Fdd's overnight brief

May 20, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza and threatened to quit the government in June if Netanyahu doesn’t articulate a plan for ending the war and securing the enclave of more than 2 million Palestinians. – Wall Street Journal

The Israeli military said it had recovered the dead bodies of three Israeli hostages from the Gaza Strip based on intelligence from interrogating militants, renewing the focus on the hostage issue as Israel’s leadership presses a military offensive in the southern Gazan town of Rafah. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden talked up his administration’s push for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza in a speech to graduating seniors at Morehouse College on Sunday, following nationwide protests on college campuses inflamed by the Israel-Gaza war. – Washington Post

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan reaffirmed to senior Israeli officials Sunday a need for the government to “connect its military operations [in Gaza] to a political strategy” to ensure a lasting defeat of Hamas, a complete hostage release and a better future for the enclave, the White House said. – Washington Post

The first deliveries of aid to the Gaza Strip through a temporary U.S.-made pier on the territory’s coastline began Friday, the United States said, as Israeli military operations in the southern part of the Strip left what had been the main artery for aid shuttered. – Washington Post

On tables and desks from schools turned shelters, wartime vendors lined a street, selling used clothes, baby formula, canned food and the rare batch of homemade cookies. In some cases, entire aid parcels — still emblazoned with the flags of their donating countries and meant to be distributed for free — were stacked on sidewalks and sold for prices few could afford. – New York Times

The northern town of Jabaliya had already come under fierce attacks from the Israeli military earlier in the war, killing many civilians and demolishing large parts of the suburb. So, as Israeli ground forces moved to other parts of the Gaza Strip and military strikes focused elsewhere, residents thought they had experienced their worst days. – New York Times

Israeli settlers attacked and burned a truck in the occupied West Bank overnight on Thursday, wounding the driver, the Israeli military said, days after aid trucks heading towards the Gaza Strip were ransacked by protesters. – Reuters

Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across the Gaza Strip, residents said, as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday amid U.S. calls for a more focused military campaign. – Reuters

Israel called for bipartisan support on Sunday from the United States against the establishment of a Palestinian state, which it said would be a reward for Hamas and its backer Iran. – Reuters

Israel defended the military necessity of its Gaza offensive on Friday at the International Court of Justice and asked judges to throw out a request by South Africa to order it to halt operations in Rafah and withdraw from the Palestinian territory. – Reuters

Austria will release funds to the U.N.’s Palestinian relief organisation UNRWA that were blocked after allegations agency staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. – Reuters

An Israeli airstrike killed 27 people in central Gaza, mostly women and children, and fighting with Hamas raged across the north on Sunday as Israel’s leaders aired divisions over who should govern Gaza after the war, now in its eighth month. – Associated Press

Salman Rushdie, the British-American author who narrowly survived an attempt on his life in 2022 by a suspected Islamist radical, said Sunday that if a Palestinian state were established today, it would be “a Taliban-like state” governed by Hamas. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Proposals must include robust mechanisms to ensure demilitarization and political stability. Only then can Israel’s public begin to entertain such ideas. While Biden’s commitment to a two-state solution resonates with long-standing US policy and ideals, it clashes with the harsh realities and prevailing sentiments. So without concrete assurances of security and stability, the two-state solution remains a distant and unattainable goal for most Israelis. – Jerusalem Post

David Ben-Basat writes: Israel is facing a serious dilemma: Should it expand the war in Rafah without US consent and risk further delay in weapons shipments? Or accept the demand to stop the war outright at this stage? There is no doubt that even if we stop the war now, once the hostage deal takes place, Hamas will again afford us the opportunity to resume and not end it until the elimination of its leaders. – Jerusalem Post 

David Mokovsky writes: The US and Israel are not going to accept all of the other’s policy decisions—yet Israel expects a great deal from the US, presumably all the more so now that there are several military fronts in a war that has gone for longer than almost any other in Israel’s history. Whenever expectations go up, so do demands from Washington that its concerns are adequately addressed. The two countries need to iron out major issues; they will emerge the stronger for it. Yet big challenges require big decisions. – Washington Institute

Gabriel Epstein writes: Of course, accurately counting the dead in a chaotic conflict is a severe challenge, so all parties should be exceedingly careful when making claims about the death toll. Given their stature, OCHA and other UN bodies have a particularly deep responsibility to ensure professionalism and transparency—a duty that has not been fulfilled so far. – Washington Institute

Dana Stroul writes: Reconstructing Gaza will require civilian partners. As months of planning for postwar Gaza have already been lost, a civilian-military planning cell that includes diplomatic, development, and security representatives from Arab capitals, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the UN, and the United States should convene immediately. It must build relationships and organizational ties so that coordination mechanisms are in place for the golden hour. – Foreign Affairs

Seth Mandel writes: If you want to end the forever war against Hamas, you must destroy Hamas. President Biden’s opposition to that is, in essence, opposition to ending the forever war launched against Israel the day of its rebirth as a state. There isn’t another option. The twist here is that Israel is the only actor involved in this drama that wants to end the forever war. No one else seems to be in much of a rush. – Commentary

Iran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, according to state-run Press TV, depriving Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of a longtime ally as Tehran angles for regional dominance through armed militias that are fighting the U.S. and Israel. – Wall Street Journal

Even before the announcement on Sunday of the crash of a helicopter believed to be carrying Iran’s president, relations between Tehran and the United States had come perilously close to open conflict. – New York Times

Senior American and Iranian officials held talks through intermediaries in Oman this past week, the first such conversations since Iran launched a retaliatory attack on Israel with hundreds of missiles and drones last month, according to a person familiar with the recent meetings. – New York Times

Iran on Saturday said it will send experts to its ally Venezuela to help with medical accelerators in hospitals it said had been stopped due to Western sanctions. – Reuters

Iranian security forces have arrested more than 260 people, including three European nationals, at a “Satanist” gathering west of the capital Tehran, the semi-official new agency Tasnim reported on Friday. – Reuters

An Iranian court has sentenced popular singer and rap artist Amir Hossein Maghsoudloo, known as Tataloo, to prison for disseminating “obscene content,” state media reported Sunday. – Agence France-Presse

Jailed Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi faces a new trial over her accusations that Iranian security forces sexually assaulted female prisoners, her family said on Saturday. – Agence France-Presse

Since the official announcement of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, numerous spontaneous instances of celebration and sarcasm have been expressed by Persian and Arabic-speaking users and outlets in the Middle East and abroad. – Jerusalem Post

The Tehran Jewish Association extended its deepest condolences upon the tragic death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, following a helicopter crash that stunned the nation. – Jerusalem Post

An Iranian Jew who has been sentenced to death has reportedly received a one-month stay of execution after a global pressure campaign that included calls for prayer in Persian Jewish communities around the world. – Jerusalem Post

In the event that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died or has been severely incapacitated in a helicopter crash, “it would be hard to find someone worse,” former IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Iran may be mere weeks away from developing nuclear weapons, according to the director general of the UN’s nuclear agency, Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear oversight organization, flew to Iran last week to strengthen the UN’s supervision of Iranian nuclear activities. – Jerusalem Post

Zina Rakhamilova writes: International pressure and solidarity are crucial to force the Iranian government to overturn his sentence and release him. By rallying global support through petitions, public demonstrations, and diplomatic efforts, we can help protect Salehi and send a powerful message that the world will not stand by while artists are persecuted for their courage to speak out. – Jerusalem Post

Arashi Azizi writes: Many have anticipated a ferocious power struggle in Iran, but most expected it to follow Khamenei’s death. Now we are likely to see at least a dress rehearsal in which various factions will brandish their strength. As for the people of Iran, some have already started celebrating Raisi’s potential demise with fireworks in Tehran. Most Iranians barely feel represented by any faction of the Islamic Republic, and some might use a moment of political crisis to reignite the street protests that have repeatedly beleaguered the regime in the past.  – The Atlantic

Russia & Ukraine

A huge blast shattered the early evening lull, and emergency services rushed to the scene of Russia’s latest missile attack on this eastern Ukrainian city. The mayor urged calm in a social-media post, promising an update on civilian casualties. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promoted a new crop of officials, some with blood ties to his existing inner circle, as he assembles a next generation of lieutenants committed both to his war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s wider ideological conflict with the West. – Wall Street Journal

Russia accused the U.S. of ignoring its proposals for a prisoner swap, in the latest public disagreement between Moscow and Washington over the direction of negotiations that could include the release of jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. – Wall Street Journal

Russian leader Vladimir Putin embraced symbols of his country’s imperial past and the Russian Orthodox Church as he sought to underpin his rule and geopolitical ambitions during a visit to a Russian-built city in northeastern China. – Wall Street Journal

While the rolling plains of Ukraine’s countryside are in full spring bloom, officials already fear what the distant winter will bring as a major energy crisis grips the country and power companies resort to phased blackouts to conserve supplies. – Washington Post

Ukrainian forces shot down all 29 drones used by Russian forces in an overnight attack, Ukraine’s air force said in a statement on Monday. – Reuters

Ukraine’s forces have destroyed all of 37 attack drones launched by Russia overnight, Ukraine’s Air Force chief said on Sunday. – Reuters

Russia said on Sunday that Ukraine launched a major 62-drone attack on Russian regions forcing one oil refinery in southern Russia to halt operations, and that Kyiv’s forces had fired U.S., French and Ukrainian missiles at Russian-held territory. – Reuters

A fire triggered by a Ukrainian drone attack on Russia’s Tuapse oil refinery on the Black Sea coast has forced an emergency shut down of the refinery, two sources familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States said Sunday her nation very much needs as much weaponry as possible to arrive as soon as possible.“There is no such thing as fast enough when we are up against such a bad enemy, and we have to catch up for a long pause,” Ambassador Oksana Markarova said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” – Politico

Editorial: It also calls for using Russia’s frozen assets to support Ukraine. They correctly point out that Russia has adjusted to the existing sanctions; its supporters in the United States, Europe and around the world must “counter this with similar creativity and innovations.” Like so many wars throughout history, this one has turned into a contest of smarts and stamina, which Ukraine and the West cannot afford to lose. – Washington Post

Brooke Sample writes: Yet that support is being matched and blunted by a cohort of Eurasian autocracies lending vital aid to Moscow and making life more difficult for the West. Two vast alliances are squaring off, albeit indirectly, on European battlegrounds. The fight in Ukraine has become the first global conflict of a new cold war. – Bloomberg

Hal Brands writes: Biden’s strategy has shifted before: He has repeatedly declined to provide Ukraine with certain weapons, for fear of escalation, only to relent. There are hints the US position on cross-border strikes may be changing, too. That shift needs to happen now — to help Ukraine get through the ugly months ahead. – Bloomberg

Hugo Blewett-Mundy writes: The resurgence of Russia represents the most significant threat to Europe since the Cold War, particularly with the implicit backing of a rapidly growing China behind it. Supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes will no longer suffice. Russian nationalism has returned to the European continent — and the West must adapt to respond to this geopolitical reality. – The Hill

Syria

Earlier this month, at a hotel in Washington, national security officials told the family that highly credible, classified information indicated the therapist, Majd Kamalmaz, had died in captivity, held in one of the world’s most notorious prison systems. – New York Times

Members of a powerful insurgent group in Syria ‘s rebel-held northwest fired into the air and beat protesters with clubs Friday, injuring some of them as protests intensified to demand the release of detainees and an end to the group’s rule. – Associated Press

The governments of eight European Union member states said Friday the situation in Syria should be re-evaluated to allow for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees back to their homeland. – Associated Press

 

Turkey

Turkey’s main opposition leader, boosted by sweeping local election gains in March, said he is “far off” opening talks with Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party over a new constitution since the president doesn’t abide by the existing one. – Reuters

Turkey is in advanced discussions, opens new tab with Chinese electric car makers BYD and Chery Automobile for factory investments in the country, Industry Minister Fatih Kacir said in an interview to Bloomberg News on Friday. – Reuters

Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced late on Sunday that the country would send drones and a helicopter carrying night-vision equipment to Iran to help locate the regime leader, who was one of many officials involved in a crash early on Sunday. – Jerusalem Post

Lebanon

Israeli strikes on southern and eastern Lebanon killed at least five people on Friday including two children, security sources and UNICEF said. – Reuters

The Israel Air Force attacked Hezbollah terrorist targets in southern Lebanon overnight, the IDF reported on Monday morning. – Jerusalem Post

Israel should not shy away from launching a military takeover of southern Lebanon if Hezbollah does not withdraw from the border, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared Sunday. – Times of Israel

Yemen

Iran-backed Houthi militants on Saturday hit a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker off Yemen’s Red Sea coast with an anti-ship missile but the crew was able to restore power and maintain course, the U.S. military said. – Reuters

Shipping group CMA CGM benefited in the first quarter from a rebound in demand for consumer goods and higher freight rates linked to Red Sea disruption, but expects an influx of new ships to weigh on the market later in the year, it said on Friday. – Reuters

Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Friday claimed to have shot down an American drone, hours after footage circulated online of what appeared to be the wreckage of an MQ-9 Reaper drone. Early Saturday, a vessel also came under attack in the Red Sea. – Associated Press

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met to discuss an almost ‘finalized’ draft of a deal between Washington and Riyadh, the Saudi state news agency reported on Sunday. – Reuters

Paris-based quantum computer startup company Pasqal announced it had signed a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s state oil giant Aramco to install the first quantum computer in the country. – Reuters

Saudi Aramco signed three memorandums of understanding (MOU) with U.S. companies Aeroseal, Spiritus and Rondo, the state-owned oil giant said on Friday. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman postponed a planned four-day trip to Japan due to concerns over the king’s health, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Tunis on Sunday in support of President Kais Saied amid widespread criticism at home and abroad after a wave of arrests that included journalists, activists and lawyers. – Reuters

At least one person was killed and six injured when fierce clashes broke out on Saturday in the city of Zawiya in western Libya, prompting calls for a ceasefire to rescue families trapped in the conflict area, a Libyan TV channel said. – Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and foreign ministers representing the “Arab Six” met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEC) in Riyadh in April to discuss a vision for the “day after” the war in Gaza, according to a Saturday report from the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Ahkbar, citing a document received by the Lebanese publication. – Jerusalem Post

Sean Durns writes: Israel has shown that it is aware of Iran’s ambitions in Syria. But the United States hasn’t. At best, the Biden administration has largely treated Syria with neglect, seemingly hoping that if it just ignores what’s unfolding in the country, Assad and Iran will just go away. Many of America’s Arab allies have even tried to engage with the Syrian regime. But as Andrew Tabler, a noted Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, recently observed: “A year of Arab engagement with Assad has failed.” –  Washington Examiner

Korean Peninsula

In the days leading up to Vladimir Putin’s just-finished visit to China, speculation rippled through diplomatic circles that the Russian leader planned to tack on a trip to North Korea—a possibility that irritated Beijing, according to diplomats and other officials with knowledge of the matter. – Wall Street Journal

China’s exports to North Korea in April rose at a marginal pace from a year earlier, reversing an annual decline in March, customs data showed on Monday, as Pyongyang affirmed its position to develop long-standing ties with China. – Reuters

South Korea and the United Kingdom will co-host the second global AI summit in Seoul this week, as the breathtaking pace of innovation since the first AI summit in November leaves governments scrambling to keep up with a growing array of risks. – Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered accelerated production to strengthen the country’s nuclear force more rapidly, on the same day he oversaw a test of tactical ballistic missiles with new guidance system, state media KCNA said on Saturday. – Reuters

China

China hinted at potential retaliation in response to the European Union’s investigations into Chinese companies, and launched a probe into chemical imports. The Chinese commerce ministry on Sunday launched an antidumping probe into imports of polyoxymethylene copolymer—a widely used plastic in auto parts and electronics—from the U.S., the EU, Japan and Taiwan. – Wall Street Journal

Before leaving Hong Kong two years ago for a fellowship in the U.S., Rowena He shredded the work of her students and wiped the hard drive on her computer. The prominent scholar of China’s bloody 1989 crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square said she feared she could be arrested and forced to turn over their work. – Wall Street Journal

Days after returning from a trip to Europe where he was lectured about the need to rein in Russia, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, used a summit with President Vladimir V. Putin to convey an uncomfortable reality to the West: His support for Mr. Putin remains steadfast. – New York Times

China’s Commerce Ministry said on Monday that it will prohibit some U.S. firms from importing and exporting activities related to China, including one selling arms to Taiwan, and forbid them from making new investments in China. – Reuters

China’s commerce ministry on Sunday launched an anti-dumping probe into POM copolymers, a type of engineering plastic, imported from the European Union, United States, Japan and Taiwan. – Reuters

China’s Ministry of Commerce announced sanctions against Boeing and two other defense companies Monday for arms sales to Taiwan, on the day of Taiwan’s presidential inauguration. – Bloomberg

Two Chinese warships docked Sunday at a commercial port in Cambodia, in preparation for joint naval exercises between the two countries. – Associated Press

China’s Ambassador to New Zealand has reiterated a veiled warning that joining the Aukus security pact could undermine the South Pacific nation’s broader interests. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Both countries should also be pushing for more nuclear and pumped storage capacity to provide baseload power. India in particular needs to reexamine its overly broad nuclear liability laws, which have scared off equipment suppliers. Closing coal plants elsewhere will mitigate some of the damage done by new construction in China and India. That should be an inspiration to them, not an excuse for inaction. – Bloomberg

Simone Gao writes: U.S. leaders must boldly declare that the goal is to win. By leveraging its economic strength and showing unwavering determination, the U.S. can reestablish its prestige, deterring and inhibiting the CCP from challenging Taiwan or the global order. – The Hill

Denny Roy writes: In normal times, the United States could disregard Chinese social media influence operations as insignificant. Unfortunately, this Chinese push occurs at a time when U.S. domestic politics are highly polarized, conspiracy theories are widely believed, and procedures and institutions vital to the proper functioning of American democracy are under stress. PRC interference reinforces harmful trends that already have momentum. Under such circumstances, this malign activity might contribute to outcomes that are undesirable not only for Washington but also for Beijing. – National Interest

Axel de Vernou writes:  In places where the West does not enjoy a head start, the uphill battle to challenge Huawei will be even more demanding. The U.S. government must pioneer affordable joint initiatives that provide both effective and safe networks to developing countries and middle powers to re-establish its technological credibility and encourage collaboration with companies tempted by unregulated, Communist Party-monitored Chinese offers. – National Interest

South Asia

In March, the longtime local politician quit his centrist, secular Trinamool Congress party and accepted the right-wing, Hindu nationalist BJP’s offer to run for Parliament in the national elections currently underway. – Washington Post

But this is Pakistan, where things under the security state often are not as simple as they seem. So as the number of golden performers grew, so, too, did the intrigue around them. Could they be informants for the country’s intelligence agency? Lookouts for powerful politicians? Maybe spies for the C.I.A.? – New York Times

It is a lonely feeling to know that your country’s leaders do not want you. To be vilified because you are a Muslim in what is now a largely Hindu-first India. It colors everything. Friends, dear for decades, change. – New York Times

A tourist couple was injured in India’s Kashmir after militants fired on them late on Saturday night, police said, ahead of voting scheduled in the volatile region for India’s ongoing election. – Reuters

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it had summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to violence against Pakistani students in Bishkek. – Reuters

India began voting in the fifth phase of its mammothgeneral elections on Monday, with seats in the financial capital Mumbai and the opposition’s Gandhi family bastions set to be sealed in the last few legs of the seven-phase vote. – Reuters

Indian authorities have so far seized 88.9 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) worth of illicit money, drugs and other goods in its crackdown on illegal vote inducements in India’s six-week election, the country’s Election Commission said Saturday. – Bloomberg

Noor Scavotto and Rodney Knight write: If the U.S. and the rest of the international community want to help the people of Afghanistan and compete with Chinese ambitions, then investing in the country’s foundation is crucial. It would result in less need for humanitarian assistance in the long run, especially with the country’s high frequency of high-magnitude earthquakes. It would also make Afghanistan more stable and consequently less likely to serve as a breeding ground for extremist activities. If we fail to provide this form of aid, and do so quickly, we may be ignoring Afghanistan’s calls for help at our own peril. – The Hill

Asia

Before riots swept New Caledonia last week, President Emmanuel Macron aimed to put the remote territory—and its massive reserves of nickel—at the center of France’s push to secure raw materials for the clean-energy transition and compete against China in manufacturing electric vehicles. – Wall Street Journal

Taiwan’s new president said the island democracy would serve as a “helmsman of global peace” under his watch in a carefully calibrated inauguration speech reflecting his delicate status at the fulcrum of tensions between the U.S. and China. – Wall Street Journal

A thousand police arrived in New Caledonia from France and streets were relatively calm, the French High Commission said on Monday, but roads were blocked and the airport remained shut, stranding tourists on the Pacific island after a week of riots. – Reuters

The Philippines challenged China on Monday to open Scarborough Shoal to international scrutiny after it accused Beijing of destroying the shoal’s marine environment. – Reuters

Singapore will resume flying its F-16 fleet after suspending training when one of the jets crashed earlier this month, the defence ministry on Saturday. – Reuters

France accused Azerbaijan on Friday of fanning the flames of riots in the French-ruled Pacific island of New Caledonia by flooding social media with what it said were misleading photos and videos targeting French police. – Reuters

A powerful armed ethnic group in Myanmar said on Sunday it had won control over a town in the western state of Rakhine after weeks of fighting, denying accusations it had targeted members of the Muslim-minority Rohingya during the offensive. – Reuters

Vietnam’s fifth-ranking leader has quit her posts, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday, the third top official to exit in two months, as the ruling party carried out a major reshuffle of its ranks. – Reuters

 

Europe

The 19-year-old high achiever is one of the newest members of Sweden’s armed forces and a product of its fiercely competitive conscription process. “It’s a privilege,” Forsberg says of being chosen for military service—less than 10% make the cut. – Wall Street Journal

European investigators increasingly see Russian fingerprints around recent acts of suspected sabotage on strategic infrastructure but are struggling to respond. – Wall Street Journal

The United States and Europe are coalescing around a plan to use interest earned on frozen Russian central bank assets to provide Ukraine with a loan to be used for military and economic assistance, potentially providing the country with a multibillion-dollar lifeline as Russia’s war effort intensifies. – New York Times

France and Germany’s recent agreement to develop a new multibillion-dollar battlefield tank together was immediately hailed by the German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, as a “breakthrough” achievement. “It is a historic moment,” he said. – New York Times

But some in the Central European nation, appalled by an attempt last week to assassinate their prime minister, Robert Fico, and the frenzy of political finger-pointing that ensued, including warnings of civil war, are wondering whether Ms. Albright was on to something. – New York Times

President Salome Zourabichvili of Georgia said on Saturday that she had vetoed a bill on foreign influence that has sparked protests and plunged the nation into a political crisis, threatening to derail its pro-European aspirations in favor of closer ties with Russia. – New York Times

British defence minister Grant Shapps said on Sunday he was very concerned about a recent strengthening of diplomatic relations between China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, saying it posed a threat to democracy. – Reuters

The British government estimates it will spend at least 4.7 billion pounds ($6 billion) on implementing post Brexit border arrangements, after repeated delays in setting new rules, parliament’s spending watchdog said on Monday. – Reuters

German police arrested eight climate activists who breached the grounds of Munich airport on Saturday, briefly causing the airport to close and leading to around 60 flight cancellations during a busy holiday weekend. – Reuters

Finland will propose a law next week allowing border agents to block asylum seekers trying to enter from Russia, the prime minister said on Sunday, a decision that could cause Helsinki to temporarily breach its international commitments. – Reuters

Poland will invest 10 billion zlotys ($2.55 billion) in a programme to secure its eastern border, the prime minister said on Saturday, in a bid to bolster its defences against what it says is a rising threat from Russia and Belarus. – ReutersSwedish police launched an investigation and stepped up security around Israeli and Jewish interests in the country after a patrol heard suspected gunshots near Israel’s embassy in Stockholm early on Friday, they said. – Reuters

Croatian lawmakers approved a coalition government that gives Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic a third term after he made a deal to include a right-wing nationalist party known for anti-immigration rhetoric. – Bloomberg

Alena Krempaska writes:  Thankfully, many other voices appealed for unity and for people to stop fueling the atmosphere of hate. Mr. Pellegrini, who won the recent presidential election, and others urged a pause in the campaigning for the European Union elections. We know now that as we talk relentlessly about a fight between good and evil, someone, somewhere, might be taking us at our word. – New York Times

Africa

U.S. troops will withdraw from Niger by Sept. 15, ending a nearly decadelong partnership that was the keystone of U.S. counterterrorism operations in the region, the Pentagon said Sunday. – Wall Street Journal

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said Sunday they had arrested several foreigners who were allegedly involved in a thwarted coup attempt after a shootout in the capital left three people dead. – Washington Post

South Africa’s highest court on Monday barred former President Jacob Zuma from appearing on the ballot in the coming election, a ruling that may deepen political turmoil in the country just over a week before the crucial vote. – New York Times

Mali has signed an agreement with China’s Ganfeng Lithium to operate the Goulamina lithium mine and increase its share in the project in accordance with a new mining code, the West African country’s economy ministry said in a statement. – Reuters

The U.N. human rights chief said on Friday he was “horrified” by escalating violence near Sudan’s al-Fashir and held discussions this week with commanders from both sides of the conflict, warning of a humanitarian disaster if the city is attacked. – Reuters

U.N. experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion loan from a company in the United Arab Emirates, despite the oil-rich country’s difficulties in managing debts backed by its oil reserves. – Associated Press

The leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party was re-elected for another five-year term and will likely be its presidential candidate in Oct. 9 elections. – Bloomberg

The Americas

In the heart of Venezuela’s sprawling capital, a human rights group has fortified its office windows to withstand bullets and grenade blasts. It’s a stark reminder of the risks involved in monitoring and documenting abuses against tens of thousands of Venezuelans, which investigators report are often perpetrated by the country’s government. – Washington Post

The Dominican Republic’s hugely popular President Luis Abinader vowed unity and impartial leadership on Sunday as he soared to victory in elections with a sufficiently wide margin to clinch a second term without a second-round vote. – Reuters

Venezuelan opposition candidate Edmundo Gonzalez said on Saturday he will ensure all political parties are free to operate if he unseats President Nicolas Maduro in a July vote, and he urged the military to uphold the country’s institutions as intended by the constitution. – Reuters

Spain recalled its ambassador to Buenos Aires for consultations on Sunday after Argentina’s President Javier Milei made derogatory comments about Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife during a far-right rally in Madrid. – Reuters

Even before kicking off a three-day visit to Madrid on Friday, Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei stirred controversy, accusing the socialist government of bringing “poverty and death” to Spain and weighing in on corruption allegations against the prime minister’s wife. – Associated Press

Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes: Vice President Victoria Villarruel and Francisco Paoltroni, a senator in Mr. Milei’s party, have also questioned Judge Lijo’s suitability for the high court. During the campaign Mr. Milei pledged to run the governing elite out of town. “A different Argentina is impossible with the same old people,” he said. Now he’s nominated a judge to the Supreme Court who epitomizes the status quo. Argentines are justified in their disappointment.- Wall Street Journal

Denise Dresser writes: This election is not just a contest between left and right, but a choice between the survival of a young democracy and a regression to dominant-party rule […]Mexicans should not have any illusions about the choice they are making when they go to the polls in June. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s admonition, voters were given an emerging republic after Mexico’s political transition 30 years ago. The question now is whether they can keep it. – Foreign Affairs

North America

In the shadow of this Caribbean resort, a magnet for American tourists, the raids come almost every day. Immigration agents, accompanied by uniformed military troops, storm neighborhoods where Haitian workers live, families and advocates say, busting down doors and turning over mattresses in search of cash to swipe. – Washington Post

Kenyan lawyers have moved to block the country’s planned deployment of police to Haiti, a court filing showed, days before officers are expected to arrive in the Caribbean nation to tackle spiralling violence there. – Reuters

Mexico’s major presidential candidates squared off Sunday night in a debate focused on security, with the ruling party hopeful defending the outgoing president’s policy even as her main rival harshly criticized both for record levels of violent crime. – Reuters

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Guatemala President Bernardo Arévalo were meeting Friday in this Mexican border city to tackle issues of shared interest, foremost among them immigration. – Associated Press

Editorial: High voter turnout would help Ms. Gálvez, who is trailing in most polls by double digits. AMLO’s government is using its media allies to claim the election is already over. But sampling bias and the potential of a large hidden vote could still produce a surprise. The future of Mexican democracy may depend on maintaining a check on AMLO’s designs. – Wall Street Journal

United States

A high-ranking House Republican criticized President Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza in a speech before a small Israeli parliamentary group on Sunday, highlighting how the fighting in the Middle East is becoming a wedge issue in the coming U.S. elections. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Sunday the Senate would once again try to pass a bipartisan border security bill this week after a previous attempt failed when enough Republicans withdrew their support at the urging of former President Donald Trump. – Reuters

Editorial: Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to sponsor legislation in response to the Georgia events. The bill would require the Secretary of State to report to Congress on improper political influence, kleptocracy, elite corruption, sanctions evasion and Russian intelligence assets within Georgia. Those responsible for the foreign-agents legislation and the broader assault on democracy could face sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The ink was dry before Israel had buried its dead and counted the hostages. Progressives claim to draw a line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, but the two are impossible to disentangle in these student encampments, amid the chants about freeing Palestine “from the river to the sea.” As one student put it: “Zionist is a code word for Jew.” Harassment is the same no matter the language. – Wall Street Journal

Dalibor Rohac writes: The U.S. needs to adjust to a more dangerous world. It is past time to prioritize hard power over other areas of government spending—in other words, more guns and less butter—and plug the holes left by decades of enjoying the “peace dividend.” Yet keeping the existing entitlement schemes intact even as they head for bankruptcy remains a central tenet of America’s uniparty—a rare point of domestic bipartisan consensus in a polarized time. – Wall Street Journal

David Fickling writes: Just as Britain’s early lead in coal made it the indefatigable power of the 19th century, and US dominance in oil made it a hegemon for the 20th century, China’s advances in green energy give it a formidable position in the 21st. Oil-rich America has found itself strangely entangled with crude-exporting frenemies in the Middle East through their common interest in petroleum. In the decades ahead, a decarbonizing China will find many allies whose interests are just as well-aligned with its own. – Bloomberg

Matthew Yglesias writes: I don’t want to overstate the impact either of these changes would have on reducing overall prices — and I also concede that Biden’s new China tariffs will make prices only slightly higher. But small changes add up. Biden should be asking his team to prioritize his goal of reducing inflation, and to scour federal regulations for protectionist measures that can be removed. – Bloomberg

Cybersecurity

Welcome to a flourishing genre on Chinese social media: A.I.-manipulated videos that use young, purportedly Russian, women to rally support for China-Russia ties, stoke patriotic fervor or make money — and sometimes all three at once. – New York Times

The head of Canada’s Security Intelligence Service warned Canadians against using video app TikTok, saying data gleaned from its users “is available to the government of China,” CBC News reported on Friday. – Reuters

Britain’s artificial intelligence (AI) safety institute will open an office in the United States, hoping to foster greater international collaboration on the regulation of a fast-moving technology. – Reuters

The European Commission could fine Microsoft if it doesn’t provide adequate information on risks stemming from generative AI features in search engine Bing by May 27. – Reuters

BlackRock (BLK.N) is in talks with various governments over ways to fund critical investments to support artificial intelligence (AI), including increasing the power supply, the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager said on Friday. – Reuters

 

Defense

A House committee’s proposal to create a drone corps within the Army may run counter to the service’s push to expand tactics, training and spending for unmanned aerial systems across some operational units, according to an Army official. – Defense News

The Pentagon announced several flag officer nominations and promotions on Friday, including the new commander of U.S. 6th Fleet and the next military deputy assistant to the Navy’s acquisition chief. – USNI News

Editorial: Mr. Schumer appears to be trying to cajole Republicans to sign up for his AI spending binge by dangling more money for defense-related AI. “It’s going to be a very large number,” Mr. Schumer said. There may be an argument for Washington to spend more on AI military applications, but then Congress should simply increase the defense budget. Now’s not a time for more pork-barrel spending. The Navy could buy a lot of ships to help deter China with an additional $32 billion a year. – Wall Street Journal

James Rogan writes: In addition to providing the materials of war that brought victory, U.S. scientists made major breakthroughs in aircraft design, including the B29 long-range bomber and the P51 Mustang, the best fighter aircraft produced in World War II. And of course, U.S. technological superiority was confirmed by the Manhattan Project where the U.S. developed the first atomic bomb […] The American economy and U.S. technology proved decisive in winning World War II. – Washington Examiner 

Long War

Four days after the Islamic State attacked a Russian concert venue in March, a video started circulating on a private platform affiliated with the terrorist group. The 92-second broadcast showed a news anchor in a helmet and fatigues saying the attack was not a terrorist operation, but part of “the normal context of the raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam.” – Washington Post

The Kurdish Regional Security Council announced in a statement on Friday that it captured a senior Islamic State figure, Socrates Khalil. – Reuters

Uganda’s military has captured a commander of an Islamic State-allied rebel group who is an expert in making improvised explosive devices, or bombs, that the group has used to carry out deadly attacks in the past, the army said on Sunday. – Reuters

Islamic State on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack by gunmen on tourists in Afghanistan’s central Bamiyan province, the group said on its Telegram channel. – Reuters