Fdd's overnight brief

March 5, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

A United Nations report said there are grounds to believe sexual violence, including rape, occurred during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas and that there is clear and credible evidence that female hostages were raped. – Wall Street Journal

Vice President Kamala Harris, who has emerged as one of the leading voices for Palestinians in closed-door meetings, pressed for a pause in fighting in Gaza with a member of Israel’s war cabinet, Benny Gantz, at the White House on Monday afternoon, according to the White House. – New York Times

The Hamas-led attack on Israel last October has prompted flashes of greater solidarity between sections of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority and the secular mainstream, as fears of a shared threat have accelerated the integration of some of Israel’s most insular citizens. – New York Times

At a U.S.-funded training center tucked between Jericho’s desert slopes, the next generation of Palestinian Authority security forces gripped their guns and readied for a mission. […]Post reporters were granted rare access to the training center, affording a look at the challenges faced by the Palestinian security forces — regarded by Washington as central to its plans for a strengthened Palestinian Authority that can help stabilize postwar Gaza. – Washington Post

Hamas and Egyptian mediators said on Monday they were going ahead with talks in Cairo on securing a ceasefire in Gaza, despite Israel’s decision not to send a delegation, as Washington pressed again for a truce, the release of hostages and plan to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe. – Reuters

The United States is working to get aid into Gaza through as many channels as possible to help remedy a humanitarian disaster amid Israel’s war with Hamas militants, the State Department said on Monday, describing the situation as “simply intolerable.” – Reuters

Benny Gantz, the Israeli war cabinet member visiting Washington this week, tells a story of how his mother, a Holocaust survivor, once had an operation in Germany performed by a Palestinian doctor from Gaza. The story encapsulates the hope for reconciliation that motivates optimists in the Middle East but which has been cruelly tested by the war with Gaza that erupted on Oct. 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s history. – Reuters

Israel’s foreign minister said on Monday he has recalled the country’s UN ambassador for consultations over alleged attempts by the United Nations to “keep quiet” a report on sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas, an allegation denied by the organization. – Reuters

Israel ramped up its criticism of the embattled U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees Monday, saying 450 of its employees were members of militant groups in the Gaza Strip, though it provided no evidence to back up its accusation. – Associated Press

Israeli leaders have agreed to a framework of a temporary ceasefire deal, but Hamas has not approved it as of Monday afternoon, according to a White House official. – Washington Examiner

Under constant criticism by cabinet ministers of their prosecution of the war, top IDF officials and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have revealed that multiple cabinet members were against a deep invasion of Gaza back in October. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF spokesperson’s unit is unphased by false reports on Israel’s right-wing Channel 14 claiming that several senior officials in the unit have announced their retirement from the army despite the war in Gaza. – Jerusalem Post

Israeli and Hamas officials accused each other on Monday of stalling ongoing negotiations to secure a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages held in Gaza, even as Egyptian and United States officials expressed cautious optimism that such a deal was forthcoming. – Times of Israel

IDF troops are continuing to operate in the Hamad area in western Khan Yunis, conducting targeted raids on Hamas terrorist infrastructure and locating weapons. – Arutz Sheva

A Hamas leader claimed on Monday that the organization doesn’t know how many of the hostages it kidnapped to the Gaza Strip in its October 7 attack on Israel are still alive. – Arutz Sheva

Amos Harel writes: The second, after five months of war, American patience with Israel is decreasing. Washington is struggling to identify any Israeli strategy for the war beyond Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quest for political survival. Washington is angry at the Israeli government’s (and in some cases the defense establishment’s) slow response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It is concerned about the consequences of the ongoing entanglement in Gaza on the regional situation and on Biden’s run for a second term. – Haaretz

Neomi Neumann writes: Ramadan tensions come at a time of rising Palestinian anger toward Israel across the West Bank. In part, this is because the Hamas-Israel war has damaged both the Palestinian Authority’s financial coffers and the wider economic situation. For months, Israel has withheld much of the clearance revenue it collects on the PA’s behalf, while the roughly 150,000 Palestinians who used to work in Israel have not been permitted to return during the war. As a result, unemployment in the West Bank now stands at 29%, compared to 13% prewar. In the fourth quarter of 2023 alone, the territory’s GDP dropped by 22%. – Washington Institute 

Simon Henderson writes: Israel’s gas reserves are small in global terms but have made the country self-sufficient in energy. Ultimately, the safety of these resources and the international companies that service them comes down to the implied threat of retaliatory force. This deterrence will continue to be tested. – Washington Institute

Iran

A quarterly meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s main policy-making body began on Monday with Western powers again choosing not to seriously confront Iran over its failure to cooperate with the agency on a range of issues, diplomats said. – Reuters

Iranian hard-line politicians dominated the country’s vote for parliament, results released Monday showed, maintaining their hold on the legislature in a vote that saw a record- low turnout amid boycott calls – Associated Press

Tehran has rejected a media report claiming that Iran had unsuccessfully asked Sudan to allow it to set up a naval base on its Red Sea coast, a day after Khartoum also called it into question. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is escalating a manhunt of an Iranian intelligence officer, Majid Dastjani Farahani, for questioning in connection to the “lethal targeting” of top United States federal government officials. – New York Sun

The BBC used an anti-Israel journalist bankrolled by Iran as a key source in its reporting on the Gaza conflict, it has emerged. In a report over the weekend, the BBC analysed video and eyewitness accounts of a rush on an aid convoy in Gaza that led to the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians. – The Telegraph

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, Spencer Faragasso, and Andrea Stricker write: The absence of monitoring and surveillance equipment, particularly since June 2022, has caused the IAEA to doubt its ability to ascertain whether Iran has diverted or may divert advanced centrifuges. A risk is that Iran could accumulate a secret stock of advanced centrifuges, deployable in the future at a clandestine enrichment plant or during a breakout at declared sites. Another risk is that Iran will establish additional centrifuge manufacturing sites unknown to the IAEA. Iran has proven its ability to secretly move manufacturing equipment to new, undeclared sites, further complicating any future verification effort and contributing to uncertainty about where Iran manufactures centrifuges. – Institute for Science and International Security

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker writes: The IAEA reports a successful effort to press Iran to admit that it falsely declared that nuclear waste, related to previously admitted undeclared nuclear activities, held more uranium than it actually did. After many rounds of verification activities at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to identify why an IAEA-verified amount of uranium transferred to the UCF was less than indicated in Iran’s declaration, Iran admitted a mistake in its declaration and rectified it. However, this leaves the question of where the missing uranium is today, and whether it is related to Iran’s undeclared use of a uranium metal disk for nuclear weapons development, which the IAEA established took place in the early 2000s at Lavisan-Shian. The IAEA’s finding also highlights a concern that even when Iran admits to undeclared activities or materials, it is hiding something else. – Institute for Science and International Security

Russia & Ukraine

But as the Russian military presses on with attacks in the east, its air force has taken on a greater role. Military analysts say Russia has increasingly used warplanes near the front lines to drop powerful guided bombs on Ukrainian positions and clear a path forward for the infantry. – New York Times

Ukraine hinted Monday that its agents were responsible for an explosion on a Russian railway bridge used to transport ammunition, in what appears to be the latest successful operation targeting infrastructure deep behind enemy lines as Ukrainian forces struggle against advancing Russian troops. – Washington Post

The U.N. atomic watchdog agency’s director said that he’s due to depart for a trip to Moscow on Tuesday for high-level talks with Russian officials to discuss the issue of nuclear safety in Ukraine. – Associated Press

Ukrainian sea drones damaged a Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship off occupied Crimea, Ukrainian military intelligence said on Tuesday. The intelligence agency said on Telegram messaging app that its special unit Group 13 attacked the Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship Sergey Kotov near the Kerch Strait. – Reuters

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and an ally of President Vladimir Putin, described Ukraine on Monday as part of Russia and said what he called historical parts of Russia needed to “come home.” – Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a pledge as soon as this week to support a Czech proposal to source hundreds of thousands of artillery shells from countries outside the European Union to back Ukraine’s war effort, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

China has sent a high-ranking diplomat to Kyiv to seek a political settlement to the war. But within Beijing, it appears to be giving Ukrainian diplomats the cold shoulder. – Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s determination to expand conventional military forces has raised the specter that Russia’s conventional forces might “overmatch” their NATO counterparts, according to Western officials. – Washington Examiner

Liza Rozovsky writes: The crowds who came for the funeral, risking the possibility of arrest or being entered into a police database, felt guilty. It was the guilt of feeling that they did not do more to prevent the war, did not come out in masses to oppose Navalny’s arrest and did not protest while they still could. Many of them did resist and continue to do so, but given the absolute sacrifice made by Navalny and the criminal war that their country is waging in Ukraine, none of it has been enough. The massive turnout for the funeral was too little, too late. – Haaretz

Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro writes: It is time to begin to build those channels. For Ukraine and its Western partners, that means “talking about talking,” or making conflict diplomacy a key subject of bilateral and multilateral interactions. And all parties should signal their openness to eventual negotiations. This will require the warring parties and their allies to take unilateral steps that convey their intentions to the other side. Such signals might include changes in rhetoric, the appointment of special envoys for negotiations, self-imposed limitations on deep strikes, and prisoner-of-war swaps. – Foreign Affairs

Stacie Pettyjohn writes: The accessibility and affordability of drones is creating new capabilities at a scale that previously did not exist, but it is not drones alone that are transforming the battlefield. Instead as Mick Ryan and Clint Hinote have argued it is the combination of large numbers of weapons systems linked together that is truly disruptive. In Ukraine, the dominant pairing has been unarmed drones and artillery, which have accelerated targeting timelines and enabled responsive and precise ground-based fires. As Jeffrey Edmonds and Samuel Bendett have highlighted, drones are the key links in what Russia calls its reconnaissance-strike complex, or the network of forces that conduct targeting for artillery units. – War on the Rocks

Turkey

Turkey’s annual inflation rate climbed to 67.07% in February, exceeding expectations and keeping up pressure for tight monetary policy amid strong rises in food, hotel and education prices, official data showed on Monday. – Reuters

President Tayyip Erdogan is set to discuss Turkey’s efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during talks this week in Ankara, a Turkish diplomatic source said on Monday. – Reuters

Seven suspects, including a private investigator, were accused of selling information to the Mossad and detained by Turkish authorities. – Reuters

Lebanon

U.S. Special Envoy Amos Hochstein said on Monday that a truce in Gaza would not necessarily bring an automatic end to hostilities across Lebanon’s southern border and he warned about the risks of an escalation of the conflict. – Reuters

An Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon killed three paramedics from the militant group Hezbollah on Monday, state media said, hours after a missile strike blamed on the militants killed at least one foreign worker in northern Israel. – Associated Press

Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets at northern Israel on Monday night, resulting in damage that knocked out power in several towns, as the military struck targets in Lebanon following a deadly cross-border attack by the terror group earlier in the day. – Times of Israel

A 30-year-old Indian foreign worker was killed Monday by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon on Moshav Margaliot in northern Israel. Seven other foreign workers were wounded in the incident, with two reported in serious condition – Haaretz

Yemen

Three cables under the Red Sea that provide global internet and telecommunications have been cut as the waterway remains a target of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, officials said Monday. Meanwhile, a Houthi missile attack set a ship ablaze in the Gulf of Aden, but caused no injuries. – Associated Press

Ships will have to obtain a permit from Yemen’s Houthi-controlled Maritime Affairs Authority before entering Yemeni waters, Houthi Telecommunications Minister Misfer Al-Numair said on Monday. – Reuters

One of two anti-ship ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthis at the container vessel M/V MSC SKY II in the Gulf of Aden hit the ship and caused “damage”, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Tuesday.  – Reuters

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said on Monday the Iran-aligned group had targeted the “Israeli ship MSC SKY” in the Arabian sea. – Reuters

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt is studying further expansions of the Suez Canal to extend and complete a second channel of the waterway, the canal’s head said on Monday, a move that could allow for higher volumes of shipping and prevent blockages from halting traffic. – Reuters

Three Arab lawmakers met Monday with Jordan’s King Abdullah amid concerns that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan could amplify tensions in Jerusalem stemming from the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

An IDF fighter jet on Tuesday morning intercepted an unmanned aerial vehicle that entered Israeli territory from Syria and was making its way towards the Golan Heights. – Arutz Sheva

The Qatari Foreign Ministry website claims that this week will begin Round Six of the strategic dialogue between the United States and Qatar. – MEMRI

Oury Cherki writes: The UAE is, unfortunately, not the center of religious authority in the Muslim world. Their views would carry much greater significance if they were adopted by Al-Azhar University in Cairo, for example. But even the fact that there is a Muslim Arab country that is promoting them is significant – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea and the United States have named envoys to launch a new early round of talks on ways to share the cost of keeping American troops in South Korea, the countries said on Tuesday. – Reuters

North Korea’s defence ministry urged South Korea and the United States to stop military drills, saying they are rehearsals of war and warning of consequences, KCNA reported on Tuesday. – Reuters

North Korea called the ongoing South Korean-U.S. military drills a plot to invade the country, as it threatened Tuesday to take unspecified “responsible” military steps in response. – Associated Press

China

For the past three decades, China’s premier has held court with journalists in Beijing on television every year, one of the few regular occasions for the public to see a senior member of a secretive leadership discuss affairs of the state. Not any longer. – Wall Street Journal

China will target economic growth of “around” 5 percent this year, Premier Li Qiang announced on Tuesday, laying out Beijing’s plans to weather a slowdown that has shaken consumer and investor confidence in the world’s second largest economy – Washington Post

China will boost its defence spending by 7.2% this year, fuelling a military budget that has more than doubled under Xi Jinping’s decade-plus in office as Beijing hardens its stance on Taiwan, according to official reports on Tuesday. – Reuters

China can aim to approve as many as 10 new nuclear reactors a year to accelerate its rapid expansion of capacity, according to the chairman of one of the nation’s largest developers. – Bloomberg

China pledged to harness the entire nation’s resources to speed homegrown scientific breakthroughs, reaffirming a central priority to become self-reliant in spheres from AI to chipmaking to wrest technological supremacy from the US. – Bloomberg

Asia

Taiwan’s armed forces will increase the number of missile drills they hold this year, defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Tuesday, amid China’s ramped-up military pressure to force the island to accept its sovereignty claims. – Reuters

The Arleigh-Burke guided missile class destroyer USS John Finn conducted a routine south-to-north Taiwan Strait transit on March 5, the U.S. Navy said in a statement on Tuesday. The transit occurred through a corridor in the Taiwan Strait that is beyond any coastal state’s territorial seas, according to the statement. – Reuters

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said on Tuesday he was expecting Vietnam and Australia to announce an upgrade of their bilateral ties during his ongoing visit to Australia. – Reuters

The Philippines on Tuesday accused China’s coast guard of carrying out “dangerous manoeuvres” that led to a collision between its coast guard ship and a Chinese vessel during a resupply mission for Philippine troops in the South China Sea. Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Jay Tarriela said on social media platform X the PCG vessel sustained minor structural damage.  Reuters

Australia’s future fleet of nuclear submarines will be welcome to dock in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, as differences over how to handle China’s burgeoning military footprint dominated the early stages of a special Asean summit in Melbourne. – Bloomberg

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Monday that he had no choice but to defend his country’s territory in the South China Sea against what he called Chinese aggression and illegal actions in pursuit of Beijing’s own territorial claims. – Associated Press

Malaysia’s prime minister on Monday spoke up in defense of ties with China and complained over alleged pressure by the United States and its allies on regional nations to take sides in the West’s strategic rivalries with Beijing. – Associated Press

Sarah Khan writes: All of Pakistan’s major political parties, including the PTI, keep an implicit bargain with the military whereby they tolerate, and indeed rely on, its interference in politics so they can take power and survive in office. This undergirds the country’s hybrid regime, in which political parties may genuinely compete but the winner ultimately serves as a junior partner to the military. Until the parties recognize that their interests are no longer served by embracing Pakistan’s military, even momentous elections like February’s vote will fail to deliver real change. – Foreign Affairs

Europe

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday sharply criticized the Hungarian and Slovak foreign ministers for meeting with their Russian counterpart during a regional forum in Turkey. – Associated Press

European Union member states showed their divisions on nuclear energy policy on Monday, with one camp led by France promoting the technology and another, led by Austria and Germany, pushing to prioritise renewable energy sources instead. – Reuters

Albania’s premier said NATO’s first air base in the country will help cement the Balkan region’s position within the Western military alliance and protect it from Russia’s “neo-imperial” ambitions. – Bloomberg

Poland will call on the European Commission to impose a full ban on imports of food products from Russia and Belarus in a bid to increase the region’s security and protect farmers, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. – Bloomberg

The French authorities have launched proceedings to strip the citizenship of a prominent pan-Africanist writer and activist with a long record of viscerally antisemitic comments who is also closely aligned with Russia’s ruling regime. – Algemeiner

In fact, the German officers discussed sending the Taurus missiles only in theory. Germany has not approved deploying the weapons despite months of pressure from Ukraine. Here is a look at the fallout from what German media are calling the “wiretapping affair” and the Taurus missiles at the heart of the tensions. – Military.com

Africa

Africa will be $2.5 trillion short of the finance it needs to cope with climate change by 2030, a U.N. official said on Monday, adding that the continent has contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions while seeing some of the worst impacts. – Reuters

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday ruled that prosecutors can bring a hearing on charges against fugitive Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in his absence on Oct. 15. Kony, the founder and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is the ICC’s longest standing fugitive. An arrest warrant was issued against him in 2005. – Reuters

The United States on Monday terminated a Zimbabwe sanctions program and reimposed curbs on nine people and three entities, including the country’s president, over their alleged involvement in corruption or serious human rights abuse. – Reuters

The Americas

The survival of Haiti’s government is increasingly in doubt after heavily armed gangs freed close to 5,000 inmates and forced the closure of two airports late Monday in what is shaping up as an attempt to force the ouster of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. – Wall Street Journal

Cuba on Monday confirmed it had sought help from the World Food Programme to guarantee the supply of subsidized powdered milk for children, according to a report in state-run media, a sign of deepening economic woes on the communist-run Caribbean island. – Reuters

Canada and Australia have agreed to promote shared priorities related to the extraction, processing, and refining of critical minerals, they said in a joint statement on Monday.The announcement came on the sidelines of the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in Toronto. – Reuters

American citizens in Haiti should depart as soon as possible and a travel alert has been issued for the Caribbean country, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince said. – Fox News

Israel has condemned Nicaragua’s lawsuit filed against Germany in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on genocide charges for supporting Israel in its ongoing campaign against the Hamas terror group in Gaza, while concerns have been raised about what appears to be a developing legal front against Jerusalem. – Times of Israel

Guido L. Torres, Laura Delgado López, Ryan C. Berg, and Henry Ziemer write: China’s hypersonic resolve has been remarkable. By 2018, it had conducted over 20 times as many tests as the United States. According to the Pentagon, the United States is still lagging. This hypersonic prowess, combined with China’s stranglehold on niobium, places the United States in a perilous position.The strategic importance of niobium in next-generation defense systems cannot be overstated. As the U.S. military and its defense contractors increasingly rely on niobium-based superalloys to produce a wide range of equipment, from aircraft components to hypersonic missile systems, any disruption in the niobium supply chain could have significant repercussions. – Centre for Strategic and International Studies

United States

U.S. officials across the political spectrum have described Chinese corporate theft as a defining threat of our times. A Justice Department loss last week underscores the challenges in addressing it. – Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump won the North Dakota Republican presidential caucuses on Monday, adding to his string of victories heading into Super Tuesday. – Associated Press

Americans’ opinions of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have taken a turn for the worse over the past year, though the balance of opinion remains largely unchanged, according to a Gallup poll published Monday. – Times of Israel

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said that the U.S. should consider placing additional restrictions on aid to Israel after a recent trip to Israel and the West Bank. – Jewish Insider

A group of 10 Senate Republicans on Friday called on the administration to seek to censure Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors meeting, which begins on Monday. – Jewish Insider

Kathleen Hicks writes: The eyes of Beijing, Moscow and Tehran are keenly focused on Washington right now. In each capital, leaders want to see whether our democratic system can overcome challenges to the basic functions of government, including funding our military. – Fox News

Cybersecurity

After its infrastructure was exposed in a pair of reports last week, the operators of the Predator spyware platform dismantled a swath of delivery servers over the weekend that are used to administer the tool. – CyberScoop

Miles Pollard writes: The implications of these cyberattacks extend far beyond military and political repercussions. Moody’s designated critical infrastructure assets as “credit negative” last June due in part to the systemic risks posed by cyber vulnerabilities. Moreover, as evidenced by Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, the specter of cascading cyberattacks targeting geographically dispersed industrial operations looms large, with potentially catastrophic consequences for both Europe and the U.S. With its 3,300 utilities and sprawling web of 5.5 million miles of distribution lines, the United States is particularly vulnerable to cyber incursions. CISA‘s energy sector plan, published in 2015, is woefully inadequate in detail and does not accurately portray our adversaries’ current capabilities. – The Heritage Foundation 

Franklin D. Kramer, Robert J. Butler, and Melanie J. Teplinsky write: Congress could, however, enact legislation authorizing cybersecurity transferable tax credits for small and startup businesses, academia, and key critical infrastructures such as transportation, energy, and water. Tax credits are highly effective in supporting investments such as computer chips and renewable energy. Establishing such credits for cybersecurity would dramatically increase the ability of small and startup businesses, academia, and critical infrastructures to afford to protect the intellectual property and operations so critical to the economy and national security of the United States. – The National Interest

Defense

Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira pleaded guilty on Monday to leaking highly classified military documents about the war in Ukraine and other national security secrets under a deal with prosecutors that calls for him to serve at least 11 years in prison. – Associated Press

After nearly a decade in development, the Army’s primary vehicle-mounted laser weapon is on a collision course with its most fearsome foe yet — dust. – Military.com

The ballooning use of unmanned technologies including drones has consequences for the U.S. nuclear stockpile and associated infrastructure, according to the leader of Strategic Command. – Defense News

Robert Peters and Wilson Beaver writes: In addition to platforms, such as submarines, surface warships, tanker aircraft, and fighter aircraft, the United States Armed Forces desperately need additional munitions—bombs, air defenses, missiles, and even “dumb” artillery shells. Due to 20-plus years of operations in the Middle East, combined with U.S. support to Ukrainian armed forces, the United States military is woefully short on munitions. Indeed, when President Joe Biden sent cluster munitions to Ukraine, it was because the United States was so low on unitary artillery rounds that the only thing it could send were cluster munitions. – The Heritage Foundation