Fdd's overnight brief

May 31, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz’s party submitted a bill to dissolve parliament, in a move analysts said is unlikely to lead to a vote soon but opens the door for a battle over elections as early as this summer. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah has heaped pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to respond more forcefully to a former adversary that Egypt has long held a cold peace with, but also viewed with deep suspicion. – Wall Street Journal

Repeated mishaps with the Pentagon’s Gaza pier have triggered new scrutiny over whether it is safe and sensible to continue using the floating operation to bring humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians, with the Biden administration insisting it can salvage the mission and former military officials split on whether doing so is wise. – Washington Post

Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in a dawn airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday and fighting raged in several other areas of the coastal enclave, Gaza medics said. – Reuters

Hamas said on Thursday it had told mediators it would not take part in more negotiations during ongoing aggression but was ready for a “complete agreement” including an exchange of hostages and prisoners if Israel stopped the war. – Reuters

The Israeli military has lifted a ban on the sale of food to Gaza from Israel and the occupied West Bank as its battlefield offensive chokes international aid, according to Palestinian officials, businessmen and international aid workers. – Reuters

Israel has not given a response to France on Paris’ proposals to reduce tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, France’s foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

Israel plans to allow more oil tankers to dock at a Red Sea port in Eilat despite environmental risks, as it strives to maintain energy security amid conflict on multiple fronts, according to Israeli officials and government documents. – Reuters

Humanitarian aid for Gaza is continuing to leave Cyprus by sea and will be held in floating storage off the coast of the enclave until a U.S.-built military pier undergoes repairs, a Cypriot government official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Slovenia’s government on Thursday endorsed a motion to recognize a Palestinian state and asked the parliament to do the same. Prime Minister Robert Golob said that his government sent the recognition proposal to parliament, which could convene as early as next week. – Associated Press

President Joe Biden’s advisers have insisted for months to allies at home and abroad that his embrace of Israel has resulted in the least bad outcome in the Gaza war by reining in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s impulses and preventing even worse bloodshed. – Bloomberg

Rafah residents reported intense artillery shelling and gunfire Thursday in Gaza’s far-southern city after Israel said it had seized a strategic corridor on the Palestinian territory’s border with Egypt. – Agence France-Presse

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi reportedly said Thursday that the current government will not agree to end its war against Hamas in exchange for the release of all the remaining hostages held by the terror group. – Times of Israel

A crucial study by a key international organization that found in March that a famine had begun in northern Gaza relied on small sample sizes and undisclosed data sources, rendering its conclusions and projections unreliable, an Israeli review has found. – Times of Israel

Israel and Egypt have reached an agreement in principle to reopen the Rafah Border Crossing in southern Gaza to humanitarian aid for the first time since the Israel Defense Forces took control of the Gazan side of the crossing in early May, a Hebrew media report said Thursday. – Times of Israel

The Israeli military said Thursday that a soldier was killed in Gaza fighting, as it continued to pound the Strip and said 300 terror operatives had been killed since an incursion was launched into its southern city of Rafah. – Times of Israel

Editorial: The Military Advocate General, Maj.-Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said, “We take these allegations very seriously and are working to see them through… The IDF’s commitment to the law does not stem from concerns posed by the international arena. First and foremost, it is rooted in the fact that the State of Israel is a state of law. The rule of law and the purity of arms are values woven into the IDF’s code of ethics from the day it was established.” Tomer-Yerushalmi hit the nail on the head. Those outside of the conflict must not jump the gun. – Jerusalem Post

Shlomo Brody writes: Perhaps they’re right. National solidarity will suffer if Israel fails to bring hostages home alive. Is that enough to counter the long-term security risks? Perhaps not. One thing is certain: The issue is complex and sloganeering doesn’t make it less so. Jewish thought provides essential guideposts for thinking about this dilemma. Israelis ought to pray that their leaders have the acumen to apply it wisely—for only God knows what’s right. – Wall Street Journal

Aviv Hooker writes: The stakes have never been higher. Ensuring the security of our digital infrastructure is a critical component of national security. Organizations must take these threats seriously and implement comprehensive measures to safeguard their operations. The time to act is now, before the next attack strikes. How we respond today will define our resilience in the face of tomorrow’s cyber adversaries. – Jerusalem Post

Michael Makovsky writes: Oct. 7 will go down as a catastrophic intelligence and military failure. However, Israel allowing the Hezbollah threat to metastasize over the past two decades appears to have been a colossal strategic blunder, the cost of which could even dwarf that of Oct. 7. For Jerusalem, the Lebanon bill is past due. – Tablet

Iran

Iran on Thursday started registration of candidates for an early election next month following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told state TV. – Reuters

The United States boycotted a United Nations tribute to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday because it said he was “involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses” and that the world body should instead stand with the people of Iran. – Reuters

Israel sent messages to Tehran via Egypt that it would “compromise” in Gaza to try to avert an Iranian response to an attack in April on Iran’s embassy compound in Syria, Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards as saying. – Reuters

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a close ally, in Tehran on Thursday to offer condolences for the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s Student News Network (SNN) reported. – Reuters

Criminal gangs have been enlisted to attack Israeli interests in Sweden at the behest of Iran, according to Israeli and Swedish security services. – Bloomberg

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised university students in the United States for their protests over the rising death toll in the war in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

Russia & Ukraine

In a significant policy reversal, the Biden administration on Thursday said for the first time that it would allow Ukrainian forces to do limited targeting with American-supplied weapons inside Russia. – Wall Street Journal

Sharp fractures are opening between Kyiv and its Western backers, including the United States, over the future of Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. – Washington Post

In recent days, Ukraine has conducted a series of drone attacks inside Russia, including one of the longest-range strikes of the war, that target radar stations used, at least partly, as early nuclear warning systems by Moscow. – New York Times

Top Ukrainian military officials have warned that Russia is building up troops near northeastern Ukraine, raising fears that a new offensive push could be imminent in a region that has become a pressure point on strained Ukrainian forces. – New York Times

Two people were injured when an oil depot in the Krasnodar region caught fire after a Ukraine missile and drone strike early on Friday targeting oil facilities, Russian officials said. – Reuters

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will ask allies to pledge a minimum of 40 billion euros ($43.37 billion) annually to fund military aid for Ukraine, an alliance source told Reuters on Thursday, as NATO foreign ministers gathered for talks in Prague. – Reuters

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it was finalising a proposal for “retaliatory measures” against the European Union over the bloc’s ban on the broadcast of four Russian media outlets on its territory. – Reuters

U.S. plans to further curb the operations of Russia’s so-called “shadow fleet” of oil tankers are unacceptable and its desire to impede Russia-China trade is part of an illegal trade war, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. – Reuters

Editorial: Mr. Biden appears to have made the right, albeit limited, decision to give some of the permission Mr. Zelensky seeks. The express, but not necessarily public, condition should be that the weapons be used against military targets only. Such moves are calculated risks. But they are well worth taking to help Ukraine defeat cross-border aggression, maintain hard-won national sovereignty and stake out a future as a prosperous democracy. – Washington Post

Benjamin Harris and David Wessel write: “Even dictators must respect budget constraints, and we should ensure that these constraints are as tight as possible.” Ideally, Russia will soon be forced to retreat from Ukraine and these actions will prove unnecessary. Sadly, it’s far more likely that sanctions on Russian will need to be intensified. – Washington Post

Hal Brands writes: NATO will have to continue rearming against an avowedly revisionist, highly mobilized Russia, if only to ensure that full-blown confrontation with the alliance remains a very bad bet. Yet it must also prepare for a long struggle in the shadows, in which a wounded Russia finds creative ways of harrying its foes. That sort of cold war will be challenging enough — even if the West can keep its confrontation with Putin from turning hot. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

A land border agreement between Israel and Lebanon implemented in phases could dampen the simmering and deadly conflict between the two countries, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden said on Thursday. – Reuters

Algeria’s proposed draft U.N. Security Council resolution on a Gaza ceasefire, which specifically calls for a halt to Israel’s offensive in Rafah, is not balanced, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, saying it does not blame Palestinian militant group Hamas for the conflict. – Reuters

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud where the two exchanged views on various subjects including the Ukraine crisis, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Joint British-U.S. airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed at least 16 people and wounded 35 others, the rebels said Friday, the highest publicly acknowledged death toll from the multiple rounds of strikes carried out over the rebels’ attacks on shipping. – Associated Press

The main insurgent group in rebel-held northwest Syria blasted the U.S. on Thursday over its criticism of a crackdown on protesters in areas outside government control. The group said Washington should instead respect protesters at American universities who have demonstrated against the war in Gaza. – Associated Press

Turkey won’t hesitate to act against Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria that Ankara accuses of links to outlawed Kurdish militants, if they proceed with plans to hold local elections in the region, Turkey’s president said Thursday. – Associated Press

There are hot messes and then there is Lebanon, which, largely thanks to decades of serial Iranian meddling, elevates (or lowers) political chaos to a whole new level. One case in point is Hezbollah, responsible for a long list of deadly cross-border attacks against northern Israel since the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7. – New York Sun

The US ambassador to Iraq denounced attacks Thursday targeting Western-linked brands in Baghdad this week, as anger grows across the Middle East over Israel’s war in Gaza. – Agence France-Presse

Sabina Henneberg and Amine Ghoulidi write: The United States can become more effective at advancing its interests in North Africa and supporting the long-term aspirations of the people who live there. But doing so will require a more holistic and adaptive approach that focuses on providing targeted electoral support; robustly addressing economic, social, and institutional challenges; managing regional dynamics; and engaging strategically with global competitors. – Washington Institute

Eugene Chausovsky writes: As such, the role of Saudi Arabia could prove unexpectedly consequential in shaping the course of the Israel-Gaza conflict and its ripple effects throughout the region. Whether via a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a major military escalation, or a broader diplomatic realignment in the region, Riyadh’s position will be crucial to watch moving forward. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

A Pentagon intelligence agency says analysis of debris imagery confirms that Russia has fielded North Korean missiles in its war in Ukraine, according to a report summary released in an unclassified form on Thursday. – Reuters

North Korea said on Friday it had fired 18 short-range ballistic missiles during a drill as a demonstration of its willingness to launch a pre-emptive strike against South Korea’s “gangsters’ regime” if necessary to counter an attack. – Reuters

South Korea plans to make a Mars landing by 2045 and spend 100 trillion won ($72.6 billion) until then on space exploration, President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Thursday at the launch of the country’s first space agency. – Reuters

Manure. Cigarette butts. Scraps of cloth. Waste batteries. Even, reportedly, diapers. This week, North Korea floated hundreds of huge balloons to dump all of that trash across rival South Korea — an old-fashioned, Cold War-style provocation that the country has rarely used in recent years. – Associated Press

China

China will impose export controls on billions of dollars of aviation equipment, technology and software, a move it said was aimed at enhancing national security. – Wall Street Journal

China has confirmed it will not attend a Ukraine peace conference to be hosted by Switzerland next month, four sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. Beijing declined the invitation because the conditions for them to participate were not met, including the participation of both Russia and Ukraine, three of the sources said. – Reuters

The U.S. and Chinese defence chiefs locked horns on Taiwan in their first face-to-face meeting in two years on Friday, but both sides emphasised the need to keep military-to-military communications open. – Reuters

China has more powerful countermeasures, if the United States continues to violate and endanger the country’s sovereignty and security interests on core issues, or squeeze the development of Chinese firms, state media said on Friday. – Reuters

China will reinstate tariffs on 134 items it imports from Taiwan next month after the Ministry of Finance said it would suspend concessions given on the items under a trade deal because Taiwan had not reciprocated. – Reuters

China’s defence ministry on Thursday strongly condemned the deployment of a U.S. intermediate range missile system in the northern Philippines during military drills in April, saying it “brought huge risks of war into the region”. – Reuters

China’s military achieved its “expected goals” during two days of drills around Taiwan last week but is prepared for further action if provoked, a defence ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. – Reuters

China’s Defense Ministry on Thursday denounced U.S. and U.K. affirmations of support for Taiwan’s newly elected government, shortly after the island claimed by Beijing freely chose its new leaders. – Associated Press

Minxin Pei writes: Indeed, it is hard to imagine that the US — which is probing whether Chinese electric vehicles pose a national-security threat — would allow BYD Co., China’s biggest maker of EVs, to partner with Google for a pilot project similar to that struck between Tesla and Baidu. The US has the technological, economic, and political advantages to prevail over China in coming decades. But those strengths won’t last long if it continues to act more like its rival than its best self. – Bloomberg

Brandon J. Weichert writes: The real issue here is the unpredictable nature of war. Especially in the total invasion scenario. The uncertainty of that scenario means that the nuclear genie is far more likely to be loosed from its bottle than the blockade version. Nuclear warfare is far more likely in the coming years than it was in the preceding era. – The National Interest

South Asia

A jailed Sikh separatist leader is contesting India’s general election from prison and drawing good support, his campaign managers said, in what could become a concern for New Delhi which has sought to stamp out any revival of Sikh militancy. – Reuters

Sri Lanka will tighten controls to try to stop its men being lured to Russia to fight in Ukraine with often false promises of salaries and benefits, a minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister Imran Khan said on Thursday February’s national election was stolen from his party, describing it as the “biggest robbery of a public mandate”. – Reuters

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will visit China from June 4 to 8 on the invitation of President Xi Jinping, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

Kartikeya Singh writes: With growing supply chain and job growth pressures in both countries, the time is now for both countries to sharpen their energy partnership to address these pressures. They can achieve this by designing climate-aligned industrial policies that facilitate large-scale infrastructure spending, expand electrification, and are supported by new capital mobilization strategies. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Asia

Papua New Guinea ruled out finding survivors under the rubble of a massive landslide on Thursday, with the exact number of dead under almost two storeys of debris and mud still unknown but ranging from hundreds to thousands. – Reuters

Indonesia’s Supreme Court has approved regulatory changes on the age of candidates in regional elections, the court said on Thursday, amid speculation the president’s 29-year-old son is seeking to run in upcoming Jakarta elections. – Reuters

Government leaders, defense officials and diplomats from around the world are gathering in Singapore for Asia’s premier security forum this weekend, at a time of increasing tension and competition for influence between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific region. – Associated Press

Richard Horsey writes: An international system built on the primacy of relationships between nation-states is too restrictive a framework for dealing with Myanmar today. Foreign governments and international institutions must engage with nonstate groups to address acute humanitarian needs and improve governance. Myanmar’s fragmentation may be unavoidable, but it does not have to be catastrophic for its people. – Foreign Affairs

Emil Avdaliani writes: Indeed, the work toward this end has already begun with the incumbent Georgian president suggesting a new platform for all pro-Western forces. Given the growing frustration with the law, the political coalition might emerge as a powerful rival to the ruling party. There is still some time till the elections and much could change but a bigger picture is emerging: for the first time since 2012 when Georgian Dream came to power, the party will face major competition. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Rusif Huseynov and Murad Muradov write: For Baku, a policy of cordial but not-too-close relations with Moscow, even as Russia has come under increasing Western sanctions and been excluded from many international mechanisms, is enough of a compromise. The withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Karabakh, therefore, can be read as a reluctant recognition on the part of Moscow of the new status quo in the South Caucasus rather than part of some major bilateral geopolitical deal. – Middle East Institute 

Europe

France is intensifying talks with some European allies over a plan to send military instructors to Ukraine to train its forces, according to officials, an option that risks running up against red lines set by Washington and Berlin at the start of the war to prevent the conflict from escalating. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union has approved the creation of a new anti-money-laundering watchdog, a move aimed at closing loopholes for illicit cash flows in the 27-member union. – Wall Street Journal

Russia will not be invited to ceremonies in France commemorating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings next week because of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, “which has further intensified in recent weeks,” the French presidency said Thursday. – Washington Post

Two weeks after being shot and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt, Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia was released from the hospital on Thursday and taken to his home in Bratislava, the capital. – New York Times

Spain’s Parliament approved a landmark law on Thursday that grants amnesty to Catalan separatists involved in the illegal October 2017 independence referendum, a reprieve that could apply to hundreds of people, including Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan leader who has been living in self-imposed exile for seven years. – New York Times

President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife Jill on June 8 as part of Biden’s first state visit to France, the French presidency said on Thursday. – Reuters

The European Union delegation in South Sudan has denied reports that it is working to delay elections in the country as was alleged by President Salva Kiir. – Associated Press

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni looks set to engineer the first presidential encounter between Argentina’s Javier Milei and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Group of Seven summit next month, while the Pope is also due to attend for the first time. – Bloomberg

Joseph C. Sternberg writes: So, about that tsunami. The fear in Brussels is that gains by the insurgent right in next month’s European Parliament elections would mark a surge of sincere, ideologically motivated anti-EU sentiment by ordinary European voters, which the EU might not withstand. Instead perhaps the Continent will see only a normal political wave, propelled by complex social and economic forces, that’s merely surfed by upstart politicians who are just as capable of wiping out as the establishment they challenge. – Wall Street Journal

Adrian Wooldridge writes: The great lesson from recent elections is that campaigns matter: John Major pulled off a remarkable turn-around in 1992 and Jeremy Corbyn almost did the same in 2017. But the chances of a miracle for Sunak are fading fast. The election is headed exactly where everybody predicted: to a great Tory reckoning and the most disciplined and self-confident Labour government since 1997. – Bloomberg

Africa

Benin President Patrice Talon said Niger has not responded to his country’s concerns and his Nigerien counterpart did not meet with Benin’s mining minister on a visit this week amid a dispute over exports of crude oil from Niger via a port in Benin. – Reuters

Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, on his first official visit to Mali on Thursday, said he raised the question of remaining in regional bloc ECOWAS with his Malian counterpart, who was “not totally inflexible” on the matter. – Reuters

Nigeria has secured a $500 million World Bank loan for its electricity sector to boost power distribution, after last month’s hike in tariffs for top consumers in Africa’s most populous nation. – Reuters

The World Bank on Thursday approved the first of three budget support packages for Kenya worth $1.2 billion, to help the East African country address short-term fiscal pressures and accelerate green policies. – Reuters

The divided U.N. Security Council voted Thursday to extend an arms embargo on South Sudan despite appeals from the world’s newest nation, the African Union and half a dozen countries including Russia and China to lift or at least ease the restrictive measure. – Associated Press

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Uganda’s parliamentary speaker, her husband and several other officials over corruption and serious abuses of human rights. – Associated Press

Three UN agencies warned Thursday of a “significant deterioration” in the nutrition situation of children and mothers in war-torn Sudan, calling for “urgent action.” – Agence France-Presse

The Americas

Argentina naval forces and a U.S. fleet including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington carried out naval exercises on Thursday in waters off the South American nation, a show of closer ties under new President Javier Milei. – Reuters

Ecuadorean police said on Thursday that the leader of a major gang from the South American country, who is implicated in the January murder of a prosecutor, among other crimes, has been arrested in Panama. – Reuters

Javier Milei’s packed European tour in mid-June will also include a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, according to government officials familiar with the Argentine leader’s plans. – Bloomberg

Canada needs to be “super proactive” about the looming review of the North American free-trade agreement given that it’s a junior partner in the deal, its former central bank chief warned. – Bloomberg

Tara D. Sonenshine writes: For now, all eyes are focused on Mexico and its elections in June. Long gone are the days when we can ignore events outside our country, given the economic, social, and political interconnectedness of our world today. Let’s hope Mexico can rise to the challenges it faces and keep its economy — and democracy — alive. – The Hill

United States

Donald Trump became the first former president ever convicted of a crime, with a Manhattan jury finding him guilty Thursday of 34 felonies for falsifying records to cover up hush money paid to a porn star. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and deputy national security adviser Jon Finer met China’s Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu in Washington on Thursday, a day after Washington accused Beijing’s leadership of supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine and warned that China could face further Western sanctions. – Reuters

The United States is close to completing negotiations on a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine that President Joe Biden announced last year at a G7 meeting, a U.S. official said on Thursday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order next week to curb migration along the U.S. southern border with Mexico, two sources familiar with the plans said on Thursday. – Reuters

Editorial: The conviction sets a precedent of using legal cases, no matter how sketchy, to try to knock out political opponents, including former Presidents. Mr. Trump has already vowed to return the favor. If Democrats felt like cheering Thursday when the guilty verdict was read, they should think again. Mr. Bragg might have opened a new destabilizing era of American politics, and no one can say how it will end. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Law-enforcement and other officials looking at Ali’s attack mustn’t dismiss it as a merely the act of a lone lunatic. The case signals a putrid turn for the city that must be halted, pronto. As Adams said, such a climate would never be tolerated if, say, blacks were the target. It mustn’t be allowed to stand when Jews are in the crosshairs either. – New York Post

Chris Miller, Jordan Schneider, and Arrian Ebrahimi write: It needs support from industry, but, in its early years, it should establish its independence by focusing on long-term research that could transform the whole industry rather than simply aligning its aims with existing corporate road maps. Taking big bets on moonshot technologies is the only approach that can sustain Moore’s law and guarantee that the United States continues to lead in the technologies of tomorrow. – Washington Post

Andy Langenkamp writes: And not just if Trump wins the election and Republicans take over Congress. Biden recently said: “We don’t let tyrants win; we oppose them. We don’t merely watch global events unfold; we shape them. That’s what it means to be the … indispensable nation. That’s what it means to be the world’s superpower.” Such statements leave little room for China. – The Hill

Douglas Murray writes: The ICC is not just threatening US senators. It is saying they are already criminals in the eyes of the ICC prosecutor. Making the ICC effectively impossible to criticize. An almost divine institution.Criticize the ICC and you become a war criminal-in-waiting too, apparently. Well, the puffed-up prosecutor might note several things. Not least that the USA is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. And so, threatening US senators with a statute that the US does not recognize is as scary as threatening someone with your imaginary black belt in karate. – New York Post

Cybersecurity

The auction house Christie’s said Thursday that it had alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the British police about the cyberattack that hobbled its website earlier this month, and began telling clients what types of personal data had been compromised. – New York Times

A Chinese nonprofit group with ties to the nation’s government is coordinating efforts among China’s biggest technology firms to develop open-source software with military applications, a U.S.-based defense policy group says. – Reuters

Police coordinated by the European Union’s justice and police agencies have taken down computer networks responsible for spreading ransomware via infected emails, in what they called the biggest-ever international operation against the lucrative form of cybercrime – Associated Press

A top US spy chief said China is increasingly using its companies to find vulnerabilities in their own computer networks and then tapping that knowledge to target foreign nations and industries. – Bloomberg

At least seven journalists and activists based in Europe were targeted with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware between August 2020 and late April 2023, according to a new investigation that underscores the continuing threat that advanced spyware poses to writers and dissidents. – CyberScoop

A coalition of international law enforcement agencies carried out what they said was the “largest ever” operation to counter botnet and dropper malware by taking down or disrupting more than 100 servers, seizing 2,000 domains and identifying nearly 70 million euros earned by one of the main suspects in the case. – CyberScoop

Threat actors linked to the governments of Russia, China and Iran used OpenAI’s tools for influence operations, the company said Thursday. In its first report on the abuse of its models, OpenAI said that over the last three months it had disrupted five campaigns carrying out influence operations. – The Record

Russian threat actors are using cyberattacks against countries supporting Ukraine “to try to sow fear and discord among us,” U.S. cyber ambassador Nathaniel Fick said this week. – The Record

Defense

When a Singapore-flagged container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Maryland in the early hours of March 26, the U.S. Coast Guard became one of several federal agencies mobilized to close the Port of Baltimore waterway, initiate search-and-rescue and begin clearing tons of wreckage and debris. – Defense News

In the wake of a new $480 million contract award, U.S. military combatant commands are about to get expanded access to data integration and artificial intelligence tools to aid battlespace awareness and targeting. – DefenseScoop

Harrison Kass writes: What is the magic number here? I couldn’t say. But I don’t lose much sleep over a shrinking Air Force – in large part because I am skeptical that the size of the current US military budget (the largest in world history) is necessary, and in large part because so many of the people arguing to maintain or grow the USAF force structure all seem incentivized to have a larger USAF force structure. – The National Interest