Fdd's overnight brief

May 24, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Nearly two weeks into an Israeli offensive in Rafah, an invasion that President Biden warned months ago could be a “red line” for continued U.S. support of its war in Gaza, the administration says that line has not yet been crossed. – Washington Post

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, who has been the lead American negotiator in efforts for a cease-fire in Gaza, plans to travel to Europe this weekend for talks with his Israeli counterpart to try to revive the stalled discussions over a pause in the fighting and the release of hostages, according to a U.S. official and another person briefed on the negotiations. – New York Times

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned Israel on Thursday against cutting off ties between Palestinian and Israeli banks, arguing that such a move would further destabilize the economy of the West Bank at a time when Palestinians are already facing dire economic conditions. – New York Times

Judges at the U.N.’s top court will rule on Friday on South Africa’s request to order Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and withdraw from Gaza, part of a wider case accusing Israel of genocide. – Reuters

Republican U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would soon address a joint meeting of Congress amid heightened tension with President Joe Biden over the Israeli leader’s handling of the war in Gaza. – Reuters

Israeli forces killed at least 60 Palestinians in aerial and ground bombardments across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and battled in close combat with Hamas-led militants in areas of the southern city of Rafah, health officials and Hamas media said. – Reuters

Hamas said on Thursday it was holding an Israeli colonel captured on Oct. 7, who Israel had previously reported was killed in the attacks that day. – Reuters

A United Nations expert called on Israel on Thursday to investigate multiple allegations of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinian detainees in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. – Reuters

A father—son duo, both of whom are members of Hamas and took part in the October 7th attacks in Israel, have told Israeli investigators that they raped Israeli women when they invaded the southern part of the country during the assault. – New York Sun

A senior official at Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza said it was under Israeli military siege for a fifth straight day on Thursday after soldiers stormed it the previous day. – Agence France-Presse

“We are constantly in action on the northern front. As of now, we have eliminated hundreds of Hezbollah terrorists, and we are still poised – even today,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an operational briefing from the head of Northern Command, Maj.-Gen. Ori Gordin on the wide-ranging offensive and defensive activity in the area on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Three drones launched at Israel by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq were shot down by Israeli fighter jets on Thursday night and early Friday morning, the military said. – Times of Israel

Israel on Thursday slammed a statement from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office that Berlin would arrest and deport Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the International Criminal Court implements a warrant for his arrest. – Times of Israel

Zachary Faria writes: If no one is willing to take the two-state solution off the table, you will get almost no change in governance from Hamas or change from the terrorist threat that Palestinian terrorists pose to Israelis. All of the leverage in these negotiations is being exerted on Israel to accept a legitimized terrorist state on its border. In turn, that makes it impossible for a two-state solution to be “peaceful” in any meaningful way. – Washington Examiner

Eric R. Mandel writes: President Biden, challenging our primary ally to keep up the humanitarian aid is fair. But joining with those who want to make Israel an international pariah for political gain this election season undermines your legacy. You chose the right path in the months after Oct. 7, supporting our indispensable ally in the Middle East. American security interests benefit when we publicly support Israel, giving it the benefit of the doubt, and keeping our criticism private. – The Hill

Neomi Neumann and Matthew Levitt write: In the context of a possible U.S.-Saudi-Israeli normalization deal, an opportunity exists to carve out a new regional structure that could empower moderate Palestinians to cooperate with Israel, make Hamas and the wider “axis of resistance” unattractive, and provide legitimacy to regional and international actors to play a part in stabilizing Gaza. – Washington Institute

Andrew Fox writes: Militarily, the IDF is hamstrung by international pressure to slow operations, and uncertainty about what comes next in Gaza—a choice that may at least partially lie outside of Israel’s control. For our part, Western critics need to eat humble pie and accept that, on the evidence of the last 20 years, our tactics are not to be recommended. What we are seeing in Gaza is not a failure. It’s a quite brilliant IDF operational design, within the bounds of what is realistically possible. – Tablet

Iran

As Iran buried its president, killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend, it assembled a number of foreign dignitaries and drew large crowds in a display to show the sanctions-hit and deeply unpopular government still has supporters. – Wall Street Journal

The crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister this past weekend tells a different story: They died aboard a decades-old U.S.-made helicopter, part of an aging fleet that has been starved of spare parts by Western sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said on Thursday in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that there is no reason to postpone the resumption of diplomatic relations between the kingdom and Iran, state news agency reported. – Reuters

John Ghazvinian writes: Between the war in Gaza, a possible change in American leadership, and a domestic power vacuum that the I.R.G.C. could step into, it is not difficult to imagine a brief window in which Iran could pull out the stops and surprise the world by testing a nuclear device. Would I bet the house on this scenario? Perhaps not. But from the perspective of a historian, the possibility of an Iranian rush for a bomb has never felt more real than it does today. – New York Times

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar writes: After all, in the official narrative of the Islamic Republic, Raisi will be remembered for putting Iran on the right path after a series of presidents who challenged the supreme leader’s vision. He will be memorialized for positioning Iran as a nuclear threshold state and establishing it as a rising power—and for doing so not despite external pressure, but because of it. – Foreign Affairs

Toby Dalton and Ariel Levite write: This would endow with credibility commercial nuclear energy pursuits on the basis of application of safeguards and transparency measures, rather than access to the technology itself. Articulating and incentivizing a stronger normative framework for nuclear energy could thus make seeking a nuclear threshold both less appealing and easier to observe. In turn, it would avail a more moderate Iranian leadership an avenue to credibly reassure about its non-weapons nuclear intentions without in the process singling it out. – War on the Rocks

Russia & Ukraine

Former President Donald Trump said his relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin would help secure the release of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained in a Moscow jail for more than a year. – Wall Street Journal

Just before Russian troops pushed across the Ukrainian northern border this month, members of Ukraine’s 92nd Assault Brigade lost a vital resource. Starlink satellite internet service, which soldiers use to communicate, collect intelligence and conduct drone attacks, had slowed to a crawl. – New York Times

Russia has jailed a top defense official, the fourth in a month, expanding President Vladimir V. Putin’s biggest shake-up of his military leadership since the invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. – New York Times

Russia will identify U.S. property, including securities, that could be used as compensation for losses sustained as a result of any seizure of frozen Russian assets in the United States, according to a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. – Reuters

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday that its forces had taken control of the village of Andriivka, southwest of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. The Ukrainian General Staff said later that its troops were repelling three Russian assaults in the area of Andriivka and Novyi. – Reuters

The European Union will feel the “full measure” of Russian retaliation over its plan to use income from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. – Reuters

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Moscow will retaliate with strikes on British targets if British weapons are used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory. – Reuters

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will attend June’s meeting of Group of 7 leaders, people familiar with the matter said, as he pushes countries for longer-range weapons that will allow his forces to attack Russia inside its borders. – Bloomberg

Phillips P. O’Brien writes: Considering how talismanic Crimea was thought to be for Mr. Putin, it is hard to see anything but a similar reaction if Ukraine were to attack military targets inside Russia. The alternative is to force Ukraine to fight a war of perverse limits, a type the U.S. would never countenance for itself. Better instead to give Ukraine the best chance to fight the war and win. Sooner would be better than later. – Wall Street Journal

Janusz Bugajski writes: Equally important is the role of Western banks in curbing the export of sensitive military equipment. By monitoring trade in export-controlled goods and blocking illicit transactions, they can significantly close the sanctions loopholes. This empowerment can lead to a faster resolution of the war in Ukraine as Russia’s resources dwindle. – The Hill

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan write: Russian officers understand that “compromising materials” collected by the DVKR, which form the pretext for the arrests, are likely available on almost anyone in the army and can be swiftly presented when needed. The message doesn’t need too much elaboration — Vladimir Putin is cold-blooded enough to take his revenge at any moment of his choosing. No one is safe. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Middle East & North Africa

The leader of Yemen’s Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said on Thursday that one of their operations this week targeted the Mediterranean Sea. – Reuters

Egypt remains committed to helping negotiate a ceasefire and hostage release deal in Gaza despite doubts about its mediation role, and it is in touch with Israel about setting dates for new talks, two Egyptian security sources said on Thursday. – Reuters

Poverty in Lebanon tripled over the course of a decade during which the small Mediterranean country slid into a protracted financial crisis, the World Bank said Thursday. – Associated Press

The Australian Government officially designated Yemen’s Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, as a terrorist organization on Friday. – Jerusalem Post

Korean Peninsula

South Korea and Japan announced on Friday a series of sanctions applied to individuals, organisations and ships related to Russia’s alleged procurement of weapons from North Korea in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions. – Reuters

New satellite images suggest North Korea is producing plutonium and uranium, a report says. The images, captured by the commercial imaging company Maxar and published by the Daily NK, show significant activity taking place at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, a uranium enrichment plant in North Pyongan Province that the U.S. has tried to shut down by exerting pressure on Pyongyang through economic sanctions. – Newsweek

Denny Roy writes: Where Colby is most correct is in drawing attention to the inadequacy of the U.S. defense industrial base to support America’s global superpower commitments under the pressure of a growing challenge from the China-Russia-North Korea bloc. It is from this basic problem that the question of sacrificing one friend for another arises in the first place. – The National Interest 

China

Brazil and China signed on Thursday a joint statement calling for peace talks in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine with the participation of both countries, a document seen by Reuters showed on Thursday. – Reuters

China staged mock missile strikes and dispatched fighter jets carrying live missiles and bombers on Friday, state television CCTV said, as part of two-day exercises Beijing has said were launched to punish Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te. – Reuters

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom called on London to stop making groundless accusations against China, and stop adding fuel to the fire on the Ukraine issue, according to a statement on Friday. – Reuters

Tom Rogan writes: Still, it is telling that so much Chinese state media attention is being brought to these exercises and so much effort expended to generate a public reaction. If not today or tomorrow, Chinese President Xi Jinping is clearly preparing his people for war. And at the margin, growing Western tensions with Russia incentivize Xi to act sooner rather than later in the hope of forcing a division of U.S. military capabilities. – Washington Examiner

Dr. Mathew Burrows and Dr. Josef Braml write: Trade is not a cure for war, but it keeps open channels of communication and increases the costs of belligerence. To the rest of the world, the United States appears merely as a “status quo power,” looking after its narrow interests. This is not the nation envisioned by Ronald Reagan as “a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans…a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.” – The National Interest

South Asia

South Asia is experiencing extreme weather conditions, with at least nine killed due to a suspected heat stroke in India’s west, while parts of Bangladesh and neighbouring states are likely to be hit by a cyclone in a couple of days. – Reuters

The Pakistani government said Thursday that the United Arab Emirates committed to investing up to $10 billion in Pakistan during a meeting in the UAE capital between that country’s president and the Pakistani prime minister. – Associated Press

Pakistan will pay $2.58 million in compensation to the families of five Chinese engineers who were killed in March when a suicide bomber targeted the vehicle carrying them in the northwest, the finance ministry said. – Associated Press

Asia

The United States and several of its allies, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan, issued a joint statement on Friday calling on Taiwan to be allowed to take part in a key meeting of the World Health Organisation this month. – Reuters

The United States is introducing new visa restrictions on Georgia and launching a review of bilateral cooperation between the countries over a “foreign agent” bill passed by the Georgian parliament this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday. – Reuters

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Friday that China’s rules about how its Coast Guard can operate in the South China Sea were a matter of international concern, describing them as a provocation. – Reuters

Around 50 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, an official at the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday, the latest wave of arrivals who have drawn a sometimes hostile reception in the Southeast Asian country. – Reuters

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said Thursday his country does not have a “China-phobia” policy and wants to engage both Beijing and Washington, expressing hopes for both powers to resolve their differences. – Associated Press

Taiwan scrambled jets and put missile, naval and land units on alert Thursday over Chinese military exercises being conducted around the self-governing island democracy where a new president took office this week. – Associated Press

The Philippines has opened a new coast guard station on an island near Taiwan to increase surveillance over an area that has seen a military buildup and frequent presence of Chinese vessels. – Bloomberg

Taiwan has become “one of the most dangerous flashpoints” in the region as the US-China rivalry intensifies, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Friday. – Bloomberg

Thailand is “working relentlessly” to bring an end to the crisis in neighboring Myanmar where rebel groups have been clashing with the military-government, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. – Bloomberg

Karishma Vaswani writes: Taiwan’s people value their democracy — it has become a defining characteristic of the island’s identity. Another protest has been called for Friday, the same day opposition parties plan to push through with their vote, and as Beijing continues its drills. Lai should galvanize the public to keep momentum in his favor. China may have the more powerful military and all sorts of resources at its disposal — but the Taiwanese public won’t give up without a fight. – Bloomberg

Europe

A far-right group in the European Union’s Parliament announced on Thursday that it had ousted the Alternative for Germany party from its coalition, dealing a severe blow to a key alliance just two weeks before E.U. parliamentary elections. – New York Times

More than a week after being shot in an assassination attempt, Slovakia’s prime minister was still hospitalized in serious condition on Thursday, as calls for political unity after the attack have given way to a resurgence of hostility in the polarized Central European nation. – New York Times

The European Union will convene donors next week to keep Syria on the global agenda, but as the economic and social burden of refugees on neighbouring countries mounts the bloc is divided and unable to find solutions to tackle the issue, diplomats say. – Reuters

The International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant against Israel’s prime minister is “unacceptable” and could not be enforced in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday. – Reuters

A top Hong Kong government official has urged Britain to let the public “know the truth” about the unexplained death of a man charged this month with aiding the territory’s foreign intelligence service. – Reuters

Polish and Greek prime ministers submitted a letter to the European Commision on Thursday urging the creation of a Europe-wide air defence system, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. – Reuters

G7 finance chiefs are not expected to agree on details of a loan for Ukraine at their meeting in Italy starting on Friday, several officials said, leaving much work ahead in coming weeks or months to secure more financing for the war-torn country. – Reuters

Norway will further curb access for Russian tourist travellers due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, blocking almost all entry from May 29, the Nordic country’s justice ministry said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine’s allies are wrestling with how to squeeze money out of frozen Russian assets to support Kyiv’s war effort, a debate getting more urgent as Russia gains territory on the battlefield and as the outlook for Ukraine’s state finances looks shakier. – Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Thursday in Belarus for a two-day visit as part of several foreign tours to kick off his fifth term in office, underscoring close ties with a neighboring ally that has been instrumental in Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. – Associated Press

Editorial: Neither major party (and none of the smaller ones) is offering compelling ideas on any of these problems before the election. Whether they do so afterward may depend in part on whether one wins a clear majority, or there is a hung Parliament. If the Tories do get a thumping, however, they will have earned it. – Wall Street Journal

Tom Rogan writes: In contrast, Biden’s dithering appeasement and Trump’s delusional affection only encourages Putin to push harder and in more places. It produces more risk of undesired escalation and insecurity, not less. In turn, the U.S. would do well to take an example from our oldest ally. – Washington Examiner

 

Africa

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House on Thursday for a state visit, pledging new partnerships on technology, security and debt relief to the leader of one of Africa’s strongest democracies. – Reuters

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that he will fight for his rights, after the country’s top court ruled that he was not eligible to run for parliament in next week’s election. – Reuters

Chad has named its ambassador to China, Allamaye Halina, as its new prime minister, according to a decree read on state television on Thursday, after newly elected President Mahamat Idriss Deby was sworn in to succeed his late father. – Reuters

Caroline Gray writes: Still, if the United States intends to build, lead, and safeguard a more resilient global economy, with countries like Kenya as key partners, sustainable and equitable economic growth needs to be front and center of America’s commercial efforts, such as protections for Kenyan workers and the environment. Should the trade deal or American investments in Kenya lead to extractive or lopsided growth, the insurance policy the United States seeks might not be so protective. – Foreign Policy

The Americas

Claudia Sheinbaum, front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race, aims to overhaul water governance in the agriculture sector, the top user of the country’s scarce supply, with a potential investment of 20 billion pesos ($1.2 billion) per year. – Reuters

Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday rejected a demand by Mexico for emergency measures to protect its embassy in Ecuador, amid an ongoing diplomatic spat which has seen Mexico cut ties with the South American country. – Reuters

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador swept into office nearly six years ago with a simple motto laying out his administration’s priorities: “For the good of all, first the poor.” – Associated Press

Argentine President Javier Milei warned Thursday that his entire cabinet will be under review depending on the result of his pro-business reform bill grinding its way through Congress. – Bloomberg

United States

Congress is set to fund a project aimed at kick-starting the U.S. deep-sea mining industry, as part of a broader push to secure non-Chinese sources of critical metals that are vital for energy-transition technologies and defense applications. – Wall Street Journal

President Biden suggested on Thursday that the decision to have Kenya lead a security mission in Haiti, without troops from the United States on the ground, was meant to avoid the fraught history of American intervention in the deeply troubled country. – New York Times

U.S. Democratic and Republican senators signed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday urging his government to increase its defense spending to the 2% of gross domestic product agreed to by NATO allies in 2023. – Reuters

Former U.S. Marine pilot Daniel Duggan can be extradited from Australia to face U.S. charges of training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers, a Sydney magistrate ruled on Friday. – Reuters

The United States is expected to announce an additional $275 million in military aid for Ukraine on Friday as Kyiv struggles to hold off advances by Russian troops in the Kharkiv region, two U.S. officials say. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden will likely miss a Ukraine summit next month because it conflicts with a campaign fundraiser in California he’s set to attend alongside George Clooney, Julia Roberts and other stars. – Bloomberg

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) delivered an address at an event co-hosted by the isolationist Quincy Institute on Thursday defending U.S. support for Israel as a critical component of a foreign policy agenda otherwise at odds with his more-hawkish Senate GOP colleagues. – Jewish Insider

Bethany Mandel writes: The Iran crisis cost Carter a second term. The plight of the Americans held by Hamas should cost Biden his. Trump has it within his grasp to end this abomination. At every speech, he should say their names. Share their stories. Show not only that he cares, but that as president, he will accomplish what Biden has not and perhaps cannot do: Bring them home. – New York Post

Gol Kalev writes: However, he added, “If we need to stand alone, we stand alone… If we do not defend ourselves, nobody will defend us.” The choice that President Biden faces could not be clearer. Will he act like Roosevelt and allow the attempt to eradicate Judaism to move forward? Or will he impose crippling sanctions against the ICC and those assaulting the Jewish state, its leaders, its brave soldiers, and its citizens? – Jerusalem Post

Cybersecurity

Chinese artificial-intelligence companies face two big challenges in trying to create chatbots on par with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. One is overcoming U.S. export controls on buying leading-edge artificial-intelligence chips. – Wall Street Journal

A leading Russian rights group says it has received a notice from YouTube threatening to block access in Russia to one of its video channels featuring news on the war in Ukraine. – Reuters

A highly successful, financially motivated crime group has been impersonating nonprofit organizations to obtain reduced rates or even free access to cloud accounts, which it then uses to operate an increasing number of gift card theft scams targeting top U.S. retailers, researchers with Microsoft said Thursday. – CyberScoop

New Hampshire authorities on Thursday indicted the Democratic political operative Steve Kramer for his role in creating and distributing an AI-generated robocall that impersonated President Joe Biden and urged the state’s voters to not cast their ballots in January’s primary election. – CyberScoop

A popular brand of recording software used widely in courtrooms, jails and prisons has been compromised by hackers, allowing them to gain full control of a system through a backdoor implanted in an update to the tool. – The Record

Fiona M. Alexander writes: But the US must be consistent. Even as Secretary of State Blinken promotes the free, open Internet, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai dropped longstanding American digital trade demands for the free flow of data in World Trade Organization talks. The US must choose. It cannot promote data localization — and at the same time crusade for a democratic, open, and safe Internet. The two positions contradict each other. Fair share is a bad idea. So is data localization. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Defense

Lockheed Martin’s delay in rolling out the F-35 fighter’s Technology Refresh 3 upgrade package appears to have no immediate effect on customers in the Asia-Pacific region, but governments are monitoring their acquisition timelines closely. – Defense News

The Pentagon has started sending systems to Indo-Pacific Command as a part of Replicator — a program aimed at hastening the purchase and delivery of drones. In a short statement, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who leads the program, said that the deliveries began earlier in May. – Defense News

In a future operating environment, sophisticated adversary cyber technologies could inhibit the Air Force’s ability to achieve its number one role for the joint force: air superiority. – DefenseScoop

Editorial: That’s one more reason Mr. Biden has a duty to stop tolerating the Houthi menace and hit the Iranian proxy’s missile and radar capacities so the attacks cease. But for the moment, as they say in the Navy, Bravo Zulu to the sailors of the USS Carney, for putting up a stiff defense of America’s interests even when their Commander in Chief wouldn’t. – Wall Street Journal