible that they attribute Russia’s failure to other causes and still trust that their approach to the domain is correct. If so, then the real test of their belief will only come in the opening round of conflict. And if the reality of wartime cyberspace operations proves to be less than advertised, then China might find itself stuck in a long war with no easy exit. – War on the Rocks

Defense

The U.S. Navy sent lawmakers a $2.2 billion wish list for fiscal 2025, which includes several items that would fill in gaps that arose this year due to high-tempo operations in the Red Sea and Congress not yet passing a supplemental spending bill. – Defense News 

The U.S. Department of Defense said it lined up at least 100 task orders tied to its multibillion-dollar Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract. – Defense News 

Looking like a toy helicopter, a small black drone rose up over a cluster of adobe buildings in a quiet desert village, emitting a faint buzz. The drone, an Anduril Industries’ Ghost-X, paused and then rose higher, disappearing into the clouds. – Defense News 

The Army released a new guidance Friday specifying the military occupational specialties it needs soldiers to move into when reenlisting in order to meet the branch’s retention and restructuring goals for 2024. – Military.com

Lee Koepping writes: The cloud adoption requirements stemming from the National Cybersecurity Strategy provide federal agencies an important opportunity to optimize their cloud configurations as they work to align with mandates. While every agency must customize its approach to suit its unique environment and mission objectives, a strong modernization strategy can ensure compliance through better visibility and management across all IT assets, processes and systems. – Defense News