Fdd's overnight brief

May 9, 2024

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


The Israeli military pushed forward in eastern Rafah in what it called a limited operation, clashing Wednesday with Hamas fighters and testing relations with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration postponed delivery of a report due to Congress on Wednesday on whether Israel’s use of U.S.-supplied military equipment in Gaza has violated U.S. or international humanitarian law, saying that a written assessment would be provided “in the very near future.” – Washington Post

The United Nations has warned that Israel’s military incursion into Rafah and closure of border crossings is a major setback for aid operations in the Gaza Strip, with dire implications for its people. – New York Times

Hamas has remained steadfast to its position towards a truce proposal and stuck to its approval of it, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, Izzat El-Reshiq, said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

There is only enough fuel to run health services in the south of Gaza for three more days, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The war in Gaza has cooled Israeli business activity with the United Arab Emirates, with the once-celebrated relationship now conducted away from public scrutiny amid anger in the Arab world over the conflict. – Reuters

Aid for Gaza was being loaded onto a ship in Cyprus on Wednesday in what was expected to be the first cargo to be delivered using a U.S. pier built to expedite supplies to the besieged enclave. – Reuters

Israel sees no sign of a breakthrough in Egyptian-mediated talks on a truce with Hamas that would free some Gaza hostages, but is keeping its delegation of mid-level negotiators in Cairo for now, an Israeli official said on Wednesday. – Reuters

President Joe Biden said for the first time Wednesday he would halt some shipments of American weapons to Israel – which he acknowledged have been used to kill civilians in Gaza – if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah. – CNN

While envoys to the United Nations believe something will be gained after a scheduled Friday vote at the General Assembly, much more could be lost: The UN will likely add a new, non-paying member — a quasi state, Palestine — but lose funding from its largest donor, America. – New York Sun

Israel’s ambassador to the United States sent a stinging letter to nearly 90 lawmakers Wednesday, blasting them for accusing Israel of purposefully withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinians. – Politico

An Israeli soldier was killed in a Hezbollah-claimed mortar and missile attack on an army position in the area of the northern community of Malkia on Wednesday, the military announced Thursday. – Times of Israel

Visiting CIA chief William Burns told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders during talks Wednesday that he still sees an opportunity for a deal with Hamas, Israeli television reported. – Times of Israel

Editorial: Israel needs to be ready now, and its enemies need to know the U.S. stands behind it. That’s why Congress approved military aid to Israel in April, 79–18 in the Senate and 366–58 in the House. The overwhelming votes, including a majority of both parties, marked an important defeat for the anti-Israel left. Failing in its efforts to disarm Israel, the left lost. Now Mr. Biden is endorsing its policy. – Wall Street Journal

Eugene Kontorovich writes: The United Nations is a corrupt, failed organization fundamentally tainted by its coddling dictatorships and chronic antisemitism, but broad efforts at defunding it have failed in Congress; now a future White House would have firm grounds to stop sending the checks. Perhaps the UN apparatchiks are confident Biden will be reelected. But are they really willing to bet the farm for this vile terror regime?  – New York Post

Douglas Bloomfield writes: That budding alliance was also considered a security threat to Hamas’s patrons in Tehran. They rightly saw an expanded Abraham Accords as not just Sunni Arabs doing business with the Zionists but forming a regional defense alliance against Iran. Hamas is a regional problem, and it is time for Netanyahu and his government to put it in perspective and work toward a regional solution. – Jerusalem Post


Iran will change its nuclear doctrine if Israel threatens its existence, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said, the latest comment by an Iranian official that raises questions about what Tehran says is its peaceful nuclear program. – Reuters

Add motor vehicles to the military ventures that are fueling relations between North Korea and Iran. The latter’s second largest motor vehicle maker, Saipa, may be picking up where the Reverend Sun-myung Moon’s Unification Church gave up 11 years ago as a North Korean car maker. – New York Sun

Hungarian Jewish organizations and the Israeli embassy have condemned a public university for inviting Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to an event this week. – Agence France-Presse

Just days before he’d premiere his new film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, director Mohammad Rasoulof has been sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging in Iran. – IndieWire

Yonah Jeremy Bob writes: The difference is that Israel needs to live in this region long after the US may lose focus or interest and will eventually need to recalibrate how it can both prevent Iran’s proxies from raining down a “ring of fire” on it, as well as stop Tehran from breaking out to a nuclear weapon, which could endanger Israel on an existential level. Balancing the risks of retaliating is vital, but continual restraint as a set strategy for dealing with a hardened adversary such as Iran will eventually be more dangerous than acting. Jerusalem Post

Russia & Ukraine

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday said they were preparing to order electricity-rationing measures across the country after a major overnight missile strike by Russia — the latest in a relentless bombing campaign against civilian infrastructure. – Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Thursday of risking a global conflict and said no one would be allowed to threaten the world’s biggest nuclear power as Russia marked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. – Reuters

A Ukrainian air attack on Russia’s Belgorod region injured eight people and damaged scores of residential buildings and cars, the governor of the region bordering with Ukraine said on Thursday. – Reuters

Ukraine said on Wednesday it was producing the same number of deep strike drones as Russia, claiming to have reached parity on a key type of weapon that Moscow has used for long-range attacks for much of its invasion. – Reuters

Russia accused Germany on Wednesday of using baseless myths about Russian hackers to escalate tensions and said Berlin’s decision to recall its ambassador would lead to further deterioration of bilateral ties. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Wednesday said it had no comment on Ukrainian assertions that Kyiv caught Russian agents plotting the assassination of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, but said that it was hardly likely to be accurate information. – Reuters

Armenia’s prime minister visited Moscow and held talks Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid spiraling tensions between the estranged allies. – Associated Press

Kosovo’s foreign minister said Wednesday that her country is convinced that Russia must lose the war in Ukraine for conflict not to spread further in Europe. She said her young nation’s support for Ukraine is unconditional even though Kyiv has not recognized Kosovo’s independence. – Associated Press

James Stavridis writes: Those small nations are certainly taking it seriously: The former chief of Estonia’s military intelligence unit warned that Russia would be ready to attack within four years. War games have predicted that Russian troops could take the capitals of Estonia or Latvia in less than three days. Fortunately, the addition of Sweden and Finland to the alliance — call it “Putin’s Folly” — gives NATO more options than ever in the Baltic Sea. While Russia has some capabilities, a continuous program of training, exercising and innovating will ensure NATO has total control over its new lake. – Bloomberg

Sam Greene writes: In fact, for as long as the war in Ukraine continues, the conversation about whether Russia can and should survive in its current form is a harmful distraction. For those who fear Russia’s disintegration, an unlikely event in any circumstance, it creates an unreasonable reticence to support Ukraine. For those who would welcome Russia’s demise, it engenders a kind of magical thinking, as though the war might more easily be won in Russia than in Ukraine. Either approach costs lives. – Center for European Policy Analysis

Saudi Arabia

Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia are exploring the creation of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracking Hong Kong indices, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in a statement on Thursday. – Reuters

Leon Hadar writes: Establishing ties with Saudi Arabia as part of a regional strategy that would lead to co-existence with the Palestinians and forming an Arab-Israeli alliance could help move Israel in that direction. Most importantly, Israel has to do so as an independent nation-state—and not as a crusader state whose fate is determined by the decisions of a foreign and distant power. – The National Interest

Steven A. Cook writes: Still, what happens when Saudi Arabia’s nuanced approach to managing Iran freaks out the Israelis? Like the Egyptians, the Saudis are dependent on the United States security assistance and, if the Israelis do not like how the royal court is pursuing its foreign policy, the potential for trouble in U.S.-Saudi ties is real. If the Biden administration wants a defense pact with Saudi Arabia, let’s have one. There should be a good enough case, and the president is a skilled enough politician to persuade the skeptics. – Foreign Policy

Middle East & North Africa

Syrian air defences on Thursday shot down Israeli missiles fired from the Golan Heights towards Damascus’ outskirts targeting a building in the countryside, Syria’s defence ministry said. – Reuters

Israel carried out heavy airstrikes in south Lebanon and Hezbollah said it had launched explosive drones and rockets at Israeli targets on Wednesday as Israel’s defence minister warned of a “hot summer” in the border region. – Reuters

If the monthslong conflict playing out on the Lebanese-Israeli border continues to escalate, the United Nations food agency won’t be ready for the spike in nutritional needs across crisis-hit Lebanon, its deputy executive director said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Qatar called on the international community on Wednesday to prevent a “genocide” in Rafah following Israel’s seizure of the Gaza city’s crossing with Egypt and threats of a wider assault. – Agence France-Presse

Soner Cagaptay writes: Even the trade boycott may prove porous—news reports indicate that Turkey is still providing Israel with Azerbaijani oil, sent by pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan and from there to Israel. Yet a full rupture could unfold quickly if Israel vetoes a Turkish role in Gaza, or if Israeli-Saudi talks implode. – Washington Institute

Haid Haid writes: This is primarily because these actions have proven successful in securing the prompt release of detainees from the regime without eliciting any retaliatory response. In simple terms, while the expansion of Assad’s territorial control in recent years may have enhanced the power trajectory of his armed forces, it has failed to increase the legitimacy of his regime, even in the eyes of those who live under its rule. – Middle East Institute 

Korean Peninsula

South Korea is dedicating around $7 billion to help wean its electric-vehicle battery supply chain away from China and align more with U.S. trade guidelines. – Wall Street Journal

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed “firm support and solidarity” for Russia in his congratulatory message to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Victory Day, which marks the 79th anniversary of the end of World War Two, state news KCNA agency said on Thursday. – Reuters

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Thursday his government’s efforts to improve people’s lives had fallen short, conceding a crushing election defeat for his ruling party last month reflected voters’ assessment of his two years in office. – Reuters


Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to meet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday, with the war in Ukraine and infrastructure projects high on the agenda, as he makes his third stop on his first European tour in five years. – Reuters

A U.S. warship sailed through the narrow Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, less than two weeks before Taiwan’s new president takes office, prompting an angry denunciation from Beijing. – Reuters

The U.S. could take “extreme action” and ban Chinese connected vehicles or impose restrictions on them, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Wednesday, in the first indication a ban could be on the table after a national security investigation. – Reuters

Last week, a top Chinese diplomat took to the microphones at the United Nations to harangue the US for blocking a resolution that would have backed Palestinians’ bid for membership, saying it had “shattered the decades-long dream of the Palestinian people.” – Bloomberg

Cambodia’s Defense Ministry insisted Wednesday that the months-long presence of two Chinese warships in a strategically important naval base that is being newly expanded with funding from Beijing does not constitute a permanent deployment of the Chinese military in the country. – Associated Press

South Asia

Indian police said four people linked to a network of human traffickers have been arrested on suspicion of luring young men to Russia with the promise of lucrative jobs or university places only to force them to fight in the war in Ukraine. – Reuters

Three Taliban security personnel were killed when a motorcycle carrying an explosive device blew up near a military vehicle in northern Afghanistan being used in opium poppy eradication operations, an interior ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Sri Lanka’s security forces abducted men and women from the ethnic Tamil minority and tortured them in custody long after the end of a bloody civil war in the South Asian island nation, a human rights group said in a new report. – Reuters

Six months into an offensive against Myanmar ’s military government, opposition forces have made massive gains, but civilian casualties are rising sharply as regime troops increasingly turn toward scorched-earth tactics in the Southeast Asian country’s bitter civil war. – Associated Press

Pakistani security forces killed six militants in twin raids Wednesday targeting their hideouts in the country’s volatile northwest region bordering Afghanistan, the military said. – Associated Press

Mihir Sharma writes: India’s reluctance to put itself forward as a mediator is both understandable and, given its interests at stake, baffling. The aspiring superpower ought to think bigger. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin, this is not an era for war. India needs to do its part to make that statement incontrovertibly true. – Bloomberg

Abhinav Pandya writes: This policy of non-alignment originated from India’s civilizational alignment with multipolarity. In India’s current diplomacy, the non-alignment has transformed into a multi-alignment trajectory, as a part of which India continues to pursue an independent and principled foreign policy based on the harmonious balance of its national interests and moral considerations. – The National Interest


The Philippines’ military chief accused China of a “malign influence effort” on Wednesday, after a local newspaper reported a Filipino vice admiral had made a deal with Beijing to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea. – Reuters

Fiji’s former long-serving prime minister Frank Bainimarama was on Thursday sentenced to a year in prison for perverting the course of justice, the country’s director of public prosecutions said. – Reuters

Police in Vietnam have arrested a senior official involved in talks with international organisations on labour reforms, state media said on Thursday, adding that the action was linked to disclosure of classified information. – Reuters

Australia struck a new security deal with Tuvalu on Thursday after critics complained that a previous pact created an Australian veto power over any other agreement the tiny South Pacific island nation pursued with a third country, such as China. – Associated Press

Jaushieh Joseph Wu writes: By continuing to support Ukraine in its fight for survival in the face of Russian aggression, the world’s democracies have demonstrated exactly the kind of resolve and moral clarity that Taiwan also needs from them. We cannot allow this century to witness the birth of a world order in which authoritarians can stamp out justice and freedom. In the coming years, the fate of Taiwan, like that of Ukraine, will be a crucial test that the world’s democracies must not fail. – Foreign Affairs


The U.K. government Wednesday launched its latest salvo against Russia’s intelligence service, expelling the serving Russian defense attaché on allegations of spying and removing diplomatic protection from several Russian government-owned properties that it said were being used for intelligence gathering.  – Wall Street Journal

Ambassadors from European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to use windfall profits from Russian central bank assets frozen in the EU for Ukraine’s defence, the Belgian government said. – Reuters

Hungary will not participate in NATO’s long-term plan to aid Ukraine, its foreign minister said on Wednesday, calling the plan a “crazy mission”. – Reuters

North Macedonia’s right-wing opposition won big in parliamentary and presidential elections on Wednesday, on a night that saw the Balkan country also elect its first female head of state. – Reuters

China and Serbia on Wednesday agreed to follow a “shared future” as President Xi Jinping visited the Balkan country as part of his bid to forge stronger relations with allies at the edge of the European Union. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday denounced calls to weaken the role of the European Union as self-destructive and irresponsible, speaking ahead of EU parliamentary elections in June. – Reuters

Estonia’s foreign ministry has summoned the head of the Russian embassy in Tallinn to protest the jamming of GPS signals, the Baltic country said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Kosovo’s prime minister Wednesday deplored the fact that some Western powers reportedly have set another condition ahead of Kosovo’s joining the Council of Europe. – Associated Press

Lee Hockstader writes: He has refused to back down from urging leaders to weigh putting European boots on the ground in Ukraine, despite overwhelming political opposition. The trouble isn’t that Macron’s ideas lack heft. But at this point in his presidency — his standing diminished, his archrivals ascendant — his words amount to little more than a glancing blow in the fight over Europe’s future. – Washington Post


The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday it had reached a staff-level agreement with Democratic Republic of Congo on the final review of a $1.5 billion loan programme, noting the need for Congo to manage properly funds from a revised mining deal. – Reuters

The European Union said on Wednesday it would end its military training mission in Mali, reflecting a deterioration in relations between the bloc and the West African country’s military junta. – Reuters

An extremist group linked to al-Qaida carried out mass killings in two villages in central Mali in January, Human Rights Watch said in a report Wednesday, in an apparent war crime that caused thousands to flee their homes. – Associated Press

The Americas

Two out of nine magistrates in Colombia’s National Electoral Council have requested an investigation be opened into Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s 2022 campaign over alleged spending and financing violations, two sources said on Wednesday. – Reuters

A transitional council tasked with choosing new leaders for Haiti is changing the way it operates in a move that surprised many as gang violence consumes the country. – Associated Press

Venezuela is allowing a small startup to import fuels even as the country struggles to feed its owns refineries and the recent reimposition of US sanctions presses on its industry. – Bloomberg

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

United States

President Biden is warning that a new surge of cheap Chinese products poses a threat to American factories. There is little sign of one in official trade data, which show that Chinese steel imports are down sharply from last year and that the gap between what the United States sells to China and what it buys is at a post-pandemic low. – New York Times

A bipartisan group of senior U.S. senators introduced legislation, on Wednesday to require officials involved in the AUKUS defense project with Britain and Australia to engage with them and Japan on how Japan could be included in the project. – Reuters

The Biden administration is set to tighten access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border via a new regulation that could be issued as soon as Thursday, four sources familiar with the matter said, in a targeted move aimed at reducing illegal crossings. – Reuters

President Biden is facing unusually harsh criticism from some pro-Israel lawmakers in his party for pausing shipments of weapons to Israel. – Axios

GianCarlo Canaparo writes: Perhaps the schools, sophisticated and well-lawyered though they are, didn’t think of it. Perhaps they’re so lost to an ideology obsessed with race, ethnicity, and oppression that they can’t imagine that the law sees things differently. Or perhaps the schools did know, and they hope that the law will provide them with a way out of agreements that they didn’t have the courage to oppose. Either way, lawsuits are likely coming, and the schools will probably lose. – Heritage Foundation


Mistral AI is nearing a deal to raise funds at a $6 billion valuation—nearly tripling its level from six months ago and giving the French startup added fuel to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the artificial-intelligence race. – Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is poised to open up a new front in its effort to safeguard U.S. AI from China and Russia with preliminary plans to place guardrails around the most advanced AI Models, the core software of artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, sources said. – Reuters

U.S. officials confronted the Chinese government in Beijing last month about a sweeping cyber espionage campaign through which Chinese hackers have broken in to dozens of American critical infrastructure organizations, a senior U.S. cyber official said. – Reuters

The cybercriminals who targeted Boeing using the LockBit ransomware platform in October 2023 demanded a $200 million extortion payment, the company said Wednesday. – CyberScoop

More than 60 private-sector companies publicly promised to make cybersecurity a larger focus in their technology design process, including tech heavyweights like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and Amazon Web Services. – CyberScoop

Fiona Alexander writes: It’s not too late to undo the damage. At the most recent WTO meeting in Geneva, dozens of countries agreed to extend a moratorium for two years on imposing tariffs on digital trade. Hopefully, this will provide the US with enough time to right its wrong turn on data localization and other digital trade issues. – Center for European Policy Analysis


One of the signature helicopters of special operations forces won’t get the expected relief from a major replacement program now that it was canceled earlier this year. – Defense News

U.S. special operations officials are set to select a new machine gun in the coming months to give shooters .50-caliber-like performance in a lightweight machine gun package, according to the program manager for special operations lethality. – Defense News

U.S. Navy special operators are upgrading their underwater fleet to continue reaching their objectives amid a looming gap in submarine capabilities, according military officials. – Defense News

Brandon J. Weichert writes: Yet the Navy isn’t investing in these systems. Instead, the Pentagon continues splurging on legacy systems—notably the costly aircraft carrier—and hoping that China’s A2/AD systems aren’t as effective as Beijing claims they are. In other words, the Pentagon would rather spend its money enriching defense contractors instead of building relevant, cost-effective systems that can actually defeat the Chinese. – The National Interest