Fdd's overnight brief

May 17, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to the Gaza war is frustrating almost everyone with a stake in the fight, including his allies. The U.S. wants at least a temporary cease-fire. Israeli security officials, including the defense minister, want a plan for who will rule postwar Gaza. And hostage families want their loved ones home. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. military said Thursday that its floating pier had been anchored to the Gaza shoreline with humanitarian deliveries to the war-ravaged territory to begin “within days,” but it remained unclear whether the United States or Israel has solidified an agreement to distribute the incoming food and other supplies for starving Palestinians. – Washington Post

Top Biden administration officials traveling to Israel this weekend are running out of chances to persuade the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt their vision of how to end the war in Gaza and bring lasting peace. – Washington Post

South Africa made a searing and impassioned plea Thursday for the International Court of Justice to order Israel to cease all military operations in the Gaza Strip, arguing that its assault on Rafah and closure of key crossings are aimed at destroying “the essential foundations of Palestinian life” there. – Washington Post

The Arab League called on Thursday for a United Nations peacekeeping force to be deployed in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank until a two-state solution can be negotiated, in a statement that also called for the U.N. Security Council to set a time limit for that political process. – New York Times

Israel said on Thursday that it would send more troops to Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, which has become the focal point in the war between Israel and Hamas. – New York Times

Shoshan Haran, her daughter and two grandchildren were taken hostage by Hamas militants in Israel on Oct. 7. On Thursday, Haran recalled the effects of 50 days in captivity on her three-year-old granddaughter when they were finally released. – Reuters

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday said Israel would abolish its free trade agreement with Turkey and also impose a 100% tariff on other imports from Turkey in retaliation for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to halt exports to Israel. – Reuters

Canada on Thursday imposed its first-ever sanctions on what the foreign ministry called “extremist” Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and said Ottawa was weighing additional measures to deter settler violence against Palestinians. – Reuters

Israel continues to evade efforts to reach a ceasefire in its war with Hamas in Gaza, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose country has mediated in the conflict, told Arab leaders at a summit in Manama on Thursday. – Reuters

Egypt has rejected an Israeli proposal for the two countries to coordinate to re-open the Rafah crossing between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, and to manage its future operation, two Egyptian security sources said. – Reuters

The Palestinian government has not received the financial support it had expected from international and regional partners, President Mahmoud Abbas said at an Arab League summit on Thursday. – Reuters

Israel will respond to charges of genocide at the United Nations’ top court on Friday, after South Africa filed an urgent request with the court to order a cease-fire in Gaza. – Associated Press

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah this week struck a military post in northern Israel using a drone that fired two missiles. The attack wounded three soldiers, one of them seriously, according to the Israeli military. – Associated Press

Israel renewed its water supply deal with Jordan for half a year on Thursday, despite the Jordanians’ request to extend it by five years. – Ynet

Editorial: The Netanyahu-Gallant feud is essentially a power struggle over policy surrounding this fundamental question: Who will rule Gaza after the war? This time, the prime minister might take a cue from how the military deals with such things: Gallant should be reprimanded, but his essential point – spelling out what Israel’s endgame is – must be addressed. – Jerusalem Post

Megan K. Stack writes: As long as Palestinians are trapped under violent military occupation, deprived of basic rights and told that they must accept their lot as inherently lower beings, Israelis will live under the threat of uprisings, reprisals and terrorism. There is no wall thick enough to suppress forever a people who have nothing to lose. Israelis did not, by and large, take that lesson. Now apathy has been replaced by vengeance. – New York Times

Hanin Ghaddar writes: It may therefore be useful to shake up this reassurance a bit by signaling that Israel would have full U.S. support if diplomacy fails, however undesirable the resultant conflict may be. If such warnings prove credible, Hezbollah may calculate that the risk is too great and scale back its near-term escalation accordingly. Indeed, the old Roman adage applies once again: if the Biden administration wants peace, it should prepare for war. – Washington Institute

Nimrod Goren writes: Liberal governance at the municipal level can additionally enhance the political infrastructure that pro-democracy parties will have at their disposal in the next general elections. It can assist in campaigning, voter mobilization, and get-out-the-vote efforts. As chances for early elections in Israel are on the rise, these opportunities may be put to the test in the coming months. – Middle East Institute 

Iran

Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday called on Arab states to confront what the U.S. ally has called an alarming rise in incursions of drugs and weapons smugglers linked to Iranian militias operating in southern Syria. – Reuters

Iran’s interior minister has raised an outcry not only for approving the violent arrest of a woman for hijab violation but also claiming that catching the woman in a blanket, was “according to protocols”. – Iran International News

Hassan Rouhani has accused the Khamenei-appointed Guardian Council of undermining democracy and diminishing the people’s role in elections by vetoing candidates with disapproved political views. – Iran International News

Banafsheh Keynoush writes: The OIC is taking a public stance when the UN fails to adopt strong resolutions to bring about an end to the conflict in Gaza, holding ministerial-level committee meetings to address developments there, serving as a media observatory, and facilitating humanitarian assistance for the embattled coastal strip. But beyond these important diplomatic measures, it is unclear how much sway the OIC really has over the future trajectory of the Iranian-Saudi relationship. – Middle East Institute 

Kylie Moore-Gilbert writes: As a result, Iran will likely throw more innocent people in prison; it will bungle more overseas operations; and ultra-hard-liners in its security establishment will double down on repressing a population that despises them. Such authoritarian tactics have already benefited Iran’s enemies and will continue to do so, offering Israel the upper hand in the covert war of espionage within Iran’s borders and abroad. – The Atlantic

Russia & Ukraine

In Ukraine’s second-largest city, excavators are tearing up earth to build new defenses. Gas station workers are piling sandbags around their pumps. Trucks transporting tanks and other military equipment line the roads heading north. – Wall Street Journal

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine traveled to the embattled region of Kharkiv on Thursday, meeting with top commanders as their forces fought to slow a new offensive push in the northeast while facing fierce assaults elsewhere on the front line. – New York Times

Russia said on Thursday it was expelling the British defence attache and promised further, unspecified retaliation after Britain threw out his Russian counterpart last week. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned a British embassy representative to inform them of the move. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund will start a new Ukraine mission in coming weeks to assess the war-torn country’s $15.6 billion loan program and latest economic developments there amid stepped up Russian military pressure, IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack said on Thursday. – Reuters

NATO’s top commander said on Thursday he did not believe Russia’s military has deployed enough troops to make a strategic breakthrough in the region around Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine. – Reuters

The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament warned that Ukraine was dragging the United States and Europe into a major global war and on Thursday urged Western leaders to act responsibly to avoid a catastrophe. – Reuters

Andrei Kolesnikov writes: And they were punished by the regime in very different ways. But each became in his own era a moral authority for the thinking part of Russian society. And they have helped ensure that public opinion, however eviscerated, continues to exist, despite all attempts by the regime to gobble it up. – Foreign Affairs

Middle East & North Africa

A Turkish court sentenced former pro-Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtas to more than 40 years in jail on Thursday for instigating protests in 2014 triggered by an Islamic State attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. – Reuters

Turkey and the World Bank signed an agreement for $1 billion program to support renewable energy expansion efforts, the bank said on Thursday. – Reuters

All ships heading to Israeli ports will be targeted by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis and not just in the Red Sea region, the group’s leaded Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday. – Reuters

Several members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, on Thursday backed Baghdad’s request for the world body’s political mission in Iraq to shut down by next year — but Washington did not immediately offer its support. – Agence France-Presse

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday denounced foreign “interference” following international criticism of a recent flurry of arrests of political commentators, lawyers and journalists in the North African country. – Agence France-Presse

Korean Peninsula

The United States announced sanctions on Thursday on two Russian individuals and three Russian companies for facilitating arms transfers between Russia and North Korea, including ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine. – Reuters

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, again denied arms exchanges with Russia, state media KCNA reported on Friday, saying her nation’s recently developed and updated weapons systems were not for sale to any other countries. – Reuters

South Korea’s finance minister on Thursday said Seoul and Beijing should seek better economic cooperation on the supply chain for raw materials. – Reuters

China

With his army making advances in Ukraine and his political grip tightened at home after securing an unprecedented fifth term as president, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia arrived in Beijing on Thursday in search of another win: more support from his “dear friend,” Xi Jinping. – New York Times

The European Commission has launched an investigation into flat-rolled products of iron or steel plated or coated with tin from China to assess whether imports into the European Union are sold at excessively low prices. – Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with China’s defense minister during a conference in Singapore later this month, a U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters

After sealing pledges of a “new era” of strategic partnership with China’s Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday is set to highlight the growing importance of trade near the Russian border in China’s northeast. – Reuters

China’s strong economy and diverse trade partners will help mitigate the impact of additional US tariffs, according to a spokesperson for the nation’s statistics bureau. – Bloomberg

Editorial: And such programs should also produce positive spillover effects — accelerating investments in technologies like solar and wind power, energy storage and carbon capture. Politically, Mr. Biden’s new tariff war with China might be a winner. But forcing consumers, via tariffs, to subsidize domestic clean energy companies that are far from the cutting edge of technology is an economic and environmental loser. – Washington Post

Minxin Pei writes For his part, Lai must resist the temptation to test the limits of China’s tolerance. A sober and non-confrontational speech on Monday won’t solve all his problems with Beijing. A fiery, defiant stance, though, could make an already fraught situation even more unstable. – Bloomberg

Sadek Wahba writes: Common-sense free trade has worked, while import substitution policies have always failed. China will not collapse like the former Soviet Union, an artificial construct that was bound to disappear. It is time to step back from the brink, stop talking about a new Cold War (or a hot one) and establish a true engagement policy. – The Hill

Ben Dubow writes: Meanwhile, Putin has promised to devote his current chairmanship of the BRICS grouping to develop a framework for AI opposed to the West, which, given the state of member countries’ technology, means one developed by and for China. And yet even Putin must be aware that when dealing with China, whose national output is 10 times greater than Russia’s, the likelihood is that it will become not a partner but a vassal. – Center for European Policy Analysis

South Asia

India’s steel industry, already reeling from cheaper imports, is worried about a surge in shipments from China after the United States imposed tariffs on Chinese steel, industry executives and analysts said. – Reuters

Sri Lanka will dispatch a high-level delegation to Russia to investigate the fate of hundreds of nationals reportedly fighting in the war in Ukraine, a top official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared before the Supreme Court by video link from prison on Thursday to plead his petition against changes in Pakistan’s anti-graft laws. – Reuters

Asia

France is rushing security reinforcements to its overseas territory of New Caledonia, a crucial foothold for Paris in the Indo-Pacific, after days of violent riots that have led to the deaths of at least five people and raised difficult questions over the archipelago’s future and France’s broader role in the region. – Wall Street Journal

Singapore’s first prime minister in 20 years held an initial cabinet meeting on Thursday after taking office with a pledge to sustain what he called the miracle of the wealthy city state amid an uncertain global environment. – Reuters

A Philippine group leading a civilian supply mission in the South China Sea delivered food and fuel to Filipino fishermen despite being shadowed by Chinese vessels, its officials said on Thursday, calling it a “major victory”. – Reuters

Vietnam forfeited at least $2.5 billion in foreign aid over the last three years and may lose another $1 billion because of administrative paralysis, the United Nations, the World Bank and Western donors told the government in a letter seen by Reuters. – Reuters

Whether it’s tapioca balls or computer chips, Taiwan is stretching toward the United States and away from China — the world’s No. 2 economy that threatens to take the democratically ruled island by force if necessary. – Associated Press

Cambodia and China began 15-day military exercises on Thursday as questions grow about Beijing’s increasing influence in the Southeast Asian nation. – Associated Press

A controversial media bill passed this week by Georgia’s parliament is “unacceptable” and will be vetoed, President Salome Zourabichvili said Thursday, reaffirming her opposition to a measure that critics describe as a threat to free speech. – Associated Press

Human Rights Watch urged the Thai government to stop forcing political dissidents who fled to Thailand for safety to return to their home countries, where they may face torture, persecution or death. – Associated Press

Europe

To the government that charged him, he was a “lone wolf,” an off-kilter individual representing nobody but himself when he pumped at least four bullets into Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia. – New York Times

Spain has refused permission for an Israel-bound ship carrying arms to call at the southeastern port of Cartagena, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Thursday. – Reuters

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven major democracies meeting in Italy next week will back a European Union plan to use the income from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine’s war effort, an Italian Treasury official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Greece’s prime minister reiterated on Thursday his intention to thwart North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU after its newly elected president referred to her country as “Macedonia”, reigniting a dispute with Athens over the name. – Reuters

Authorities in Belarus on Thursday announced raids and the seizure of property belonging to 104 opposition activists who have fled the country, the latest step in a crackdown on dissent that has continued unabated for nearly four years. – Associated Press

German authorities said they’ve launched an investigation into a member of the lower house of parliament for the far-right Alternative for Germany party suspected of corruption and money laundering. – Bloomberg

James Thomson writes: Such leaks, along with the rapid politicization of the attack, suggest calls for calm will struggle to gain traction. Some passersby in Handlová, where Fico and his party enjoy broad support, immediately harangued journalists for covering the shooting. Slovak newsrooms have since received warnings from police, citing a perceived threat, to review the location and visibility of their reporters. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Africa

The Biden administration and the Democratic Republic of Congo have proposed a plan to reduce sanctions on an Israeli mining magnate accused of corruption in exchange for his permanent exit from the African country. – Wall Street Journal

Kenyan lawyers and their opposition party have asked a court to hold the government in contempt for a planned police deployment to Haiti, their filing to the court showed. – Reuters

Senegal’s prime minister Ousmane Sonko raised the possibility of closing French military bases in the West African country on Thursday in a wide-ranging speech that also touched on the euro-backed CFA franc currency, oil and gas deals and LGBTQ rights. – Reuters

Chad’s constitutional council confirmed Mahamat Idriss Deby as winner of the May 6 presidential election on Thursday after dismissing challenges by two losing candidates – cementing a victory that extended his family’s decades-long rule. – Reuters

The government of South Sudan and rebel opposition groups on Thursday signed a “commitment declaration” for peace during high-level mediation talks in Kenya, described as key step in efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan that has long crippled its economy. – Associated Press

Ethiopia lodged a complaint Thursday over statements by the U.S. ambassador after he said the release of political prisoners could help the country engage in a productive dialogue and that detaining critics won’t resolve the country’s issues. – Associated Press

Mesfin Tegenu writes: It can work with responsible religious and humanitarian groups to accelerate food shipments to Amhara, Afar, Tigray and other famine-stricken areas. For too long, Ethiopian mothers have sent their sons off to fight and die in senseless civil wars. This time, America must not be a spectator. Ethiopia needs U.S. support to become a bulwark for democracy in a troubled region. – The Hill

The Americas

A water dispute between the United States and Mexico that goes back decades is turning increasingly urgent in Texas communities that rely on the Rio Grande. Their leaders are now demanding the Mexican government either share water or face cuts in U.S. aid. – Washington Post

Panama’s next government is considering erecting new checkpoints along a stretch of thick jungle on its southern border that has become a treacherous part of the journey for growing masses of U.S.-bound migrants, the incoming security chief said on Thursday. – Reuters

Venezuela will not grant safe passage to leave the country to six opposition aides who have taken refuge in the Argentine embassy in Caracas, a ruling party official said late on Wednesday. – Reuters

As soaring violence and political turmoil grip neighboring Haiti, the Dominican Republic will hold elections Sunday that have been defined by calls for more crackdowns on migrants and finishing a border wall dividing the countries. – Associated Press

United States

The U.S. will block imports from dozens of Chinese textile companies over their alleged ties to forced labor, a move that follows U.S. industry complaints about unfair competition. – Wall Street Journal

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would force President Joe Biden to send weapons to Israel, seeking to rebuke the Democrat for delaying bomb shipments as he urges Israel to do more to protect civilians during its war with Hamas. – Reuters

The U.S. would be better served by maintaining its open trade system rather than imposing new punitive duties on Chinese goods, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday, adding that Washington and Beijing should work together to resolve their trade tensions. – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser on Thursday offered a forceful defense of new tariffs on Chinese imports, calling them necessary to avoid economic turbulence from unfair trade practices that threaten to undo recent manufacturing and job gains. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Mr. Putin is doubling down on his war aims and turning for help everywhere from Iran to North Korea. Mr. Xi’s involvement underscores that the war is about a consolidating anti-American axis, not merely Ukraine. Congress granted Mr. Biden his military aid request. If his limits on Ukraine now lead to a Russian victory, he won’t be able to roll out his usual routine of blaming MAGA Republicans. Americans will know where the buck stops. – Wall Street Journal

Ro Khanna writes: A whole new generation, with differing historical and cultural perspectives, is on the cusp of serving and leading — together. That is a beautiful expression of American democracy, and one that might well enable us to build an America that can lead the way to justice and peace for all people. – Washington Post

K. Hassan Tyler writes: While it is certainly understandable that the Biden administration wishes to reestablish the bilateral services agreement with China, which would help connect the two countries and serve to ease trade tensions, there is a better way to do so. There is a path forward that does not cede business and revenue to China — to the detriment of U.S. businesses and workers. – The Hill

Cybersecurity

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday announced the arrests of an American woman and a Ukrainian man they say helped North Korea-linked IT workers posing as Americans to obtain remote-work jobs at hundreds of U.S. companies. – Reuters

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) announced during the CyberUK conference in Birmingham this week that it had developed new guidance with the insurance industry about how ransomware victims should respond to incidents. – The Record

Members of Congress expressed concern Thursday about New York City’s plan to use Chinese-made drones to assist police responding to gunfire in five high-crime precincts. – The Record

Defense

A U.S. Navy strike group’s flagship aircraft carrier left its Japanese home port on Thursday, wrapping up nearly nine years of deployment in the Indo-Pacific, where it served a key role in the U.S. effort to bolster defense ties with Japan and other partners in the region. – Associated Press

America and its Pacific partners are building a network of land forces to deter those who would threaten regional stability, but there are four building blocks to make this joint effort a success, according to the head of U.S. Army forces in the area. – Defense News

The Navy’s top acquisition official told lawmakers this week his service has three projects — including one from the Marine Corps — involved in Replicator, a Pentagon effort to quickly field large numbers of uncrewed systems. – Defense News

The U.S. Navy plans to use the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise as a new testing ground for the cutting-edge network technologies that have been developed for a highly classified effort known as Project Overmatch. – DefenseScoop

The Army has drafted and presented new concepts of operations for its slew of electronic warfare equipment to senior leaders. – DefenseScoop