Fdd's overnight brief

May 1, 2024

In The News

Israel

When commandos retrieved Ron Sherman’s body from the tunnel under Gaza, Israeli officials told the 19-year-old soldier’s mother that he had died at the hands of his Hamas captors. At the time, in mid-December, Maayan Sherman had no reason to question their account of her son’s death. – Wall Street Journal

Israel is ready to send a delegation to Cairo in the coming days to discuss a halt in fighting in the Gaza Strip, Israeli and Egyptian officials said Tuesday, as Arab mediators push militant group Hamas to accept cease-fire terms before an impending military operation in Rafah. – Wall Street Journal

Police entered Columbia University’s campus late Tuesday, where they removed pro-Palestinian demonstrators from an academic building they had occupied and from encampments on the school’s main plaza. – Wall Street Journal

The United States will press Israel to ensure humanitarian aid is effectively distributed within Gaza, Secretary of State Blinken said Tuesday, forecasting upcoming talks as the Biden administration seeks to turn tentative increases in aid shipments into more widespread improvements for desperate civilians. – Washington Post

Nearly seven months into the administration’s unstinting support for Israel in its war against Hamas, Rharrit became the first career diplomat to resign in protest of what she called a policy that will set back Washington’s interests in the Arab world for a generation. – Washington Post

Four days after an emotional ceremony at Washington National Cathedral in which World Central Kitchen celebrated the seven workers killed in an Israeli airstrike, the organization has resumed operations in Gaza, where more than 1 million Palestinians face catastrophic levels of hunger. – Washington Post

Officials from Hamas and Fatah, the main Palestinian factions that have long competed for power in Gaza and the West Bank, met in Beijing recently for what Chinese officials on Tuesday called “in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation.” – New York Times

The banner that protesters unfurled at Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall late Monday night read “Hind’s Hall,” a tribute to Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. – New York Times

The United Nations on Tuesday warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah in the Gaza Strip was “on the immediate horizon” and that “incremental” progress by Israel on aid access to the enclave could not be used to prepare for or justify an operation. – Reuters

Trucks bringing both bodies and detainees from Israel back to Gaza through the main crossing point of Kerem Shalom regularly hold up aid deliveries, the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) called on Tuesday for countries to back an independent investigation into alleged killings and detentions of its staff and damage to its premises once the Israel-Hamas conflict ends. – Reuters

A Turkish national on Tuesday stabbed an Israeli border policeman in Jerusalem and was then shot dead by officers at the scene, Israeli police said. – Reuters

An initial investigation by the Israel Defense Forces into the deaths of two reservists in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday found that the pair were killed by so-called friendly fire. – Times of Israel

Editorial: University authorities in the US must heed the call to halt these well-funded, well-organized campus protests, but for the sake of the students trying to study, those who will be the leaders of tomorrow, it is also vital that Israel, American Jewish organizations, Israel supporters, and individual donors of all faiths join to help the universities stop the spread of the protests. Only a show of strength and unity can combat the wall of hate being hoisted in front of Jewish students across the US. – Jerusalem Post

Bret Stephens writes: A third point that goes beyond Israel: Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. But widespread awareness of it, along with an international determination to stop it, really started only in the 1990s with the horrors in the Balkans and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The giant shrug with which the rape of Israeli women is being met suggests that time may be over. What starts with the Jews, as the saying goes, never ends with the Jews. – New York Times

Marc Champion writes: No path Israel can take will be easy, least of all for Netanyahu, threatened with the collapse of his government by ultranationalist cabinet members if he agrees to a ceasefire. Yet he shouldn’t hesitate to call their bluff if Hamas takes the latest deal. The decisions he takes now will determine whether Israel walks alone in a dangerous region or with the support of others. – Bloomberg

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write: The new behavior that the Iran-Israel crisis in April provoked in numerous states shows that longstanding realities in the Middle East can change. Iran is now in a weak position, and Israel has a window of opportunity in an otherwise very difficult year. Rarely has Israel needed more to be able to seize a potential strategic opportunity. But this is equally true for the United States. Biden has a strong interest in showing that he was able to take the Israel-Hamas war and the chaos created by Iran’s proxies and forge a more stable and hopeful Middle East. There is a moment to do that now. But there is no telling how long it will last. – Foreign Affairs

Iran

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi is scheduled to visit Iran to take part in a nuclear conference from May 6-8 and meet Iranian officials, Iran’s Mehr news agency said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A rare United Arab Emirates-Iran joint economic commission will convene in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday to Wednesday, the Iranian Labour News Agency reported, as Tehran seeks to bolster economic ties with Gulf states amid mounting U.S. pressure. – Reuters

Iran’s judiciary said Tuesday that it commuted a death sentence for a tycoon to 20 years in prison after he returned around $2.1 billion in assets from illegally selling oil abroad, the official IRNA news agency reported. – Associated Press

Iran’s authorities summoned for questioning crew members and actors of an Iranian film due to be shown in the main competition at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, their lawyer said on Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

A document was leaked from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) detailing how Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared from a protest in 2022 before her body was found a few days later, was molested and killed by the regime’s security forces, BBC reported on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

A Ukrainian official said early Wednesday that a Russian missile attack overnight had killed three people and injured three others in Odesa, a southern Ukrainian city that has been a regular target of Russian missiles and drones trying to destroy its port infrastructure. – New York Times

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered more, and swifter, delivery of weapons for Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, the Russian defence ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Ukraine launched drones on several Russian regions in hours leading to Wednesday morning, Russian officials said, with unofficial Russian news outlets reporting a fire at the Ryazan oil refinery after the attack. – Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that Ukraine needed “a significant acceleration” in deliveries of weaponry from its partners to enable its troops to face advancing Russian troops in several sectors of the front line. – Reuters

Ukraine’s trust in its NATO allies has “taken a dent” because of delays and failures in the delivery of arms for the war against Russia’s invasion, NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg said. – Reuters

Hal Brands writes: Perhaps most vexing: If Putin can’t conquer Ukraine, but won’t stop fighting, how far will the US and NATO go to force Russia to bring the war to an end? That $61 billion in US aid has bought time to address these issues. It hasn’t provided any easy answers. As the potential for near-term disaster in Ukraine recedes, the longer-term dilemmas come right back into view. – Bloomberg

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write: The Kremlin’s ruthless response to defectors is unlikely to help Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Creating more fear within the military and intelligence services will certainly not raise morale. And it will do little to prevent the kind of devastating terrorist attack that killed scores of Russians at the concert hall in March. But fueled by a century of paranoia in Moscow—and an emboldened group of volunteer units in Ukraine—Putin’s new campaign seems likely to lead to further assassination operations abroad and more crackdowns at home. – Foreign Affairs 

Elisabeth Braw writes: But NATO has a resilience paragraph — Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty. “The parties will work together to develop and maintain their ability to resist armed attacks through mutual aid and self-help,” it states. Some of that is already happening. This now needs to include much stronger private-sector participation. Indeed, airlines like Finnair will have insights they can share with airlines that have so far not had the misfortune of experiencing GPS jamming. It could prove very useful in the future. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Lebanon

Now 50, Harel is ready to rejoin the army to fight the same group if shelling along Israel’s northern border turns into a full-blown war with Iran’s most powerful regional proxy. This time Israeli forces would face some of the most challenging fighting conditions imaginable, he said. – Reuters

Hundreds of students gathered at university campuses in Lebanon on Tuesday to protest against Israel, the country’s first coordinated university protests over Gaza, which participants said were inspired by sit-ins in the United States. – Reuters

France’s foreign minister called on Israel to make public its position on a proposal that he shared with it aimed at defusing tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, as Paris tries to act as an intermediary between the foes. – Reuters

The number of Syrian refugees leaving Lebanon is likely to keep rising as donors cut back on aid, the head of the U.N.’s migration agency warned Tuesday, as pressure builds over their arrival on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. – Associated Press

The leader of a main Christian political party in Lebanon blasted the Shiite militant group Hezbollah for opening a front with Israel to back up its ally Hamas, saying it has harmed Lebanon without making a dent in Israel’s crushing offensive in the Gaza Strip. – Associated Press

Edward Gabriel writes: At this critical juncture, the U.S. needs to do all it can to de-escalate, but it should not limit negotiations to demands on Hezbollah. It needs also to make demands on Israel, convincingly, and make more forcible efforts to incentivize it to, stick to diplomacy rather than start a war. This will enable a longer-term solution to the problem that is Hezbollah and tackle head on its de-facto control of Lebanon. – The Hill

Middle East & North Africa

Students across the Middle East and globally are downing their pens, ditching class and joining in with pro-Palestinian protests in solidarity with a wave of campus protests that have swept across the United States in recent weeks. – Washington Post

Yemen’s Houthis said on Tuesday they targeted the MSC Orion container ship in a drone attack in the Indian Ocean as part of their ongoing campaign against international shipping in solidarity with Palestinians against Israel’s military actions in Gaza. – Reuters

Libya’s eastern-based parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved the 2024 budget for the government it installed of 90 billion Libyan dinars ($18.5 billion), excluding an item for development projects, three MPs told Reuters. – Reuters

Tunisia’s main opposition coalition said Tuesday it won’t take part in the North African country’s upcoming presidential election unless President Kais Saied’s political opponents are freed and judicial independence is restored. – Associated Press

The UAE has canceled meetings with London’s Lord Mayor and other British officials as a dispute deepened over the Persian Gulf nation’s alleged role in the civil war ravaging Sudan. – Bloomberg

Jordan on Tuesday quickly dispelled the idea that Hamas leaders would be welcome to set up their offices on their territory after a senior Hamas official suggested the terror group’s political bureau would move to the kingdom if it was forced to leave its current home in Qatar. – Times of Israel

Josh Rogin writes: Sanctions are not a panacea. Ideally, they would be combined with a comprehensive strategy to negotiate a diplomatic resolution in Syria. But those who advocate letting the sanctions on Assad lapse must contend with the predictable consequences of that decision. Assad and his accomplices will get richer and more powerful. They will be emboldened in their abuses against their own citizens. Extremism and instability will grow regionwide. – Washington Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s export growth accelerated in April on brisk demand for semiconductors, smartphones, cars and other Korean goods overseas, reaffirming trade momentum. – Wall Street Journal

At a high-security location at the United Nations headquarters in New York, a group of investigators watched a presentation early last year with satellite imagery showing tankers picking up shipments in Chinese waters and elsewhere, and then traveling to North Korea’s oil facilities. – Wall Street Journal

South Korea has held talks about joining part of the AUKUS defence deal between the U.S., Britain and Australia, Defence Minister Shin Won-sik said on Wednesday, only weeks after the pact said it would consider including Japan. – Reuters

China

Last year, as Mike Pompeo’s memoir, “Never Give an Inch,” made the rounds among China’s leaders, one passage in particular enraged Xi Jinping. The secretary of state under former President Donald Trump wrote that the U.S. should “grant full diplomatic recognition” to Taiwan. – Wall Street Journal

Forced laborers are being transferred from China’s Xinjiang region to elsewhere in the country in growing numbers, a Biden administration official said, a problem that could test corporate efforts to comply with a U.S. supply-chain crackdown. – Wall Street Journal

Elon Musk’s whistle-stop trip to Beijing for an audience with China’s Premier Li Qiang highlighted how the power dynamic is shifting between Tesla and the Chinese government. – Wall Street Journal

Automakers in China are building a new generation of bigger, more technologically advanced and competitive electric cars, threatening to leap further ahead of their global rivals as they step up exports around the world. – New York Times

China on Wednesday launched sea trials for the Fujian, its third and most advanced aircraft carrier, state media reported. The start of tests by the Chinese navy came nearly two years after the aircraft carrier was first unveiled in June 2022. – Reuters

The Philippines on Wednesday accused China’s coast guard of elevating tensions in the South China Sea after two vessels suffered damage from water cannon use by Beijing, an official said. – Reuters

Taiwan is on alert for China to carry out military exercises after the inauguration of President-elect Lai Ching-te this month, the island’s top security official said on Wednesday, adding China has already begun using unusual new tactics. – Reuters

The first of eight Hangor II submarines for Pakistan was recently launched at the Wuchang Shipbuilding yard in Wuhan, China, though it’s uncertain what could be powering the boat given Germany’s block on an engine export. – Defense News

Mackenzie Eaglen writes: To deter China or other adversaries, the U.S. military requires the capacity to get to the fight, as well as sustain and rapidly repair and resupply those in the fight. We must be capable of absorbing attrition early in a conflict and of continuing on in a protracted conflict. China is catching up to the U.S. in defense spending, but this must not be allowed to mean it can outmatch or outlast America, should the military be called upon to fight and win in Asia. – The Hill

South Asia

Vietnam authorities say a property tycoon named Truong My Lan carried out the audacious plan for more than a decade. A court in the country sentenced the 67-year-old businesswoman to death in April in the biggest financial scandal the Southeast Asian nation has ever seen. – Wall Street Journal

Indian security forces killed at least 10 Maoist rebels in a gun battle in the forests of central India on Tuesday, police said, the second major encounter this month amid national elections. – Reuters

Editorial: The United States needs stronger laws and other measures to fight transnational repression; Congress is considering legislation and should act. How the India case is handled will also send an important signal. If it turns out that India’s security officers plotted to murder on these shores and then escape accountability and punishment for doing so, others will be encouraged to kill with impunity. The United States cannot let this happen. – Washington Post

Syed Mohammad Ali writes: Saudi Arabia and the UAE can work with other major powers, especially the US, to continue encouraging India and Pakistan to resume dialogue, and to take incremental confidence-building measures to overcome mutual suspicion. Less acrimony between India and Pakistan would prevent Pakistan from becoming more beholden to China. Less worried about Pakistan, India could also focus on catalyzing regional integration and cooperation rather than trying to invest in an aggressive posture to fend off growing Chinese influence across South Asia. – Middle East Institute

Asia

For the past month, the Georgian capital of Tbilisi has been engulfed in turmoil. Protesters have taken to the streets of the city night after night. A fistfight broke out between legislators in the country’s Parliament. And over the weekend, there were clashes between police and protesters at a large demonstration in the center of the city. – New York Times

Microsoft will open its first regional data centre in Thailand, the tech giant said on Wednesday, as it looks to boost availability of cloud services. – Reuters

Australia will spend almost A$1 billion on payments for those fleeing domestic violence and introduce new measures to police pornography and violence on the internet in response to what the government is calling a “national crisis” of gendered violence. – Reuters

Workers, activists and others in Asian capitals marked May Day with rallies and marches to call for better working conditions and greater labor rights. – Associated Press

New Zealand is a long way from deciding whether to join the second pillar of the Aukus security pact, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said. – Bloomberg

Europe

Southern Europe, which for decades has had lower growth, productivity and wealth than the north, powered an upside-down recovery on the continent at the start of the year. Buoyant tourism revenue around the Mediterranean helped to offset sluggishness in Europe’s manufacturing heartlands. – Wall Street Journal

Estonia accused Russia of violating international airspace regulations by interfering with GPS signals and the Baltic nation’s foreign minister said it will take up the matter with its NATO and European Union partners. – Reuters

Britain launched physical checks on fresh food products imported from the European Union on Tuesday some three years after it left the bloc’s single market and eight years after it voted to leave the EU. – Reuters

The top U.N. court rejected on Tuesday a request by Nicaragua to order Germany to halt military and other aid to Israel and renew funding to the U.N. aid agency in Gaza. – Associated Press

Serbia’s new government will include a former intelligence chief who has fostered close ties with Russia and is sanctioned by the United States, the country’s prime minister-designate said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Italy and France have committed to more closely integrating their land warfare firms as the former seeks to join long-awaited Franco-German tank program. – Defense News

Marc Champion writes: In doing so, Georgia’s strongman is flying in the face of what most of the population want, while obscuring the fact with appeals to conservative Georgians over gay rights. He’ll also doubtless enjoy backing from Moscow, which keeps troops in Abkhazia as well as South Ossetia, about a two-hour tank drive from the capital. The result is I have no idea how this will play out, but the impact of Putin’s military success in Ukraine is already clear; it’s turning the dreams of Russia’s neighboring populations into nightmares. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: These attacks/plots constitute acts of war. They also stand in stark distinction with NATO’s military support for Ukraine. While NATO states support Ukraine with arms, aid, and other equipment, those states do not directly attack Russian targets on Russian soil. That Russia is targeting NATO interests on NATO soil should thus embolden the Biden administration to drop their opposition to Ukrainian strikes on Russian soil. Biden might also, for example, authorize sufficiently aggressive CIA activity that might actually lead to capturing a Russian radio frequency/microwave weapon. – Washington Examiner

Tom Rogan writes: It’s unclear what will come of Xi’s state visit next week. But what Macron should say is that if China keeps this up, he might find that the next French navy deployment in the South China Sea may involve more capable warships from the U.S., Britain, France, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan and that France will support the U.S. in helping the Philippines replace the BRP Sierra Madre. You can be sure such words would earn Xi’s concerned attention. – Washington Examiner

Africa

Kenya’s president ordered Tuesday the evacuation of all homes along the nation’s rivers after floods killed at least 169 people in the past month, with dozens still missing. – Washington Post

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday it had reached a staff-level agreement with Mali for about $120 million in emergency financing, as the West African country is struggling with rising food insecurity. – Reuters

Britain has sent its first asylum seeker to Rwanda under a voluntary scheme, The Sun Newspaper reported on Tuesday, saying the unnamed migrant was flown out of the country on Monday. – Reuters

Britain sanctioned the speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Anita Among, and two high profile Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday, targeting corruption in the east African country for the first time with its sanctions regime. – Reuters

An internationally backed court in the Central African Republic issued an international arrest warrant Tuesday for the country’s exiled former President François Bozizé for human rights abuses from 2009 to 2013, a spokesperson said. – Associated Press

Zimbabwe on Tuesday started circulating a new currency to replace one that has been battered by depreciation and often outright rejection by the people. The ZiG was introduced electronically in early April, but people are now able to use banknotes and coins. – Associated Press

Over 7 million people in South Sudan are expected to face acute food insecurity or worse during “the lean season” between now and July, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organizations said in a report Tuesday. – Associated Press

The Americas

Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa on Tuesday decreed a state of emergency in five coastal provinces because of “internal armed conflict”. – Reuters

Argentina’s oilseed sector workers lifted their two-day strike late on Tuesday after the lower house of Congress approved contentious reforms backed by President Javier Milei but opposed by some unions. – Reuters

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro said on Tuesday that an inventory of military weapons showed over a million bullets, thousands of explosives, including grenades, and some missiles were missing from military bases, blaming corruption for the lost weapons. – Reuters

Argentina’s lower house of Congress gave President Javier Milei a boost on Tuesday by approving his sweeping reform bill ahead of a final Senate vote and backing articles related to privatizing state bodies and labour reform. – Reuters

Mexico accused Ecuador of a blatant violation of international law before the top U.N. court on Tuesday, asserting there was no legal defense for storming the Mexican Embassy in Quito to arrest a former vice president who had just been granted asylum by Mexico. – Associated Press

North America

Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border are down more than 40 percent since December and have remained relatively stable through the first four months of 2024, bringing a modest reprieve for President Biden on an issue regarded as a liability to his reelection campaign. – Washington Post

The leader of Canada’s main opposition party was ejected from the House of Commons on Tuesday after he called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “a wacko”, in the latest clash between two men set to fight an election next year. – Reuters

Haiti’s transition council on Tuesday named Edgard Leblanc, the former senate president, to head the body instated last week as it seeks to bring security back to the violence-wracked Caribbean nation. – Reuters

Haiti’s transitional council named a new prime minister to try to restore order in a nation overrun by gangs, local media reported. In a meeting Tuesday, the council elected former Minister of Sports Fritz Belizaire to be the country’s new prime minister, according to local media outlet Le Nouvelliste. – Bloomberg

Mexico’s decision to slap tariffs on some goods from countries with which it doesn’t have trade agreements will only affect about $48 billion of the country’s imports, around 7% of the total, according to a Finance Ministry official. – Bloomberg

George R. Tyler writes: As explored by the Brookings Institution, Mexico desperately needs an infusion of resources to upgrade its domestic law enforcement institutions, including expanded investigative and prosecutorial capabilities. It also needs support in engaging with Chinese law enforcement agencies. The cartels fear the depth and lethality of U.S. law enforcement and the honesty of its judiciary. And Lopez Obrador has seemingly (but accurately) surmised that a renewed Biden administration is far more likely to respond to that desperate plight with synchronized policies and expansive support than another Trump one. – The National Interest

United States

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik is facing mounting criticism over the university’s response to pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and pressure is intensifying from some quarters after she called New York Police Department officers onto campus Tuesday night to arrest protesters. – Wall Street Journal

Families of Americans still detained in foreign countries despite recent prisoner swaps arranged by the Biden administration pleaded on Tuesday at least for more information about their loved ones, while waiting and hoping for their release. – Reuters

A significant bloc of House Democrats appears poised to back an antisemitism bill that’s slated for a floor vote Wednesday as campus protests against Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza pile new political pressure on President Joe Biden’s party. – Politico

Donald Trump was held in criminal contempt by Justice Juan Merchan Tuesday morning for seven social media posts and two statements on Trump’s campaign website that violated a gag order imposed in his Manhattan criminal case. – Politico

Brown University reached an agreement on Tuesday with students protesting the war in Gaza that would see them remove their encampment from school grounds in exchange for the institution considering divesting from Israel. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: But the political left is more organized for mass protests and more likely to take to the streets. Today’s campus eruptions may be aimed at U.S. policy in the Middle East, but they are a symptom of a larger trend toward street protest and law-breaking to achieve political goals. Political and other leaders have a duty to call this out and enforce public order, whether the violators are on the left or right. – Wall Street Journal

Brad Raffensperger writes: The more certainty we can provide to the public that their votes won’t be canceled by an illegal vote from a noncitizen, the less doubt others can cast on our elections. We need stronger laws to verify that only American citizens vote for the same reason we lock our doors at night even if we’ve never suffered a break in. As Mr. Johnson considers federal voting-integrity protections, he should follow the Peach State’s footsteps. – Wall Street Journal

Cybersecurity

A Finnish court on Tuesday sentenced a 26-year-old man to six years and three months in prison for hacking tens of thousands of patient records at a private psychotherapy center and seeking ransom from some patients over the sensitive data. – Associated Press

Israel is still routing Iran in the real world impacts of cyberattacks, even if the Islamic Republic has rallied to cause increased harm to Israeli websites and through its social media influence campaigns, former IDF Intelligence Corps Unit 8200 Col. (res.) and Team 8 Chief Ideation Officer Bobby Gilburd said. – Jerusalem Post

The U.S. intelligence community will be required to share information about threats to critical infrastructure with the owners and operators of those systems under the terms of a revised policy document that President Joe Biden is set to sign Tuesday. – Cyberscoop

Ukraine’s SBU security service detained two hackers in Kyiv suspected of spreading Russian propaganda through fake social media accounts impersonating Ukrainian state officials. – The Record

The European Union has launched an investigation into Meta over suspected failures to comply with the bloc’s new election integrity rules, introduced ahead of the European Parliament elections in June. – The Record

Dave Lee writes: It all puts Amazon in excellent stead amongst this fiercely competitive AI crowd. The initial money is being made on the bottom and middle layer, but there’s no reason Amazon can’t have a commanding presence in consumer-facing AI as well — this week, it fully rolled out its competitor to Microsoft’s code-writing AI assistant, CoPilot. In other words, Jassy has seized the agenda and set Amazon up to both sell the shovels and dig for the gold. – Bloomberg

Defense

A top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said that the Pentagon’s plan to implement a new strategy for the defense industry may not make it into Congress’ defense bill this year due to months of delay. – Defense News

The Air Force’s decision to cut the total number of MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters it plans to buy has incurred a cost overrun known as a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach. – Defense News

The U.S. Army will choose who is to integrate its long-range, high-speed spy plane this summer, a major step in its effort to overhaul existing fixed-wing aircraft that perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, according to service officials in charge of the program. – Defense News

Since the Army canceled plans to develop a Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft earlier this year, the two anticipated competitors have both moved to make use of their work on the program. – Defense News

Long War

Gunmen attacked a mosque in western Afghanistan on Monday night during prayer time, killing at least five people, a spokesperson for the provincial governor said. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s Telegram channel said. – Reuters

Turkish authorities have detained 41 people suspected of having ties to militant group Islamic State in operations across 12 provinces, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said on social media platform X on Wednesday. – Reuters

David Ignatius writes: Gen. John Abizaid, then commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, warned more than 20 years ago that the United States faced a “long war” against Islamist extremism that might last decades. That sense of conflict has ebbed and flowed since then; it lured an anxious America into two unwise wars and led successive presidents to try, in vain, to reduce our exposure in the Middle East. But the long war is still with us. – Washington Post