Fdd's overnight brief

May 15, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Seven months into the war, Hamas is far from defeated, stoking fears in Israel that it is walking into a forever war. The U.S.-designated terrorist group is using its network of tunnels, small cells of fighters and broad social influence to not only survive but to harry Israeli forces. – Wall Street Journal

Israeli tanks moved deeper into Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, pushing closer to the dense urban centers President Biden has warned Israel against invading, and prompting one of the largest civilian exoduses of the seven-month war. – Washington Post

The Biden administration informally notified congressional committees Tuesday that it planned to move forward with more than $1 billion in weapons deals for Israel, said U.S. officials familiar with the matter, a major transfer of lethal aid that comes a week after the White House paused a single shipment of bombs because of concerns that a planned assault in southern Gaza could cause immense civilian casualties. – Washington Post

Israel said on Tuesday that it was up to Egypt to reopen the Rafah crossing and allow humanitarian relief into the Gaza Strip, prompting Cairo to denounce what it described as “desperate attempts” to shift blame for the blockage of aid. – Reuters

The U.N.’s International Court of Justice will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss new emergency measures sought by South Africa over Israel’s attacks on Rafah during the war in Gaza, the court said Tuesday. – Reuters

The World Health Organization voiced full confidence in Gaza Ministry of Health death toll figures on Tuesday, saying they were actually getting closer to confirming the scale of losses after Israel questioned a change in the numbers. – Reuters

Britain will continue to approve arm exports to Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told Reuters on Tuesday, saying a full-scale Israeli operation in Rafah would not by itself result in a suspension of UK weapons supplies. – Reuters

A Hamas war room embedded inside a UNRWA school in Nuseirat used by Hamas commanders was targeted in a precise strike by the IDF and ISA, the military announced on Tuesday. – Jerusalem Post

Bret Stephens writes: In other words, what the campus protesters happily envisage as a utopian, post-Zionist “state for all of its citizens” would under Hamas be one in which Jews were killed, exiled, prosecuted, integrated into an Islamist state or pressed into the servitude of a Levantine version of Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle. Those same protesters might rejoin that they don’t want a future to be led by Hamas — but that only raises the question of why they do absolutely nothing to oppose it. – New York Times

Zina Rakhamilova writes: Refusing to arm Israel because of Rafah teaches terrorists that if they manufacture enough civilian casualties, then enough international pressure could incentivize a permanent ceasefire and incentivize them to hold off releasing the hostages, allowing Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to walk away unscathed.  Senior Hamas leadership is learning that the West will cave into pressure when things get tough. We should not be living in a world where terrorists get to win, especially at the expense of countries like Israel and the United States. – Jerusalem Post

David Schenker writes: Even more important than the perception problem, however, is the likelihood that Hezbollah will not adhere to any deal Beirut reaches with Washington and Paris. The lesson from 2008 is that the group will pocket whichever provisions benefit its position at home and the interests of its sponsors in Iran while ultimately disregarding the rest.  – Washington Institute

Lloyd Axworthy, Michael W. Manulak, and Allan Rock write: Although the notion of trusteeship may seem anachronistic, it could offer a useful tool for UN-led state building beyond Palestine. As civil wars rage with renewed ferocity around the world, a reinvigorated Trusteeship Council might serve as a useful means of fostering the transition to statehood for other non-self-governing regions, such as the Western Sahara and 15 others, that may require support to transition to independence. Ending these conflicts would mark an important achievement for a UN system in need of a victory. And in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it offers the best chance of peace. – Foreign Affairs


Jordan has foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the U.S.-allied kingdom to help opponents of the ruling monarchy carry out acts of sabotage, according to two Jordanian sources with knowledge of the matter. – Reuters

Iran has shown a willingness to engage in “serious dialogue” with the UN’s nuclear watchdog for the first time in more than a year, according to the agency’s head, in a sign Tehran is seeking to ease tensions with the US. – Financial Times

Operatives working for the Chinese and Iranian governments prepared fake, AI-generated content as part of a campaign to influence US voters in the closing weeks of the 2020 election campaign, current and former US officials briefed on the intelligence told CNN. – CNN

Erfan Fard writes: The fate of groups aligned with Khamenei’s ideologies will likely mirror the ignoble end of figures such as former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, serving as a stark reminder of the inevitable failure of oppressive regimes that fail to serve the interests of their people. – Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukraine’s friends are committed to helping it fortify and prevail against Russia’s full-scale invasion, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared in a speech in Ukraine’s capital Tuesday, vowing to aid in the Kremlin’s defeat even as Kyiv faces deepening questions about its ability to hold off an assault threatening its front lines. – Washington Post

A new Russian offensive into Ukraine’s Kharkiv region has forced more than 6,000 people to evacuate this small city since Friday, fearing for their lives and racing to escape a second occupation more than two years after Moscow’s troops first crossed the border with columns of tanks. – Washington Post

Russian security agents detained a senior general early Tuesday, widening a purge of the country’s sprawling Defense Ministry amid President Vladimir V. Putin’s broader shake-up of his government. – New York Times

As much as $300 billion in Russian assets, frozen in the West since the invasion of Ukraine, is piling up profits and interest income by the day. Now, Europe and the United States are considering how to use those gains to aid the Ukrainian military as it wages a grueling battle against Russian forces. – New York Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview published early on Wednesday, said he backed China’s plan for a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis, saying Beijing had a full understanding of what lay behind the crisis. – Reuters

The Russian defence ministry said on Wednesday that its air forces destroyed 10 long-range missiles known as ATACMS that Ukraine’s military launched overnight at Crimea. – Reuters

France and the Netherlands are seeking European Union sanctions on any financial institution in the world that helps Russia’s military pay for goods or technology for making weapons, according to a proposal seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Alexander Gabuev writes: Now a growing number of educated Russians, on top of feeling bitterness toward Europe for its punitive sanctions, see China as a technologically advanced and economically superior power to which Russia is ever more connected. With no easy way back to normal ties with the West, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. – New York Times

Sergei Korotkov writes: The next step is for the international community to decide whether to facilitate arbitration efforts, thus enabling the lawful seizure of Russian sovereign assets to assist victims of aggression, or to wait for changes in international law that could potentially strip those assets of sovereign immunity altogether. However, with the G7 nations showing little support for such changes, this “Grotian moment” may not arrive at all. – The Hill


Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile which, according to Lebanese media, made a direct hit at Adamit in the Western Galilee on Tuesday afternoon. – Jerusalem Post

A top Hezbollah field commander was killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon on Tuesday night, the military said. – Times of Israel

Israeli officials are working toward establishing an understanding with Lebanon according to which Israel will publicly express its willingness to discuss border changes, but only after an agreement is reached that will bring about a de-escalation of violence in the north. – Haaretz

Middle East & North Africa

Negotiations between China and an Arab bloc for a free trade agreement have stalled over concerns by Saudi Arabia that cheap Chinese imports could undermine its ambitions to transform the kingdom into an industrial powerhouse, sources say. – Reuters

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Tuesday that Turkey decided to submit its declaration of official intervention in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). – Reuters

The Yemeni government is holding back repairs on a key internet cable that’s been damaged in the Red Sea as it conducts a criminal investigation into the cable owners’ alleged ties to the Houthi militia. – Bloomberg

Business incentives and investing in infrastructure like the freight railway line have allowed Morocco to grow its automotive industry from virtually non-existent to Africa’s largest in less than two decades. The North African kingdom supplies more cars to Europe than China, India or Japan, and has the capacity to produce 700,000 vehicles a year. – Associated Press

More than 300 Syrian refugees headed back home to Syria in a convoy on Tuesday, leaving two remote northeastern towns in crisis-stricken Lebanon where anti-refugee sentiment has been surging in recent months. – Associated Press

Efraim Inbar writes: The American effort to stop the war hasn’t helped shore up the fragile trust that the moderate Arab countries – who wish to see an Israeli victory – have in the United States. In the political culture of the Middle East, where the use of force is part of the toolbox at the disposal of the region’s states, America’s fear of escalation and the possible need to confront Iran militarily damages the image of the US as a desirable ally. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday oversaw a tactical missile weapons system that will be newly installed at missile units of its army, state media KCNA reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

North Korea laundered $147.5 million through virtual currency platform Tornado Cash in March after stealing it last year from a cryptocurrency exchange, according to confidential work by United Nations sanctions monitors seen by Reuters on Tuesday. – Reuters

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol confirmed his country’s participation in a Ukraine peace summit in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on X. – Reuters


In his first trip abroad since securing a fifth term, Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Beijing on Thursday to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to reinforce ties with China and their joint efforts to push back against a U.S.-led global order. – Washington Post

China has sent dozens of coast guard and maritime militia vessels toward a disputed atoll in the South China Sea, a large show of force aimed at blocking a civilian protest flotilla from the Philippines, as tensions between the countries have flared. – New York Times

China strongly opposed the United States’ tariff hikes, its commerce ministry said on Tuesday, vowing it will take resolute measures to defend its rights and interests – Reuters

China said it would sanction five Taiwanese political commentators and roll out a law to punish “separatists,” moves aimed at piling pressure on incoming president Lai Ching-te just days before he takes office. – Bloomberg

The Biden administration is suggesting the possibility that additional penalties could be put in place if the Chinese makers of electric vehicles try to move their production to Mexico to avoid newly announced import taxes. – Associated Press

South Asia

Tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India are not new, but they have gotten worse under Modi, whose ruling Bharatiya Janata Party touts a Hindu-nationalist ideology. And with Modi seemingly on the cusp of a third five-year term, the outlook for Muslim politicians — and citizens — is bleak. This year’s vote will be decided in June. – Associated Press

A missile fired by a drone struck a house in a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban in northwestern Pakistan along the Afghan border before dawn Tuesday, killing at least four villagers, including children, police said. – Associated Press

For more than four hours Abdullah* waited in the darkness as soldiers marched 30 of his neighbours from their homes in the Myanmar border state of Rakhine and forced them by gunpoint to join him on the truck that would take them all to a military base. – The Guardian 


To Netiporn Sanesangkhom, the right to dissent and to question Thailand’s powerful monarchy belonged to all Thais. On Tuesday, her crusade to highlight this cause in the face of the country’s strict ban on royal criticism ended in her death. – New York Times

The authorities in New Caledonia, a semiautonomous French territory in the South Pacific, put a curfew in place on Tuesday and banned all public gatherings after protests against a proposed constitutional change turned violent overnight. – New York Times 

Georgia’s Parliament approved a controversial “foreign agent law” Tuesday, defying mass street protests by Georgians who fear the bill will strip civil rights and push their country further into Moscow’s orbit. The measure could also undermine Georgia’s bid to join the European Union. – Washington Post 

France sent extra police squadrons to quell riots on the Pacific island of New Caledonia on Tuesday but also opened the door to a negotiated settlement with pro- and anti-independence groups. – Reuters

Taiwan reported Chinese forces were carrying out another “combat patrol” near the island on Tuesday, including sending aircraft across the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive median line, as tensions rise a week before a new Taiwanese president takes office. – Reuters

Jason Vogt, Nina Kollars, and Michael Poznansky write: As with Zelensky, Taiwan’s leaders will need the fortitude to stare down a potential onslaught on their nation, but they should leave open the possibility of fleeing the island if the situation dictates. It should not be forgotten that keeping the legitimate, democratically elected government of Taiwan both alive and free is itself a burning symbol of resistance, one that the Chinese Communist Party will be all too eager to extinguish. – War on the Rocks


The economies of central Europe are set for stronger growth this year and next as inflation cools, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to cast a shadow over their prospects in the form of higher borrowing costs, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal

Weeks later, Leha and 15 others were arrested in the biggest publicized spy case in Poland’s history. Andrzej, it turned out, was a front for a Russian intelligence unit that was recruiting people such as Leha—drifters looking to make a quick buck—for spying and espionage jobs since late 2022. – Wall Street Journal

A German court on Tuesday found a prominent far-right politician from the Alternative for Germany party guilty of using a banned Nazi slogan during a campaign speech in 2021. – New York Times

Hundreds of millions of voters in all the 27 countries that make up the European Union are heading to polls between June 6 and 9 to choose their representatives in the European Parliament, the only directly elected institution of the alliance. – New York Times

Britain’s foreign ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador on Tuesday to state that espionage and cyber attacks were not acceptable on UK soil after three men were charged with spying for Hong Kong. – Reuters

The Group of Seven (G7) major democracies meeting in Italy next week will discuss the risk of fragmentation in global trade after “very tough” tariffs imposed by the United States against China, Italian Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the European Union must consider the benefits of trading with China as it mulls whether to follow the US’s lead by imposing import duties on electric vehicles. – Bloomberg

Tunku Varadarajan writes: He envisions a declaration by the regional body that “the Flemish Parliament and not the Belgian state has sovereignty over Flanders.” This would be followed by a call for negotiation toward an amicable divorce. What if the French side doesn’t negotiate? “We’ll do it on our own,” Mr. Van Griecken says. “That’s the way history works. It’s never ‘more Belgium.’ It’s always less Belgium. And I have no interest in saving Belgium.” – Wall Street Journal

Llana Fix and Zongyuan Zoe Liu write: While the current playbook seeks to maximize opportunities, the new playbook needs to prioritize economic risk management and resilience-building—especially with an unpredictable president in the United States—and limit China’s disruptive impact on Europe’s security with its support for Russia’s war. Europeans should start preparing now. – Foreign Policy


After 30 years of dominating South African politics, the ruling African National Congress will face its toughest election this month as most opinion polls predict it will lose its parliamentary majority for the first time. – Associated Press

Uganda is in talks with Chinese firm Sinohydro (SINOH.UL) Corporation Limited for the development of a $180 million power transmission line to allow Uganda to export power to energy-starved South Sudan, the president’s office said. – Reuters

A pamphlet issued by Hamas was handed out at the entrance to an event in Johannesburg criticizing Zionist Christianity, cohosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and an anti-Israel group named “South African Jews for a Free Palestine” – Jerusalem Post

The Americas

Hundreds of Kenyan police officers have been training since late last year to embark on the deployment of a lifetime: helping lead a multinational force tasked with quelling gang-fueled lawlessness in Haiti. – New York Times

A video released over the weekend of Colombian rebel commander Ivan Marquez, who had reportedly died last year, is real, defense minister Ivan Velasquez said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Argentina’s central bank cut the benchmark interest rate on Tuesday after inflation slowed for the fourth straight month and the annual rate crested just shy of 300% amid a tough austerity drive by libertarian President Javier Milei. – Reuters

Former Mexico City Mayor and ruling party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum held a comfortable, albeit slightly narrower lead over her closest rival ahead of the nation’s elections less than three weeks away, a poll showed on Tuesday. – Reuters

A video released over the weekend of Colombian rebel commander Ivan Marquez, who had reportedly died last year, is real, defense minister Ivan Velasquez said on Tuesday. – Reuters

United States

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled a bundle of steep tariff increases on an array of Chinese imports including electric vehicles, computer chips and medical products, risking an election-year standoff with Beijing in a bid to woo voters who give his economic policies low marks. – Reuters

A top U.S. official’s recent statement that Israel is unlikely to achieve “total victory” in Gaza wasn’t a mistake or off-the-cuff remark — it’s how the Biden administration now assesses the situation on the ground – Politico

Congress on Tuesday initiated a wide-ranging probe into 20 nonprofit groups bankrolling and supporting anti-Israel protests on college campuses across the nation and are petitioning federal authorities to turn over internal documents that could tie them to money laundering and terrorism financing, the Washington Free Beacon has learned. – Free Beacon

Editorial: He opposes Nippon Steel’s acquisition of U.S. Steel, though it would make the U.S. company more competitive. We could go on, as these columns have. The Biden tariffs are a classic example of how bad industrial policy is compounded by another bad policy in the name of fixing the first mistake. Thus Mr. Biden wants to use tariffs to raise the price of EVs that he wants everyone to buy. It’s bananas. – Wall Street Journal

Joseph Bosco writes: The West succumbing to the clever psychological warfare enabled the emergence of the powerful and aggressive Communist China that now menaces the Indo-Pacific and world peace. Fortunately, there is now broad bipartisan consensus on the nature of the threat. What is needed is a clear and unambiguous policy statement that any Chinese resort to force against Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan or any other American ally or security partner will be met with a decisive U.S. military response. Today’s Hitlers will pay attention. – The Hill

Paul J. Saunders writes: Tariffs and other steps to protect America’s domestic market might help U.S. manufacturers survive a tidal wave of imported products from China’s subsidized and over-developed manufacturing sector. What they cannot do alone is to make American products more competitive in other places.The National Interest


Two Chinese chipmakers are in the early stages of producing high bandwidth memory (HBM) semiconductors used in artificial intelligence chipsets, according to sources and documents. – Reuters

U.S. and British officials warned on Tuesday of a growing cyber threat from China, with the White House cyber director saying Beijing was capable of causing havoc in cyberspace and a UK spy agency chief warning of an “epoch-defining” challenge. – Reuters

In an advisory released on Tuesday, the FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned that nation-state hacking operations have set their sights on nongovernmental organizations, think tanks, human rights activists and journalists. Cybersecurity agencies in Japan, Estonia, Canada, the U.K., and Finland also contributed to the report.  – The Record

Nick Frisch and Dan Wang write: America is now committed to a long legal fight to ban TikTok. A potential defeat won’t look good, but victory may bear bitter fruit as well: the muddling of our values at home and a propaganda win for autocrats abroad. – New York Times

Rhiannon Neilsen writes: “Winning” a war in the 21st-century will not look the same if post-conflict justice processes are sullied with suspicion and war crimes perpetrators can evade prosecution. As Yurii Shchyhol, the head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine put it: “You need to understand that the cyber war will not end even after Ukraine wins on the battlefield.” Given this, the United States, Ukraine, and its allies need to be prepared to defend against malicious cyber attacks after atrocities. – War on the Rocks


An Army ammunition plant in southeast Oklahoma is being expanded to at least triple monthly production of the US’s biggest non-nuclear bomb, a weapon often invoked in debates about a potential attack on deeply buried nuclear facilities in Iran or North Korea. – Bloomberg

The Biden administration is working to send an additional Patriot air-defense battery to Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said, as the US and its allies scramble to meet the country’s demand for more weapons to repel an intensified Russian assault. – Bloomberg

A defense policy bill released this week by the House Armed Services Committee expresses concerns over the Navy’s aging cruisers, the cost and capability of a planned amphibious ship, development of capability to rearm vessels at sea, and more. – Defense News

William Greenwalt writes: The Navy needs to relearn that the profit motive and our national defense should go together. It allows our capitalist system to spur innovation in defense, leading to new platforms, new products, and new ways of doing business. Take profit out of the equation and you’d have a military with little innovation, unable to face threats today and badly underprepared for the conflicts of the future. – Breaking Defense

Long War

Gunmen wearing balaclavas ambushed a prison van in northern France on Tuesday to free a drug dealer known as “The Fly,” killing two prison guards, severely wounding three and triggering a major police manhunt. – Reuters

Two men accused of plotting to gun down Jews in an Islamic State-inspired attack in northwest England were held without bail Tuesday after appearing in a London court. – Associated Press

An Australian judge sentenced a former army lawyer to almost six years in prison on Tuesday for leaking to the media classified information that exposed allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. – Associated Press