Fdd's overnight brief

May 7, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Biden administration’s intensive public and private campaign to forestall Israel’s assault on Rafah has become its toughest test to date with its Middle East ally. – Wall Street Journal

Israel stepped up attacks in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, after Hamas said it had accepted a proposal to pause the fighting that Israel said fell short of what it could accept. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration has delayed the sale of thousands of precision weapons to Israel, raising questions about whether the U.S. is deliberating slowing the delivery of weapons to its top Middle East ally amid growing domestic political pressure. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is expected to notify Congress this week whether it believes Israel has violated U.S. or international law in Gaza, a determination with significant moral and political stakes for President Biden. – Washington Post

The Israeli military took control of the vital Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Tuesday, pushing into the southern Gazan town after a night of air strikes and as prospects for a ceasefire deal hung in the balance. – Reuters

The United States is studying Hamas’s response to a ceasefire proposal and will discuss it with allies in the Middle East in the coming hours, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Monday. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that his war cabinet approved continuing an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in order to pressure Hamas to release Israeli hostages and achieve the country’s other war goals. – Reuters

Israeli orders to relocate Palestinians from Rafah are inhumane and risked exposing them to further danger and misery, the U.N. human rights chief said on Monday, warning that such actions can sometimes amount to a war crime. – Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community on Monday to pressure Israel to commit to a proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza mediated by Egypt and Qatar after Hamas had accepted it, Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported. – Reuters

Aid groups said on Monday their medical services in Rafah have been affected by the start of Israel’s operation in the southern Gaza city, with some services suspended and medical teams blocked. – Reuters

The United Nations General Assembly could vote on Friday on a draft resolution that would recognize the Palestinians as qualified to become a full U.N. member and recommend that the U.N. Security Council “reconsider the matter favorably.” – Reuters

Israel rejected a statement from Hamas that it had accepted a cease-fire proposal to end the fighting in Gaza, saying its forces would continue their operation in Rafah to eradicate the Palestinian militant group. – Bloomberg

President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Monday as the Israel military urged civilians to move out of the southern Gazan city of Rafah, according to US and Israeli officials. – Bloomberg

Hamas leader Osama Hamdan spoke yesterday at a webinar hosted by Masar Badil, a group with ties to the PFLP, designated as a terror group by the EU, Canada, the US, Israel and others. […]On the international level, Hamdan praised Russia and China for their support for Hamas in the UNSC against the “criminalization of the resistance.” – Jerusalem Post

Hamas issued a warning against a military operation in Rafah on Monday, after Israel began calling on Palestinians to evacuate parts of the southern Gaza city ahead of a planned ground offensive and as Washington mounts a diplomatic offensive to get talks to secure a temporary truce and hostage release back on track. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Despite media reports, by Monday night Hamas hadn’t “accepted” a genuine cease-fire-for-hostages deal. It made its own offer that Israel end the war, which means accepting defeat. In reply, Israel’s war cabinet, which includes Mr. Netanyahu’s main political rival, unanimously decided to move forward in Rafah while sending negotiators “to exhaust the possibility of reaching an agreement.” If Mr. Biden wants a cease-fire that matters, he will support Israel and let Hamas remember what it’s like to negotiate with its back against the wall. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: The decision to enter Rafah is not one to be taken lightly. By confronting the terrorist threat head-on, Israel can protect its citizens, deter future attacks, and pave the way for a brighter future for everyone in the region. The time for action is now. – Jerusalem Post

David Ignatius writes: As negotiators exchange drafts of a final cease-fire plan, they should keep in mind the image of a postwar Gaza in the benign chaos of rebuilding — aboveground this time — as construction rigs and concrete trucks build new apartment buildings, municipal facilities and office blocks. That’s what peace will look like — maybe many years from now, but it’s time to begin. – Washington Post

Warren Kozak writes: There is one common link between Israel today and America back then.  Our leaders in World War II led a population that understood whom they were fighting and what was at stake, and Americans were willing to back up those costly decisions with their sons. There were more than 400,000 Gold Star families in World War II. That is, ultimately, the number that won the war. – New York Sun

Jeremy Sharon writes: With Israel shutting down the key Kerem Shalom goods crossing Sunday after a deadly Hamas attack close to the facility in which four soldiers were killed, and an IDF assault against the city of Rafah now seemingly imminent, legal scrutiny of Israel’s actions will remain a key feature of this conflict, and its aftermath. – Times of Israel


U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi flew to Iran on Monday hoping to bolster his agency’s oversight of Tehran’s atomic activities after various setbacks, but analysts and diplomats say he has limited leverage and must be wary of empty promises. – Reuters

The United States sees Iran’s capacity to move its oil as reliant on service providers based in Malaysia, with oil being transferred near Singapore and throughout the region, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

Iranian protester Mahmoud Mehrabi, who was arrested in March 2023 for his protests against the regime, was sentenced to death on Sunday by a court in Isfahan, his lawyer, Babak Farsani, reported on X. – Jerusalem Post

Ari Heistein writes: After Netanyahu’s understanding of Israel’s strategic environment imploded on October 7, he should approach all previous assumptions with renewed skepticism. Until the Government of Israel can delineate clearer strategic aims in which it can anchor its policy toward the Iran threat network, Israeli national security policy will remain adrift. – Jerusalem Post

Omer Bar-Lev writes: Israel’s success, in cooperation with the United States and other countries, in forging an iron wall against Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel was an exceptional strategic achievement. This achievement is of inestimable importance in bolstering our deterrence against future Iranian threats, whether conventional or nuclear – threats that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deemed the only strategic threat to Israel’s existence. – Haaretz

Andrew G. Clemmensen writes: Policymakers should therefore consider pairing denial with punishment, both threatened and actual. For example, in the event of a future attack, a counterstrike against Iran’s drone manufacturing capabilities could be particularly beneficial—not only by sending a strategic message to bolster deterrence, but also by degrading drone production, which would diminish the cost advantages of Iran’s approach and reduce the inventory available for arming its proxies and Russia. – Washington Institute

Azriel Bermant writes: The Israeli public, too, appears to have a limited appetite for unilateral action against Iran. According to a recent opinion poll conducted by Hebrew University, 74 percent of Israelis surveyed were against Israeli retaliation against Iran if it harmed security cooperation with Israel’s allies. Israel would be making a catastrophic mistake if it made light of the supportive role played by its allies and neglected the potential to develop a stronger relationship with moderate Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. The Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, 2023, and Iran’s attack on April 14 have made it abundantly clear: Israel can no longer rely only on itself to prevail against its adversaries. – Foreign Policy

Russia & Ukraine

A U.S. soldier was arrested in Russia after being charged with theft, the Pentagon said, the latest case of an American being detained by Russian authorities since the start of the war in Ukraine. – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s military to test its readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons—a step the Kremlin said was a response to recent comments by Western officials, including warnings that European powers could do more to help Ukraine in its fight with Moscow. – Wall Street Journal

Vladimir Putin is set to be inaugurated Tuesday for a fifth term as president in a gilded hall in the Kremlin Palace where Russian czars were once crowned. The traditional pomp and ceremony is designed to convey his might as Russia’s supreme, uncontested leader for the past quarter-century. – Washington Post

Russia on Monday defended its veto of a U.N. resolution urging all nations to prevent a nuclear arms race in outer space, challenging the U.S., Japan and their Western allies to support Moscow’s rival resolution calling for a ban on all weapons in space “for all time.” – Associated Press

The United States and most European Union nations will boycott a Kremlin ceremony to swear in Vladimir Putin for a new six-year term as president on Tuesday, but France and some other EU states were expected to send an envoy despite a plea by Kyiv. – Reuters 

Russia warned Britain on Monday that if British weapons were used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory then Moscow could hit back at British military installations and equipment both inside Ukraine and elsewhere. – Reuters 

French officials responded Tuesday to reports that Paris sent military forces to Ukraine to assist in the war against Russia. […]”It is a campaign of disinformation intended to weaken Paris’ support of Kyiv,” said a statement from the French Foreign Ministry. – Arutz Sheva

Ukraine has released videos showing its military destroying Russian landing boats in annexed Crimea and in the southern region of Kherson. – Newsweek

Editorial: Disarmament treaties are not perfect. But without them, the world will be more dangerous. With the Kremlin’s latest activity, leaders in Russia and elsewhere will feel even less compunction about breaching norms developed the hard way, from the epochal slaughter in the 20th century. – Washington Post


Hezbollah said on Monday it carried out a drone attack on an Israeli military position near the northern Israeli town of Metula. The Israeli military later confirmed two soldiers were killed in the attack. – Reuters

“An Israeli strike on an emergency and relief centre” in the southern village of Habariyeh on March 27 “killed seven emergency and relief volunteers” and constituted an “unlawful attack on civilians that failed to take all necessary precautions”, HRW said in a statement. – Agence France-Presse

Two Israeli army reservists were killed during a Hezbollah drone strike on northern Israel, according to a statement released by the IDF on Tuesday morning. – Haaretz


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he welcomed the decision by militant group Hamas to accept a ceasefire in Gaza, which he said was made in line with Ankara’s suggestion, adding he hopes Israel would do the same. – Reuters

Turkey hit northern Iraq with air strikes on Monday and claimed to have killed 16 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) sheltering there. – Reuters

Turkey’s dramatic move to boycott all trade with Israel has left importers and exporters in dire straits, seeking alternatives even as the disruption of maritime trade in the Red Sea reduces the attractiveness of shipping goods from the Far East. – Times of Israel


Global shipping lines have become increasingly strained as the Houthi militia in Yemen broadens its attacks on cargo vessels, one of the largest companies in the industry warned on Monday. – New York Times

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said on Tuesday two explosions were reported in the proximity of a merchant vessel 82 nautical miles south of Yemen’s Aden. – Reuters

Walter Russell Mead writes: The increasingly integrated actions of the axis of revisionist powers threaten to overwhelm America’s limited ability to keep the peace. As Japanese commentator Hiroyuki Akita recently noted, the risk of a “negative chain reaction” in which regional conflicts combine to set off a global conflagration is rising. If the U.S. can’t stop Russia, Hamas, Iran or the Houthis, our friends in the Indo-Pacific wonder, what are the chances America can stop China? Team Biden needs to give them an answer. – Wall Street Journal

Middle East & North Africa

Jordan’s King Abdullah told U.S. President Joe Biden in a private meeting on Monday that an Israeli offensive in Rafah would lead to a “new massacre” of Palestinian civilians and urged the international community to take urgent action. – Reuters

Eleven people were executed on Monday at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya after they were convicted and sentenced to death of terrorism crimes, two security sources have told Reuters. – Reuters

Stock markets in the Gulf were mixed in early trading on Tuesday amid rising geopolitical tension in the region, while the Abu Dhabi index advanced on upbeat corporate earnings. – Reuters


Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to European ally Serbia on Tuesday falls on a symbolic date: the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during NATO’s air war over Kosovo. – Associated Press

Beijing supports a peace conference on the Ukraine war that would see equal participation of all parties, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui said in an interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency in remarks published on Tuesday. – Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on France to help fend off a “new Cold War” as the European Union increasingly aligns with US concerns over security risks and trade tensions. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Congress should also fund and direct the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to interdict ships traveling from China to Mexico suspected to have fentanyl precursors on them. Such interdictions will not make China happy, but the embarrassment of exposing their role in the international drug trade may shame them into taking harsher action on their domestic producers. The safety and well-being of Americans is too important to leave to the whims of the Chinese communist regime. Biden, and the next president, must be prepared to defend our citizens from the dangers of fentanyl without help from Chinese law enforcement. – Washington Examiner

Alexander Gabuev writes: Finally, China has been scrutinizing the West’s evolving commitment to Ukraine. Two years ago, a U.S.-led team of European and Asian democracies surprised the world—and themselves—with a swift reaction to Mr. Putin’s aggression. In year three, the fracturing of Western support is plain to see. It took Congress six months to approve the latest U.S. military support package for Ukraine amid political divisions, and the possibility of agreement on new rounds of far-reaching sanctions seems remote. The West’s ability to up the stakes in the confrontation with a rogue player doesn’t look as solid as it did in 2022—and Beijing is taking note. – Wall Street Journal

Ronald H. Linden writes: Major breakthroughs are quite unlikely in such a milieu. EU-China summits have in the past produced “candid” and “frank” discussions along with not-so-oblique criticisms. In 2022, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell labeled these “a dialogue of the deaf.” At this point, the factors binding Europe to the U.S., and China to Russia, seem changeable only at the margins. But margins count. Trade and investment issues, while nettlesome and closely linked to domestic politics, are often the most pliable. Promises can be made, “gentlemen’s agreements” signed to avoid damaging mutual trade and trust. Joint commissions — of which the EU and China already have plenty — can gear up to study issues like equal access for foreign investment. – The Hill

South Asia

A powerful ethnic minority armed group battling Myanmar’s army in the country’s west claimed Monday to have taken hundreds of government soldiers prisoner when it captured a major command post. – Associated Press

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wielded near-total control over Indian politics since coming to power 10 years ago, with one exception: He has failed to win over the country’s wealthier southern region. – Associated Press

Thousands of activists in Bangladesh backed by the ruling party’s student wing marched through universities around the country Monday to demand an end to the Israel-Hamas war and the creation of an independent Palestinian state. – Associated Press

It has been almost a year since the Indian government arrested Vivek Raghuvanshi, a longtime freelancer journalist with Defense News, with officials having declined to provide information about his safety, legal representation and allegations. – Defense News


Australia has protested to Beijing through multiple channels that a Chinese fighter jet endangered an Australian navy helicopter with flares over international waters, the prime minister said Tuesday. – Associated Press

Malaysia will not interfere in business relations between arms manufacturers and other countries, its defense minister said Tuesday, after protesters demanded that the government expel companies that supply weapons to Israel from an international exhibition. – Associated Press

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is seeking what it calls innovative means of finding, tracking and cataloging illicit activity in China’s backyard. – Defense News


Making his first trip to Europe since before the pandemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping was treated to a state banquet at the Élysée Palace on Monday and will visit the French president’s favorite childhood vacation spot. But French hospitality hasn’t appeared to resolve tensions over trade or win Beijing’s commitment to take a tougher line on Russia. – Washington Post

Voters in Northern Macedonia go to the polls Wednesday for a double election — parliamentary and presidential — following a campaign in which the country’s aspirations to join the European Union have played a central role. – Associated Press

The European Union’s executive decided on Monday to end its 6-year dispute with member state Poland, saying Prime Minister Donald Tusk has initiated the necessary changes to reverse what the bloc called the previous government’s backsliding on democratic principles. – Associated Press

Polish President Andrzej Duda intends to take part in a planned conference on Ukraine’s peace blueprint in Switzerland next month, he said after a phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday. – Bloomberg

Belgium is trying to recruit other European countries to impose new trade sanctions on Israel, according to statements made Monday by its political leadership. – Times of Israel

France says it is “strongly opposed” to Israel’s Rafah offensive, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern city of the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

Gerard Baker writes: The Labour leader is now beset with calls to end his already highly qualified support of Israel. During the weekend, John McTernan, a Labour adviser who once worked for Prime Minister Tony Blair, tweeted: “We are being sent a message about Gaza and must listen, understand and act.” At least in America they’ve only taken over the universities. – Wall Street Journal

Lea Ypi writes: The politics of the people presented by the radical right may be narrowly ethnocentric, but it is the only one on offer that speaks directly to people’s disillusionment. Our modern princes may choose to look away. Yet as long as the radical right continues to dominate the terms of mainstream debate, while its historical roots are discreetly ignored, no appeal to European values will stop the river in which we’re all about to drown. – New York Times


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is capitalizing on his administration’s efforts to bring an end to Israel’s war on Hamas as he seeks to draw votes in the only province that isn’t controlled by the ruling African National Congress. – Bloomberg

Chad held its long delayed presidential election on Monday following three years of military rule under the interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, a vote that analysts widely expected the incumbent to win. – Associated Press

A Nigerian journalist’s arrest last week has triggered criticism of worsening press freedoms in the West African country. – Associated Press

The Americas

The day Edmundo González was plucked from obscurity and chosen to take on South America’s longest ruling authoritarian leader, technicians were busy making sure his home was not wiretapped. – New York Times

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended the increase in spending on the armed forces during his administration, saying that they helped reduce violence and improve development over the course of his nearly six-year term. – Bloomberg

Scott B. MacDonald and Georges Fauriol writes: What are the options for U.S. policy? One option favored by more progressive members of the U.S. political camp and the business community is to return to the engagement initiated during the Obama administration. The upsides promoted are that U.S. businesses (some of which sit in Republican states) would be allowed back into the country, and the Cuban population would have less animosity vis-à-vis the United States when the regime eventually changes. – National Interest

United States

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) pressed the Pentagon to address Russian troops’ illicit use of Starlink internet terminals in Ukraine, calling the issue a “serious national security threat” to the U.S. and its allies. – Wall Street Journal

The United States is “quite concerned” about Israel’s shutdown of Al Jazeera’s operations in the country, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday, a day after Israeli authorities raided a Jerusalem hotel room used as the TV station’s local office. – Reuters

A dozen Republican senators on Monday sent a letter warning International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan not to issue arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, days after the British lawyer cautioned against efforts to try to sway the court. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Mayor Bowser bristled that “the members have universities in their own districts, especially the member from North Carolina,” and “her energy would be best placed there.” But North Carolina police have handled protests on campus in that state. Students claim they have a right to occupy campus, but George Washington can change that too. While they’re waiting for the police, start with some expulsions. – Wall Street Journal

Micah Halpern writes: So, while I applaud the Pentagon for admitting that they mistakenly killed a Syrian shepherd, I just wish they would apply the same standard to Israel that they apply to themselves. But for now, that act of understanding and global recognition doesn’t seem to fit their agenda. It’s more than infuriating – It’s shameful. – Jerusalem Post


American and Chinese diplomats plan to meet later this month to begin what amounts to the first, tentative arms control talks over the use of artificial intelligence. – New York Times

MPs will be told today of a massive data breach involving the MoD, targeting service personnel. The government will not name the country involved, but Sky News understands this to be China. The Chinese state is to be accused of two or three attempts at hacking MoD employees – including personnel. – Sky News

A U.S. State Department strategy document released Monday said the Biden administration aims to orient its cyber-diplomacy around the concept of “digital solidarity” to help partners and allies responsibly use technology and to help developing nations grow their economies. – CyberScoop

A White House national security memorandum outlining how the government helps defend critical infrastructure from physical and digital attacks leaves gaps that only Congress can fill, experts warn. – CyberScoop

Germany has recalled its ambassador to Russia following alleged Moscow-backed cyberattacks targeting the country’s defense, aerospace, and IT companies, as well as the German Social Democratic Party. – The Record

A Russian operator of once one of the world’s largest virtual currency exchanges, BTC-e, pleaded guilty to participating in a money laundering scheme, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice. – The Record

Brian Cavanaugh writes: Under Chairwoman Khan, the FTC has taken its authority to an extreme and focused its efforts on imposing interventionist government regulations without regard to the consequences to U.S. economic and national security. These policies are hamstringing tech innovation, eroding U.S. economic leadership and subverting America’s geopolitical interests. – Fox News


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is creating a hub for space intelligence collection and decision-making that its director hopes will improve collaboration among government agencies. – Defense News

The U.S. is gaining valuable insights about the performance of its technologies amid electronic interference as Ukrainian troops use them on the front lines, according to one official. – Defense News

The Department of Defense has secured the funding it needs to move forward with the first tranche of systems for its Replicator initiative, the department announced Monday. – DefenseScoop

A U.S. drone company has unveiled new machine-gun equipped drones that it says will be groundbreaking for Ukraine’s military amid the ongoing war against Russia. – Newsweek