Fdd's overnight brief

May 2, 2024

In The News


Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Israel to press for a temporary cease-fire deal in the Gaza Strip that the Biden administration hopes could develop into a more-durable peace, and stressed its concerns about a possible Israeli offensive in the town of Rafah. – Wall Street Journal

Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced Wednesday that his government will suspend diplomatic relations with Israel, its longtime defense ally, making Colombia the largest country to sever ties amid the war in Gaza. – Washington Post 

Israeli government lawyers defended the secret detention of Palestinians from Gaza before the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that the state is not required to disclose where it has held potentially thousands of detainees apprehended during the war. – Washington Post

Thousands of miles away from the campus protests that have divided Americans, some displaced Palestinians are expressing solidarity with the antiwar demonstrators and gratitude for their efforts. – New York Times

Tank fire echoed from the Gaza strip on Wednesday as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited an aid inspection point, where he heard from Israeli officials including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant about efforts to increase assistance to the Palestinian enclave just a few hundred meters away. – Reuters

Israel’s state auditor on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the armed forces to cooperate with an official investigation into how Hamas was able to stage the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war. – Reuters

Israel reopened the sole crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, allowing aid trucks to pass through the Erez checkpoint following U.S. demands to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis. – Reuters

Jordan’s foreign ministry said some Israeli settlers attacked two of its humanitarian aid convoys as they made their way toward the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. – Reuters

The United States military has so far constructed over 50% of a maritime pier that will eventually be placed off the coast of Gaza to speed the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan signaled on Wednesday in an interview with the Hezbollah-backed Lebanese channel “Al-Manar”, that “if the enemy launches an aggressive ground operation in Rafah – the negotiations will be stopped because the resistance does not negotiate under fire,” as reported in Israeli media. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas on Wednesday night appeared poised to reject the latest hostage deal proposal crafted by mediators and green-lit by Israel. Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official based in Lebanon, told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV, “Our position on the current negotiating paper is negative.” – Times of Israel

Nearly all of the army’s posts along the border with the Gaza Strip failed a routine inspection carried out just three days before Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday. – Times of Israel

Eugene Kontorovich writes: The ICC is more a political institution than a judicial one. Charges against Israeli officials would appease the ICC’s internal critics who want it to prosecute Western leaders—not merely the African dictators and warlords it has tried so far. Unlike African countries, Israel can’t quit the court in protest because it never joined. The idea of international criminal justice arose out of the Holocaust and could end up making the Jews into the perfect scapegoat. – Wall Street Journal

Andreas Kluth writes: Washington can keep invoking the rule of law selectively to suit itself and allies such as Israel, at the cost of alienating more countries and people abroad. Or it can reassert the leadership role it assumed in the 1940s. That would mean refining the laws of war to fit new circumstances, and then sticking to the rules like everybody else. A great first step would be to sign the Statute of Rome; to recognize the International Criminal Court even when it hurts; and then to trust that everybody, friend or foe, gets a fair trial, leading to a verdict that stands. – Bloomberg

Tom Rogan writes: Within the expanding cordons, Israeli ground forces will be able to conduct methodical sweeps to detain or kill Hamas fighters. Receiving new intelligence, Israeli special forces will also be able to launch rapid hostage rescue operations and capture-kill raids against Hamas leaders. The key, then, is armor before air power. But Israel has no choice but to go into Rafah. – Washington Examiner

Georgette Bennett writes: In addition, solar power and Israeli technology that converts moisture in the air to clean water, and technology that converts wastewater to irrigation for agriculture, can assure a continuous supply of clean water and food to Gazans. It is urgent to take action to shift the plight of Palestinians in Gaza from stagnation, frustration and hopelessness to resettlement, absorption and rebuilding. The U.N. and donor nations can and must take steps to revise UNRWA’s mission and restructure its operations. – The Hill

Hadas Lorber writes: These will allow Washington to better leverage global resources and capabilities, but more importantly (and perhaps primarily), help counter Chinese technological dominance worldwide and prevent technology transfer to Beijing. For Israel, the opportunity arises to deepen strategic cooperation with its most important ally and with other partner countries, including in the region, facing environmental challenges and in need of breakthrough technologies to find solutions. – Jerusalem Post


Iranian prosecutors filed criminal charges on Wednesday targeting activists and journalists following a BBC report that alleged security forces had “sexually assaulted and killed” a 16-year-old girl during protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022. – Associated Press

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that efforts underway to forge a normalization of ties between Israel and Arab countries will not resolve the crisis in the Middle East. – Times of Israel

Alex Vatanka writes: If nothing else, regional tensions, particularly between the Iranians and the Israelis, are considerably higher today than they were back in 2015, and the war in Gaza will keep the region on a boil as long as it continues. On the positive side, all the major powers involved, including Iran, Israel, and the United States, have demonstrated a deep reluctance to escalate to a broader conflict. If there is a silver lining in the latest Iran-Israel cycle of retaliation, it is that it has provided an opportunity for introspection at a critical time. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

On the front lines of Russia’s bloody war, Ukrainian troops are killed and wounded daily, scarring and maiming a generation of young people. Many, like Kozachok, voluntarily joined the military in the first days of the invasion in 2022. – Washington Post

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced nearly 300 new sanctions on international suppliers of military equipment technology that the administration said have been helping Russia restock its arsenal as it carries out the war in Ukraine. – New York Times

A Russian ballistic missile struck a postal depot in the Ukrainian port of Odesa late on Wednesday, injuring 14 people and triggering a large fire, Regional Governor Oleh Kiper said. It was the third missile attack on the city in as many days. – Reuters

The United States on Wednesday accused Russia of violating the international chemical weapons ban by deploying the choking agent chloropicrin against Ukrainian troops and using riot control agents “as a method of warfare” in Ukraine. – Reuters

The United States, Britain and the European Union are pressing the United Arab Emirates to show it is cracking down on firms evading sanctions imposed on Russia over the war in Ukraine, according to three sources aware of the diplomatic outreach. – Reuters

Russia attacked the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine with guided bombs on Wednesday, killing at least two people and wounding two others, the regional governor said. – Reuters

Russia has circulated a U.N. resolution calling on all countries to take urgent action to prevent putting weapons in outer space “for all time” a week after it vetoed a U.S.-Japan resolution to stop an arms race in space. – Associated Press

As many as a million Russians fled abroad in the first year of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Now thousands are returning home, delivering a propaganda victory to President Vladimir Putin and a boost to his war economy. – Bloomberg

The head of the cybersecurity department at Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), Illia Vitiuk, has been formally dismissed from his post following an investigation into his personal finances. – The Record

Jack Watling writes:  If Ukraine manages to protract the conflict and the war is terminated in its favor, its partners will need munitions to bolster the credibility of their security guarantees. If, on the other hand, Russia achieves its objectives, then these munitions will be needed to underwrite the future security of NATO. The U.S. military aid package was passed just in time to stave off a Ukrainian collapse. But to truly shift the direction of the war, it will need to be accompanied by a far more comprehensive strategy to successfully end it. – Foreign Affairs


Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Wednesday that Turkey would join in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). – Reuters

Turkish police detained 217 people on Wednesday, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said, after tear gas and rubber bullets were used to stop the protesters reaching Taksim Square, the traditional focal point of May Day rallies in Istanbul. – Reuters

Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu’s comments, which labeled Hamas a terrorist organization, are an attempt to appear presidential ahead of a potential run for office in 2028, analysts told The Media Line. – Jerusalem Post


Israel’s military chief of staff said on Wednesday that the offensive operation in Gaza “will continue with strength” and that Israel was “preparing for an offensive in the north”. – Reuters

Israel Air Force jets struck Hezbollah military buildings and terror infrastructure in the Ayta ash Shab and Marwahin areas in southern Lebanon, the military said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Israel is ready to discuss “border corrections” in the conflict with Lebanon as part of the understandings that are emerging in the efforts to prevent a war against Hezbollah, Kan 11 News reported on Wednesday. – Arutz Sheva

Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to free a 29-year-old fitness instructor it says has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for her choice of clothing and social media posts urging an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system. – Reuters

A Democratic U.S. senator on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to include strict nonproliferation safeguards in any nuclear power deal with Saudi Arabia that might come as part of a potential normalization of relations agreement brokered by Washington between the kingdom and Israel. – Reuters

The US and Saudi Arabia are nearing a historic pact that would offer the kingdom security guarantees and lay out a possible pathway to diplomatic ties with Israel if its government brings the war in the Gaza Strip to an end, people familiar with the matter said. – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia has stepped up the arrest of citizens for social-media posts related to the Israel-Hamas war as the kingdom signals a readiness to agree to diplomatic relations with the Jewish state — if it commits to Palestinian statehood. – Bloomberg

Andreas Kluth writes: But the prospect of a US-Saudi pact would apply a powerful strategic vice to Netanyahu or any Israeli leader: Stay out of the entente — by invading Rafah and rejecting a two-state solution — and Israel will be isolated, while Washington and its Arab allies refocus their combined energies against Iran. Join the deal, and Israel will become part of a new regional architecture that will contain Iran while also building a Palestinian state and genuine security for Israel. Biden and MBS should press on with their plan; and Bibi should be grateful. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A Syrian man and an aid organisation have accused Russia of violating international law by deliberately bombing a hospital in northern Syria in 2019, in a new complaint filed at the United Nations Human Rights Committee this week. – Reuters

Houthi control over areas with submarine communication cables raises fears of potential cyber warfare that could disrupt global internet connectivity amid escalating military operations in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait, posing significant threats to international trade and security in these waters. – Jerusalem Post

David Wilezol writes: For now, Americans should be grateful that a country which receives billions in American aid is resisting Iranian imperialism, defending our ally Israel, and strengthening momentum for regional security cooperation. When it comes to Jordan, what Americans are really spending money on is courage. – The Hill


Frustrations with Beijing’s autocratic political system, which flared during abrupt pandemic-era lockdowns and have only grown since then, have helped drive the wave, according to real-estate agents and others watching the exodus. China’s economic slowdown and its struggling stock market are also motivating wealthy people to leave the country, they say. – Wall Street Journal

Beijing’s state-controlled propaganda units are forging ties with Chinese tech companies, including the sister company of popular e-commerce firm Temu, in what researchers say is likely a coordinated effort to gather targeted data on foreign users that can be used to bolster misinformation campaigns and other state propaganda work abroad. – Washington Post

A majority of Americans believe that China uses TikTok to shape U.S. public opinion, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted as Washington moves closer to potentially banning the Chinese-owned short-video app. – Reuters

Robert A. Manning writes: A trend of mutual demonization and deepening distrust stalks efforts to stabilize the relationship, largely due to Beijing’s overreach and Washington’s overreaction. U.S. fears notwithstanding, there is a large gap between China’s ambitions and reality. Similarly, grasping the limits of U.S. power would be a big help in getting our China policy right. – The Hill

South Asia

Investors do not expect India’s national elections to spark major volatility in the country’s stock market, unlike prior occasions, based on the low cost of insuring against a slide if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not win a third straight term. – Reuters

Bollywood stars seldom weigh in on politics, so videos showing two celebrities criticizing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — and endorsing his main opposition, the Congress party — were bound to go viral. – Associated Press

Mihir Sharma writes: But a world where young people rely on YouTube’s or Instagram’s algorithms carries its own dangers. Both, in India, have been slow to crack down on hate speech, and our public and political culture is being warped towards radicalism and violence by what young people watch online. These lessons may not be exactly applicable to the US — American platforms are, after all, more likely to be careful about the laws and norms of their home jurisdiction. – Bloomberg



Asia’s factory activity weakened slightly in April, with output growth cooling and employment dropping in a sign of fragile confidence among manufacturers. – Wall Street Journal

The Solomon Islands, the Pacific country most friendly to Beijing, looks set to deepen its strong ties with China following Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele’s elevation to prime minister on Thursday. – Washington Post

Ishmael Toroama was introduced to two members of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party as the president of Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific. But his previous occupation was evident in the arm that hung limply at his left side as he shook the lawmakers’ hands. – Washington Post

The Philippines summoned a Chinese diplomat on Thursday to protest Beijing’s use of water cannon against Filipino vessels at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, describing it as harassment and “dangerous manoeuvres”. – Reuters

The World Bank has urged the largest Pacific Island nation, Papua New Guinea, to address a “human capital crisis” and invest more in educating children, who suffer high rates of stunted growth and illiteracy, as a way to boost economic growth and security. – Reuters

Georgia’s parliament on Wednesday approved the second reading of a bill on “foreign agents” that has been criticised as Kremlin-inspired, as police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear a large crowd of protesters opposed to the draft law. – Reuters

David Flickling writes: Even Australia is now heading toward a 2038 coal phaseout. When that happens, Japan will find itself — alongside its neighbors Taiwan and South Korea — as one of the only rich countries still burning the dirtiest fuel. That commitment is impoverishing its people, risking its security and damaging the climate. It’s not too late to change course. – Bloomberg

Ariel Cohen and Wesley Alexander Hill write: The next administration would do well to propose a full-fledged Pacific Security Alliance, with Asian members carrying full economic and personnel burden-sharing. The future Asian security organization should be supported by U.S. global-reach aerial transportation and intelligence capabilities, naval operational prowess and space-based reconnaissance capabilities. But unlike NATO members, which for decades relied on America’s security muscle, there should be no security free-loading. – The Hill

Paul Staniland writes: U.S. policymakers must become more comfortable with ambiguity, focusing on what the United States and its partners can best offer in a particular setting, regardless of China’s influence. Washington will be most effective when it approaches Asia’s swing states as they are: complicated and autonomous countries, not pieces on a chessboard maneuvered by Beijing and Washington. Most Asian countries have many needs. Even if they choose to engage with China in one arena, the United States and its partners can advance their strategic goals in others. – Foreign Affairs


The city council of Narva sits just a few steps from the border crossing with Russia, on a square named after Russian Emperor Peter the Great. Almost everyone here in Estonia’s third-largest city speaks Russian as a mother tongue, and one out of three residents hold Russian rather than Estonian citizenship. – Wall Street Journal

Early this year, a top European Union official made an eye-catching proposal: A €100 billion public fund that would curb Europe’s reliance on U.S. defense manufacturers, who make nearly two-thirds of Europe’s military hardware. – Wall Street Journal

Demands for wage hikes, chants for Gaza and a smattering of calls to extinguish the Olympics flame echoed in the streets of Paris on Wednesday, as traditional May Day labor rights marches melded with pro-Palestinian protests and anti-Olympics sentiment. – Washington Post

The oil terminal’s piers stretch just a few score yards into the Black Sea from the Bulgarian coast. For 25 years, the Russian crude they received fed a sprawling network of economic and political influence that helped keep Bulgaria tethered tightly to the Kremlin. – New York Times

Warsaw authorities detained a teen-ager on Wednesday after a historic synagogue in Poland’s capital was hit by a bottle containing a flammable substance, police said, in an incident that prompted condemnation from Polish political leaders. – Reuters

Slovakia has given temporary protection to a Ukrainian and Israeli citizen who is accused of running a pro-Russian influence campaign via a news website and is under Czech sanctions, Czech media reported. – Reuters

The Scottish government survived a vote of no confidence on Wednesday, giving the Scottish National Party (SNP) a chance to pick a new leader to replace outgoing First Minister Humza Yousaf. – Reuters

A British police officer has been charged with a terrorism offence for allegedly publishing an image in support of Hamas, a group banned in Britain as a terrorist organisation, police said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Daniel Trilling writes: The government has also banned refugees who enter Britain without permission from ever claiming asylum here, putting tens of thousands of people who are already here in legal limbo, many of whom are already on the edge of destitution. According to polling last week, 41 percent of Britons support the Rwanda policy in principle, but 50 percent think it’s unlikely anyone will actually be deported there. The British public’s reaction to seeing people actually rounded up and put on flights may not be the reaction Mr. Sunak is counting on. – New York Times

Lionel Laurent writes: All of this means worrying about stagnation first, and debt second. “We need to abandon the idea that debt is just a burden passed on to future generations,” Francesco Giavazzi, a former advisor to Mario Draghi, wrote last month. He’s right: A Europe that is geopolitically viable and growing at the technological frontier would be an asset to future generations, not a liability. Getting there will need more than a few Marie Curies — and maybe a lighter Swabian touch. – Bloomberg

Emil Avdaliani writes: Georgia is approaching a crossroads. Maintaining good ties with the EU and Russia is increasingly difficult given the bloc’s requirements for growing openness and transparency. The protesters are determined that the current route should end in Brussels, and not in Moscow. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Michael Sheridan writes: Orbán’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, recently told the Global Times: “I think everyone knows deep in his or her heart that China offers a huge chance, but many of them are simply not brave enough to speak about it openly, because the expectation of the liberal mainstream is totally different.” It is China’s fond expectation that the “liberal mainstream” will lose out to right-wing populists when European voters elect a new parliament in June. That alone would be a “win-win” for Xi’s spring campaign. – Center for European Policy Analysis


Floods and landslides across Kenya have killed 181 people since March, with hundreds of thousands forced to leave their homes, the government and Red Cross said on Wednesday, as dozens more were killed in neighbouring Tanzania and Burundi. – Reuters

British authorities have started to detain migrants in preparation for them to be sent to Rwanda in the next nine to 11 weeks, the government said on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s flagship immigration policy. – Reuters

The U.S. military plans to return to Chad within a month for talks about revising an agreement that allows it to keep troops based there, an American general said Wednesday. – Associated Press

The Americas

Ecuador accused Mexico before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of blatant interference in Ecuadorian internal affairs on Wednesday after Mexico brought a case against Quito saying it violated international law. – Reuters

Tens of thousands of people marched in Colombia’s biggest cities on Wednesday to support reforms proposed by President Gustavo Petro which he says will tackle inequality, but which have struggled to win congressional approval. – Reuters

Venezuela will increase workers’ monthly income by 30% as Nicolás Maduro seeks to bolster support ahead of presidential elections in July. – Bloomberg

North America

Canadian legislators on Wednesday agreed to hold hearings into how major aerospace companies were granted exemptions from the country’s sanctions on Russian titanium. – Reuters

Thousands of railway workers in Canada at Canadian National Railway (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) have voted overwhelmingly to strike as early as May 22, the union said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A surprise announcement that revealed Haiti’s new prime minister is threatening to fracture a recently installed transitional council tasked with choosing new leaders for the gang-riddled Caribbean country. – Associated Press

United States

House Republicans are seeking to unite their unruly majority around an evergreen conservative cause, devising a strict response to the wave of pro-Palestinian protests that have roiled college campuses across the country in recent weeks. – Washington Post

The Federal Communications Commission is moving to prevent Huawei, ZTE, and other foreign companies deemed to pose U.S. national security concerns from certifying wireless equipment, officials told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that “xenophobia” from China to Japan and India is hobbling their growth, as he argued that migration has been good for the U.S. economy. – Reuters

Police in riot gear massed on the UCLA campus and ordered a large group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators inside a fortified encampment to leave the area or face arrest late Wednesday, one night after violence instigated by counter-protesters erupted in the same place. – Associated Press

Editorial: Those joining the mob on the quad may cover their faces with keffiyehs to hide their identity from potential employers, but violating rules after a warning warrants expulsion, not merely slap-on-the-wrist suspensions. White House Spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre has said that antisemitism on campus is unacceptable, but where is President Biden? His moral equivocation on Israel has the protesters thinking they can change his policies. The protests are a running campaign ad for Donald Trump. – Wall Street Journal

Nicholas Kristof writes: Those students returning at the end of the summer would have a much deeper understanding of the issues and how to help. It would be life-changing, an education as rich as any you’re getting on campus. It would also be activism that isn’t performative but that can actually help Palestinians live better and safer lives. – New York Times

James Bacchus writes:  Without American leadership, the WTO will persist but will be unable to accomplish much more toward freeing and thereby enhancing the flow of world trade multilaterally through modernization of its rules for the 21st century. And the world will be worse off because of it. Sadly, the Biden administration seems at best indifferent toward the trade goals that Americans have long supported. – The Hill


Microsoft will invest $2.2 billion in cloud and artificial-intelligence infrastructure in Malaysia, coming on the heels of fresh spending plans in Indonesia and Thailand as the U.S. tech giant gears up for rising AI computing demand in Southeast Asia. – Wall Street Journal

A senior U.S. official on Thursday urged China and Russia to match declarations by the United States and others that only humans, and never artificial intelligence, would make decisions on deploying nuclear weapons. – Reuters

A Ukrainian man was sentenced to 13 years and seven months in prison on Wednesday after for his role in conducting over 2,500 ransomware attacks and demanding over $700 million in ransom payments, the U.S. Department of Justice said. – Reuters

After warning that a substantial portion of Americans’ data was compromised by a February ransomware attack on Change Healthcare, Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, told lawmakers Wednesday that current and former U.S. military personnel are among those who were likely impacted. – Cyberscoop

A draft rule for cyber incident reporting asks far too much of critical infrastructure entities and of the agency tasked with carrying out the law, trade groups representing the electric, telecommunications and finance sectors said during a House hearing Wednesday. – Cyberscoop


The V-22 program office is studying the future of the tiltrotor aircraft, weighing both a technology refresh as well as whether it could rip off the wings and nacelles to add decades of additional life to the airframes. – Defense News

House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are pushing back against the Pentagon’s proposal to fund the procurement of just one Virginia-class attack submarine in fiscal 2025 instead of two. – Defense News

The Space Force’s top acquisition official wants authority to effectively blacklist underperforming defense contractors — an ability that now resides with the military official who leads the service’s purchasing field command. – Defense News

James Stavridis writes: The plan would also involve cooperation on procurement and technology transfers of cutting-edge naval systems — everything from the nuclear submarines of the AUKUS deal to maritime aviation, surface drones and possibly underwater unmanned systems. The Chinese, when operating in their figurative backyard, pose a formidable naval challenge to the US and its Pacific allies, partners and friends. Standing up to them and deterring further aggression is a team sport. – Bloomberg

Thomas Shugart writes: Given what has been observed in Ukraine and other recent conflicts, the likelihood of successful arms control measures for uncrewed systems is low. This means the focus of the American and allied defense establishments should be on confidence-building measures. The measures most likely to succeed would be those that build on existing rule sets and agreements, and that focus on provisions conducive to verification. In the end, policymakers should remember that the utility of these confidence-building measures could be limited in a full-blown U.S-Chinese crisis, when both sides might specifically use uncrewed systems as lower-stakes platforms that can serve as a stabilizing “half-rung” in an escalation ladder. – War on the Rocks