Fdd's overnight brief

May 10, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israel is ready to “stand alone” in the fight against its enemies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Thursday, after President Biden warned that he would halt the flow of certain weapons if Israeli troops invaded Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. – Washington Post

The main United Nations agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said on Thursday that it had temporarily closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem for the safety of its staff after parts of the compound were set on fire following weeks of attacks. – New York Times

Palestinian militant group Hamas said early Friday that its delegation attending Gaza ceasefire negotiations in Cairo had left the city for Qatar, adding the “ball is now completely” in Israel’s hands. – Agence France-Presse

The UK won’t support a major Israeli operation in Rafah, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said, echoing the stance of the US but stopping short of matching President Joe Biden’s warning that he would stop additional weapons shipments to the Middle East nation if it went ahead. – Bloomberg

Hamas on Thursday called for an end to airdrops of aid after two Palestinians were killed in northern Gaza when a aid pallet crashed into a warehouse after its parachute failed to open. – Agence France-Presse

Staff at the United Nations relief agency at Gaza are being accused of “stealing aid and selling it for profit,” while the United Nations is directing the blame toward Israel for the issues emerging in delivering aid to people at Gaza. – New York Sun

Editorial: The Biden Administration supports a two state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, but the U.N. resolution defies that goal. It violates the Oslo Accords, which conditioned Palestinian statehood on negotiations between the parties and an acceptance of the Jewish state. The U.N. resolution would in effect be a diplomatic victory for Hamas’s terror strategy. – Wall Street Journal

Bret Stephens writes: There is still time for the president to reverse this ill-judged decision. Netanyahu and his ministers can help by demonstrating that they are taking immediate, visible, meaningful steps to move Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way. But an arms cutoff that weakens Israel as it faces enemies on multiple fronts is unworthy of a president whose clear and stalwart support for the Jewish state at its lowest moment was — and should remain — his finest hour. – New York Times

Matthew Levitt writes: The peril lies in the fact that both Hamas and Hezbollah truly believe that Israel’s destruction is inevitable, and that October 7 is simply the beginning of an irreversible process that will ultimately achieve just that. Anyone who truly supports the idea of securing a durable settlement to this conflict must oppose including Hamas in Palestinian governance for the simple reason that Hamas’ fundamental goals are incompatible with peace. – Foreign Affairs


A U.S. treasury official warned of environmental risks from illicit transfers of Iranian oil off Malaysia, news portal Malaysiakini reported on Thursday, as the United States narrows its focus on financing for militant groups routed through Southeast Asia. – Reuters

Iranians voted Friday in a runoff election for the remaining seats in the country’s parliament after hard-line politicians dominated March balloting. – Associated Press

As US-Iran relations thawed during the Obama administration, Princeton University saw an opportunity to make the school a central player in bridging the decades-long divide between the two antagonists. […]But within a dozen years, two of Princeton’s graduate students had been detained or kidnapped by Tehran and its military proxies. And a Republican-led Congress is now formally probing the school’s ties to Iranian regime officials. – Semafor

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: Iran may also benefit from a ceasefire; though their proxies like Hezbollah will still be busy disrupting the region, the people of Iran, who are not supporters of war in the Middle East, can see their government’s resources used to improve their own economy — not the coffers of Hamas. – The Hill

Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas and Alam Saleh write: Encouraging neighboring countries, particularly Gulf Cooperation Council member states, to develop constructive diplomatic and economic relations with Iran would discourage Tehran from pursuing further uranium enrichment, disincentivize engagement in more small-scale military confrontations, and build on Iran’s tentative commitment to assume the role of a responsible regional actor. Finally, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as distant as that might seem right now in the midst of war, would be a crucial step toward mitigating the risk of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran as well as alleviating the heated security crisis that currently plagues the region. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

Russia’s annual Victory Day on May 9 was conceived as a solemn commemoration of sacrifices made for the motherland. Increasingly, Vladimir Putin is using it to drum home his political agenda, browbeat the West and justify his invasion of Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dismissed the head of the state guards on Thursday, two days after two of its members were accused of plotting to assassinate the president. – Reuters

A Ukrainian drone struck a major oil processing plant in Russia’s Bashkiria region on Thursday from some 1,500 km (932 miles) away, a Kyiv intelligence source said, its longest-range such attack since the start of the war. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday reappointed Mikhail Mishustin as the country’s prime minister after the previous stint on the job during which the low-key technocrat has shown a distinct lack of political ambitions. – Associated Press

Ukraine will receive three HIMARS mobile rocket systems from US stocks with Germany footing the bill, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Thursday. – Bloomberg

Russian border guards will withdraw from a number of regions of Armenia but will continue to be deployed on the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Iranian border following an agreement between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Recently leaked documents from an unknown source indicate that JSC Alabuga (Alabuga) is contracting with Russian enterprises to make thousands of warheads for Shahed 136 kamikaze drones, as a critical part of Alabuga providing the Russian army with significantly more drones than initially planned. – Institute for Science and International Security


An Israeli airstrike on a car in southern Lebanon killed four Hezbollah fighters on Thursday, security sources said, and the group said it retaliated by launching explosive drones at a military base in northern Israel. – Reuters

Local authorities in northern Israel are tired of the government ignoring the war that has been going on for seven months on the border with Lebanon, the 80,000 residents who are still evacuated from their homes with no prospect of when they’ll return home, and the foot-dragging in passing the budget promised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for strengthening and restoring the north and the plan that will accompany it. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF Home Front Command said Thursday it was cancelling Lag B’Omer celebrations at Mount Meron later this month, following a new assessment. – Times of Israel

Arabian Peninsula

The leader of Yemen’s Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said on Thursday the group would target ships of any company related to supplying or transporting goods to Israel regardless of their destination. – Reuters

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis targeted two ships, the MSC DEGO and the MSC GINA, in the Gulf of Aden using a number of ballistic missiles and drones, the group’s military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a televised speech on Thursday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will travel to Japan later this month on a rare trip outside of the Middle East. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

To understand what is happening now in the Middle East, it may be helpful to remember the dead cat. That was a favorite metaphor for Secretary of State James A. Baker III as he shuttled around the region in 1991 trying to negotiate a complicated deal. With each recalcitrant player, Mr. Baker would threaten to “leave the dead cat” at their door — in other words, to make sure they were the ones blamed if the whole thing fell apart. – New York Times

Israeli claims of Ankara easing its trade ban with Israel are “absolutely fictional and have nothing to do with reality,” Turkish Trade Minister Omer Bolat said on Thursday, as Ankara introduced a three-month reprieve for companies with existing export deals to Israel. – Reuters

Tensions in Tunisia ratcheted up as demonstrators seeking better rights for migrants staged a sit-in before European Union headquarters on Thursday, capping a week in which Tunisian authorities targeted migrant communities from the coast to the capital with arrests and the demolition of tent camps. – Associated Press

Uri Inspector writes: Yet, this critical technology increasingly dictates economic policymaking, defense strategy, trade, diplomacy, and superpower rivalry in one of the world’s most militarized regions. Gulf states look to AI and burgeoning indigenous high-tech defense industries to engineer post-oil dynamism. At the same time, Israel’s economy and export base rely on the synergy between the military and commercial high-tech. As drone attacks from non-state belligerents and Iranian assertion overhaul traditional threat perceptions, the region’s small states hunt for force multiplication and precision defense capabilities. An increasingly multipolar Middle East has become a key frontier in the superpower scuffle for technological supremacy. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

The senior U.S. official for North Korea discussed the country with her Chinese counterpart in Tokyo on Thursday, and expressed concerns about the forcible repatriation of North Koreans from China, the U.S. State Department said. – Reuters

Satellite imagery indicates North Korea has started construction of a new submarine, a report from a research group said, as Kim Jong Un has called for enhancing his ability to launch nuclear attacks from under the sea. – Bloomberg

South Korea is considering a proposal to pay new parents 100 million won, or about $73,000, in an effort to boost the country’s falling birth rate. – New York Sun


Authorities had blocked both men from leaving the country as a way to penalize their activism. Both no longer saw a future in China under leader Xi Jinping, whose tightening of political controls left almost no room for dissent. Both spent weeks plotting a way past China’s border controls and through to Thailand, where they hoped they could fly to North America. Only one of them would succeed. – Wall Street Journal

President Joe Biden’s administration is poised to unveil a sweeping decision on China tariffs as soon as next week, one that’s expected to target key strategic sectors while rejecting the across-the-board hikes sought by Donald Trump, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

Hungary and China signed a number of new agreements on Thursday to deepen their economic and cultural cooperation during a visit to the Central European country by Chinese President Xi Jinping, a trip meant to solidify China’s economic footprint in the region. – Associated Press

China’s military criticized a U.S. destroyer’s passage through the Taiwan Strait less than two weeks before the island’s new president takes office and while Washington and Beijing are making uneven efforts to restore regular military exchanges. – Associated Press

Hong Kong called it “unbelievable” when Google rebuffed its 2022 request to bury a popular protest song from search results. Now armed with an injunction, authorities are putting legal pressure on the tech firm to wipe it from the city’s internet. – Bloomberg

Karishma Vaswani writes: Beijing is keen to shine a spotlight when Washington falls short of the moral high ground it claims to have. But it is also about winning the influence battle in the competition between the two rival superpowers. From the South China Sea to TikTok to the chips ban, China is feeling under pressure from the US on all sides. This feels like an easy win. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: It’s easy to write off Chinese Communist propaganda as Xi’s veritable whistling in the wind. But sometimes, as here, that propaganda shows the true nature of Beijing’s agenda. It thus serves as a useful reminder that leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz are deluding themselves in the belief that close cooperation with China is compatible with European security. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a bombing in Afghanistan’s northeast that killed police officers who were part of an anti-poppy crop campaign. – Associated Press

The U.S. is satisfied so far with India’s moves to ensure accountability in alleged assassination plots against Sikh activists, but many steps are still needed, the U.S. ambassador to India said on Thursday, calling it a “red line for America” for which there must be consequences. – Reuters

India said Thursday that Canada has shared no evidence to back its allegation that the Indian government was involved in the slaying of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada last year, despite the recent arrests of three Indian men in the crime. – Associated Press

India has replaced some 80 soldiers on the Maldives with civilians after a demand by President Mohamed Muizzu who has pivoted the archipelago’s ties towards China, New Delhi officials said on Thursday. – Reuters

Gunmen shot and killed seven labourers near southwestern Pakistan’s Gwadar port early on Thursday, police said. […]The port city is located in troubled southwestern Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. – Reuters


China and the United States are among numerous countries that have expressed interest in tying up with the Philippines to exploit mining opportunities, particularly in nickel, the environment minister said on Friday. – Reuters

The Philippines’ national security adviser called on Friday for Chinese diplomats to be expelled over an alleged leak of a phone conversation with a Filipino admiral, in a significant escalation of a bitter row over the South China Sea. – Reuters

Myanmar’s military chief discussed plans to hold an election in the country with former Cambodian leader Hun Sen in talks this week, a senior official said, even as the ruling junta faces unprecedented pressure from an expanding armed resistance. – Reuters

China will send two warships to Cambodia and East Timor from the first half of May to mid-June, its defence ministry said, potentially further unnerving the United States over concerns about growing Chinese presence at a key Cambodian naval base. – Reuters

Thousands of protesters gathered Thursday in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over his government’s decision to hand over control of border villages to Armenia’s long-time rival Azerbaijan. – Associated Press

Tim Culpan writes: As with international trade, full liberalization would offer the most economically efficient outcome for electricity buyers and end-users. But we cannot discount the fact that mercantilism is creeping into domestic policies across the planet and globalization is under threat. Regional deals are the next best thing. It’s time for Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei to sit down and work out how they can help each other in order to help themselves. – Bloomberg


Thousands of demonstrators waving Palestinian flags flooded Sweden’s third-largest city Thursday to call for a cease-fire in Gaza and protest Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest here this week. – Washington Post

Vietnam’s foreign affairs ministry has annoyed the European Union by postponing a meeting next week with the EU’s top official on Russian sanctions, ahead of a possible visit to Hanoi by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

Despite the relative calm at Cambridge and other U.K. campuses, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak summoned university leaders to his Downing Street offices on Thursday in an effort to head off the kind of student unrest that has gripped the U.S. in recent weeks. – Associated Press

Ireland, Spain and a number of other European Union member states are considering recognising a Palestinian state on May 21, according to a report by Ireland’s national broadcaster. […]RTE News on Wednesday evening said contacts between Dublin and Madrid, and between Slovenia and Malta, had intensified with a view to the countries jointly recognising Palestinian statehood. – Reuters

Lithuania is holding a presidential election on Sunday at a time when Russian gains on the battlefield in Ukraine are fueling greater fears across all of Europe about Moscow’s intentions, but particularly in the strategically important Baltic region. – Associated Press

Moldova’s bid to join the European Union received a boost Thursday as a senior official in the bloc said the country will likely soon be able to start accession talks. – Bloomberg


Gunmen spraying bullets at fleeing children; a mother with a child on her back shot dead; terrified teenage girls summarily executed as they fled a massacre in the Darfur city of El Geneina — all deaths meticulously documented in a devastating Human Rights Watch report that may be a grim foreshadowing for the next city under siege in Sudan’s civil war. – Washington Post

Celebratory gunshots rang out in the capital of the Central African nation of Chad on Thursday night after its military ruler, President Mahamat Idriss Déby, was declared the winner of a highly scripted presidential election on national television. Two hours before the official broadcast, a “resounding victory” had been claimed by his main challenger, Succès Masra, the opposition leader who has been the country’s prime minister since January. – New York Times

China’s first shipment of crude from Niger has been blocked by a border dispute between the landlocked West African nation and its southern neighbor. – Bloomberg

Nigeria’s Senate on Thursday proposed significantly toughening penalties for drug trafficking, making the death penalty the new maximum sentence through a law amendment. – Reuters

Somalia’s government has requested the termination of a U.N. political mission that has advised it on peace-building, security reforms and democracy for over a decade, according to a letter the foreign minister wrote to the Security Council. – Reuters

High-level mediation talks on South Sudan were launched Thursday in Kenya with African presidents calling for an end to a conflict that has crippled the country’s economy for years. – Associated Press

Jonah Brody writes: Large lump-sums of cash for defense and weapon transfers are insufficient to improve regional security. While it may appear the U.S. would be handing the Sahel’s putschists a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s far from the case. In order to give democracy a chance in the Sahel, Washington must do all it can to make the conditions right. – The Hill

The Americas

Venezuela is open to paying its debt to China – which according to independent data amounts to some $10 billion – lawmaker Nicolas Maduro Guerra, son of President Nicolas Maduro, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. – Reuters

A new U.S. asylum change announced on Thursday aims to more quickly reject asylum seekers caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border if they pose certain criminal and national security concerns, a limited move to cut down on crossings. – Reuters

Civilian contractors have arrived in Haiti to build living quarters for a Kenyan-led international security force meant to counter gang violence in the Caribbean nation, the U.S. military’s Southern Command said. – Reuters

A few weeks ago, Edmundo González Urrutia was just another grandfather visiting his daughter and grandchildren, who live abroad, enjoying two months of family time in retirement. But the leisurely pace – and the anonymity – will have to wait as he now campaigns to become Venezuela’s next president. – Associated Press

Guyana’s government on Thursday said it gave permission for the U.S. military to fly two powerful F/A-18F Super Hornet jets over its capital to demonstrate the close military and other forms of cooperation between this oil-exporting South American nation and the United States. – Associated Press

Felipe Krause writes: The PT is skillful at courting Faria Lima—São Paulo’s Wall Street. Top bankers and pro-market economists declared support for Lula in the second round of the 2022 elections. But these elite figures, while important, do not carry sufficient electoral weight. It is the millions of disenfranchised, lower-middle-class voters that Lula needs to win back. Otherwise, they will fall into a far-right opponent’s arms. Smart economic measures would go a long way toward healing the country’s growing polarization. – Foreign Policy

United States

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to submit a highly critical report to Congress as soon as Friday on Israel’s conduct in Gaza that stops short of concluding it has violated the terms for its use of U.S. weapons, Axios said on Thursday. – Reuters

Senate Republicans are in search of legislative tools to force President Joe Biden to relinquish his threat of withholding U.S. military aid to Israel amid heightened tensions with the ally over its war in Gaza. – Washington Examiner

Editorial: Mr. Biden’s threat to pull the plug on the main U.S. ally in the Middle East is a watershed moment that will radiate across the world. Other allies will wonder what they’re risking if they cast their lot with the U.S. “Nations on the fence,” as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor Thursday, “will look elsewhere for their own security. And our enemies will be emboldened.” An apt summary of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy. – Wall Street Journal

Michael Rubin writes: Just as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned President George H.W. Bush against the backdrop of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, “Don’t go wobbly on me now, George,” the French are showing Biden and Blinken the meaning of backbone. Unfortunately, in the face of aggression and gratuitous anti-Americanism, the Biden team is going full invertebrate. – Washington Examiner


Australia announced on Friday that it would hold a parliamentary inquiry to look into the negative impacts of social media platforms, saying they have significant reach and control over what Australians see online, with almost no scrutiny. – Reuters

Meta’s oversight board upheld a decision to remove two Facebook posts calling for Australians to vote multiple times in an indigenous rights referendum, but noted the social media giant had not adequately explained its ban on encouraging voter fraud. – Reuters

The Biden administration intends to require hospitals to meet minimum cybersecurity standards after a single hack exposed the data of 100 million Americans. – Bloomberg

Among others, researches point to established influence networks that have already been exposed, such as the Chinese “Shadow Play” and the Russian “Doppelgänger” campaigns, both of which suddenly began to share content related to the war in Gaza after historically ignoring the topic and region. Meanwhile, these two are further amplified, not always in bad faith, by pro-Palestinian and anti-Western media groups and influencers in a variety of fields, including some who belong to the antisemitic right or the progressive left in the U.S. and EU. – Haaretz

Even if the U.S. government eventually ejects a notorious Chinese hacking operation that has tunneled into critical infrastructure entities, the sweeping digital campaign has permanently altered the cyberthreat landscape, federal officials say. – The Record

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, said that it had identified “sophisticated cybersecurity incidents” involving government networks. – The Record

Russian state-sponsored hackers have targeted Polish government institutions in a recent espionage campaign, according to a new report. – The Record

Sergio Imparato and Sarosh Nagar write: Given these limitations, NATO may benefit from testing the network approach to elucidate its benefits prior to scaling it. First, NATO could launch pilot programs in member countries with high levels of digital literacy and public trust, working with local civil society organizations and firms to flag AI-generated content in these regions. Then, through these pilot programs, NATO could assess the efficacy of the approach and, if deemed successful, scale it up to counter AI-generated misinformation in Ukraine and Western Europe. Together, this solution could help better prepare us for our AI future. – The Hill


The U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class submarine was showing off for VIPs on board, performing “angles and dangles” — diving sharply and listening for anything not safely stowed to go tumbling — piping simulated targets into its combat system, and taking simulated torpedo shots at the imaginary surface ships. Though the April 4 demonstration is a far cry from the complex training Delaware’s crew will conduct later this year ahead of the boat’s deployment to U.S. European Command’s theater, leaders said any at-sea opportunity benefits the crew. – Defense News

The Pentagon has rolled out new cybersecurity guidance, with the intent of resolving what Chief Information Officer John Sherman has characterized as sluggish, duplicative processes that hinder technology and software innovation. – Breaking Defense

Michael Brown writes: Today’s consolidated defense industry took 30 years to unfold. Reversing this can be faster but will not be instantaneous. Addressing this threat means acting now since there is a long lead-time to change the structure and capability of defense suppliers. Roosevelt’s words from eight decades ago on the eve of World War II remain as relevant today as they were at that time. “Let not the defeatists tell us that it is too late. It will never be earlier. Tomorrow will be later than today.” – War on the Rocks