Fdd's overnight brief

October 20, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News

Israel

Ariel Bernstein was a 20-year-old Israeli foot soldier when his country last fought Hamas on Gaza Strip streets. The war, he recalled, “was like chasing ghosts.” – Wall Street Journal

A blast Tuesday at the compound of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza had reverberations across the region, coming hours before President Biden landed in Israel in a visit designed as a show of support. The explosion prompted competing versions of the events that led to it, from both sides of the fighting. Here is a look at what transpired. – Wall Street Journal

Israel continued its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Thursday, as it prepares troops and lays the groundwork for a possible invasion of the enclave. – Wall Street Journal

A barrage of rockets apparently fired by militants in Lebanon struck northern Israel on Thursday, Israel’s military said, as its forces targeted the launch sites with artillery fire. The clashes further stoked fears that the Israel-Gaza war could swell into a wider regional conflict. – Washington Post

The United States has pledged unequivocal support for ally Israel, underlining its right to defend itself after an unprecedented incursion by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip killed at least 1,400 people and wounded about 4,562. – Washington Post

American intelligence agencies have assessed that a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday killed 100 to 300 people, a more conservative estimate than that given by officials in Gaza, and that the hospital suffered light damage. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden asked Americans to spend billions more dollars to help Israel fight Hamas while Israel’s defence chief told his troops to be ready to go into the Gaza Strip to destroy the Palestinian militant group. – Reuters

Violence in the occupied West Bank has surged since Israel began bombarding the Gaza Strip and clashing with Hezbollah at the Lebanon border, fuelling concerns the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war. – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the Hamas attack on Israel was aimed at preventing the expansion of peace in the Middle East, and called on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to keep supporting Israel’s Gaza counteroffensive. – Reuters

The Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is the sole route for aid to enter Gaza directly from outside Israel and the only exit that does not lead to Israeli territory. – Reuters

Nearly two weeks after Hamas militants left his village scorched and shattered, Shachar Butler returned to bury a friend who was slain. But it was the town itself, a quarter of its residents dead or missing, that he eulogized. – Associated Press

Israel bombarded Gaza early Friday, hitting areas in the south where Palestinians had been told to seek safety, and it began evacuating a sizable Israeli town in the north near the Lebanese border, the latest sign of a potential ground invasion of Gaza that could trigger regional turmoil. – Associated Press

The Pentagon plans to send the two Iron Dome missile defense systems it had previously purchased from Israel back to that country to defend itself against inbound missiles, a U.S. official and a congressional aide said. – Reuters

Israel’s high-tech air defense system, the Iron Dome, risks getting overwhelmed by missile attacks if the escalating war with Hamas in Gaza expands into a wider regional conflict. – Bloomberg

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, his first public comments since the conflict broke out at the start of October. – Bloomberg

Israel’s position that Hamas must be ousted from Gaza is appropriate, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday as he stressed that Palestinian civilians in the Strip must be protected. – Jerusalem Post

The Gaza-Israel conflict has become a fertile ground for disinformation and information warfare campaigns. These campaigns aim to create fear, and panic, and manipulate the Israeli public while influencing international public opinion. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF struck sites belonging to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon on Thursday, after the terrorist movement continued anti-tank missile attacks against IDF positions and Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades launched about 30 rockets from Lebanon toward Israel. – Jerusalem Post

The IDF’s array of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is fully prepared to support troops on the ground if and when necessary, according to a Thursday afternoon statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. – Jerusalem Post

Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel has told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview, in the context of the war with Hamas and the conflict with Hezbollah, that Israel’s intelligence services know that Hezbollah acts according to Iran’s directives even more precisely than with Gaza. – Jerusalem Post

Senior Israeli officials talked up the prospect of an imminent large-scale ground campaign in the Gaza Strip to root out the Hamas terror group Thursday, making a series of visits to Israel Defense Forces soldiers stationed near the territory and predicting that the fighting will be “difficult, long and intense,” but ultimately victorious. – Times of Israel

Khaled Mashaal, one of the senior members of the terrorist organization Hamas, was interviewed Thursday night on the Saudi ‘Al-Arabiya network and discussed the current war with Israel. Unexpectedly, during the conversation, the presenter asked to confront Mashal with the fact that the world compares the Hamas organization to Daesh, a murderous and extremely cruel fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization, which committed atrocities against civilians. – Jerusalem Post

Above Sderot’s bustling commercial center, situated at one of the city’s entrances, scores of residents awoke to the shrill wails of sirens on the morning of Saturday, October 7. Within moments, the terrifying sound of gunfire echoed through the streets as terrorists descended upon the city. – Jerusalem Post

In a vote that took place on Thursday, with 500 votes in favor, 21 against, and 24 abstentions, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) strongly condemned the Hamas terror attack, expressed their support for Israel and its people, and underlined the need to “eliminate the terrorist organization Hamas.” – Ynet

According to a report on Fox News, the Hamas terrorists likely used North Korean weapons during the massive attack on southern Israel. The report is based on analysis and various evidence including a videos filmed by the terrorist and weapons seized by Israel. – Arutz Sheva

Editorial: With at least three people – two Swedish soccer fans in Belgium and a teacher in France – killed by suspected Islamist gunmen over the past week, coming to Israel is a welcome first step for European leaders. Let’s hope that their visits here strengthen their resolve to prevent and tackle antisemitic attacks in their home countries, as well as their support for Israel’s right to engage in self-defense and do what it must to keep its people safe. – Jerusalem Post

Jack Devine writes: Hamas’s attack on Israel should be a wake-up call to U.S. intelligence services. That a terrorist attack of this magnitude—with seismic implications for global security—came as a surprise to many in Washington shows that we need to reassess our own operations sharply to ensure that America has a comprehensive threat picture that can provide early warnings and prevent national-security tragedies. – Wall Street Journal

Dovid Efune writes: Publicly expressing one’s Jewish faith can be a life-threatening decision. For my part, I will wear the most prominent yarmulke I can find. The best way to honor the memory of those slain for being Dovid Efune writes: Jewish is not to sacrifice a scintilla of our Jewish identity but to express it to the extreme. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrote in “Likutei Moharan” (1808): “The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is to have no fear at all.” – Wall Street Journal 

J.W. Verret writes: The Warren-Marshall legislation is a wrongheaded attempt to curb a technology whose nuances remain poorly understood in Washington. It’s a Trojan Horse promising stronger national security that would in fact be a gift to adversarial foreign governments, hackers and kidnappers. It contributes to the myths about cryptocurrencies and financial autonomy that bad actors tell the oppressed. – Wall Street Journal

Yuval Noah Harari writes: Do such initiatives have any chance of realization? I do not know. But I do know that war is the continuation of politics by other means, that Hamas’s political aim is to destroy any chance for peace and normalization, and that Israel’s aim should be to preserve the chance for peace. We must win this war, instead of helping Hamas achieve its aim. – Washington Post

Josh Rogin writes: All sides have a responsibility to stop using food for political purposes and work together to establish safe corridors for humanitarian access into Gaza, and provide safety for humanitarian facilities inside Gaza and the civilians who want to visit them. Every day that passes without action, more innocent people suffer needlessly. – Washington Post

Thomas L. Friedman writes: Netanyahu has a completely incoherent strategy right now — eliminate Hamas in Gaza while building more settlements in the West Bank that undermine the only decent long-term Palestinian alternative to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, which Israel needs to safely leave Gaza. – New York Times

Max Hastings writes: When soldiers see their own kind, or their own civilians, barbarically murdered by unidentifiable enemies who wear no uniforms, the temptation is to wreak vengeance on whomever is accessible. The guilty often escape. Yet if we are to preserve any vestige of civilized behavior amid the endemic violence of war, we must continue to strive for the preservation of the innocent, even against all the experience of history. – Bloomberg

Rep. Mark Green (R- Tenn) writes: Members of Congress must take a stand and reaffirm our condemnation of Hamas, our support for the state of Israel, and our solidarity with the Jewish people. – The Hill

Kevin Roberts and J.D. Vance write: Today, we honor this founding principle by standing with Israel, our strongest regional ally. As the Israeli people suffer through their own 9/11, 50 years after the Yom Kippur War, the conservative movement and the American people will rally behind them and are ready to support Israel in its hour of need.  - The Hill

Nadav Pollak writes: We need to see more Palestinians and condemn the murderers. But even that, after the events of this past week, might not be enough to restore our faith in peace with the Palestinians. – The Hill

Jonathan Spyer writes: In the event of one of the infiltrating groups getting through, however, or a shell finding a major target and causing considerable loss of life, Israel might find itself impelled to carry out a major response, with all that this would imply. The main focus on Gaza is understandable. But the northern front may yet prove to be the most consequential. – Jerusalem Post

Efraim Zuroff writes: It appears that the events of last week have finally convinced the Israeli government that if there is to be any hope of a solution for peace with the Palestinians, it begins with the elimination of Hamas, and the replacement of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority. In the meantime, we can only hope that the IDF is successful in doing so as effectively and quickly as possible. – Jerusalem Post

Uri Kaufman writes: Some similar opportunities might exist for peace today. Somebody will have to assume authority in Gaza if an Israeli operation there deposes Hamas. Perhaps a multinational Arab force, spearheaded by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, could take responsibility for security and help restore the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to Gaza, incentivized by American security guarantees and permission to enrich uranium for civilian use. The story of the Yom Kippur War suggests that when so many old assumptions are upended, harmful ones—such as the assumption that there can be no two-state solution or no effective governance in the Palestinian territories—can be changed, too. – Foreign Affairs

Dalia Dassa Kaye writes: The problem is that this conflict will only remain contained if all parties have an interest in avoiding a regional war. For now, that condition seems to hold. But there is no guarantee that it will hold in the future. The situation on the ground is fluid, and changes to the strategic calculus in Israel, Iran, or both countries may lead their leaders to believe that avoiding wider conflict poses a greater danger to their survival than does confronting one another in war. – Foreign Affairs

Ghaith al-Omari writes: Rehabilitating the PA will require Israel to reexamine its policies in the West Bank—addressing the growing problem of settler violence and making meaningful gestures to enhance the PA’s authority and improve Palestinian quality of life. It will also require a serious effort, using both incentives and pressure, to ensure that the PA cleans up its act and presents a government that both Palestinians and the international community can trust. – The Atlantic

Michael Rubin writes: The best way to prepare Palestinians for true governance as part of a two-state solution would be to imbue them with responsibility for their fate. The international community’s rush to bail out every corrupt Palestinian leader and free them from the consequences of their decisions only signals that they can focus more on the ideological imperative to make war against Israel than to build up their own state and take care of their own people. – Washington Examiner

Hanna Notte writes: But Putin won’t be the one to set the future course of events. The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean and vowed unequivocal support for Israel. Should the fighting escalate and expand, with Washington coming down hard on Israel’s side, Russia would likely drift yet further into Iran’s orbit given the broader geopolitical backdrop of this new Middle Eastern war. – Foreign Policy

Uri Bar-Joseph and Avner Cohen write: In such a moment, one cannot forget Israel’s unique nuclear status. Perhaps more than past American leaders, Biden (due to the Ukraine war) recognizes the solemnity and fragility of the global nuclear taboo. One wonders whether another tacit reason for Biden’s unprecedented involvement—including his naval deployments and high-profile visit to Israel on Oct. 18—is to make sure that taboo is not shattered. – Foreign Policy

Iran

Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year, sparking worldwide protests against the country’s conservative Islamic theocracy, was awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize on Thursday. – Associated Press

The final phase of registration for candidates who want to run in Iran’s parliamentary election next year opened Thursday, state media reported. – Associated Press

Iran believes it can boost its missile program now that sanctions have expired. However, the US indicated that it would take steps to continue some restrictions on Iran’s missiles. “Russia said on Tuesday that transfers of missile technology to Iran no longer needed Security Council approval as of Wednesday, when the UN sanctions lapse, without saying whether it now planned to support Tehran’s missile development,” Reuters noted. – Jerusalem Post

As fighting intensifies between Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel, Iran has been increasingly vocal about the prospect of additional firepower entering the fray to score a victory for what Tehran calls the “axis of resistance” against Israel. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Iranian television drew for its viewers the regime’s plan for the attack on Israel. “They will be hit from all sides,” the report said the Shite militias in Iraq and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen will launch a coordinated attack including missile fire and attack drones to create a siege of Israel.  – Ynet

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Iran’s drone wars now appear to be increasing across a wide swath of the Middle East. This is an arc of drone warfare that now stretches from Lebanon via Syria to Iraq and the Gulf and Red Sea. Iranian drones and the drones of its proxies are believed to have ranges of some 2,000km. – Jerusalem Post

Alex Vatanka writes: Since Hamas was founded in 1987, it has fought Israel in eight conflicts. None of those conflicts expanded to the broader region. Today, no regional power, including Iran, wants a broader Middle Eastern war. The test for Washington is to manage this war politically at home and diplomatically on the international stage. The U.S. needs to find creative ways to reassure both Israel and the Islamic world that it can be a neutral mediator in this conflict. If U.S. does not do so, then it will provide an opening to Russia and China, and will help Iran to make its case that the Axis of Resistance and armed struggle is the only viable path forward for the Palestinians. – Middle East Institute

Russia & Ukraine

At a recent public policy forum, President Vladimir Putin extolled his “new world” and rejected a global rules-based order as “some kind of nonsense.” – Washington Post

When Russian forces closed in on Kyiv at the start of their invasion last year, the staff at Zavertailo, a popular bakery in the Ukrainian capital, shut up shop and began preparing free salads for the soldiers defending the city. Supplies dwindled as fighting raged around Kyiv, and the bakery’s finances collapsed as managers continued to pay staff salaries. – New York Times

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday discussed Washington’s continued military support for Kyiv’s drive to evict Russian forces, with the Ukrainian leader expressing thanks for supplying long-range missiles. – Reuters

Ukraine’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to advance legislation seen as effectively banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over its ties to Moscow, despite the church’s insistence that it is fully independent and supportive of Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders. – Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin traveled to the headquarters of Russia’s Southern Military District near the border with Ukraine, following his return from talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. – Bloomberg

Editorial: Imagine that the United States loses focus, interest, and patience in supporting Kyiv against Russia’s onslaught. Vital congressional votes fail. Russia bombards Ukraine as winter bites, destroying heating systems and sending hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing from uninhabitable cities. Out of ammo, money, time, and options, Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepts a China-brokered ceasefire. Russia keeps its conquered territories. The fighting stops, for now. What happens next? (Spoiler alert: the US loses big time in the end.) But the first victim is…Ukraine. Arm-twisted into an armistice, the country is a traumatized mess, furious at Western betrayal, politically divided, and economically stricken. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Stephen Blank writes: The inability to grasp clearly where U.S. priorities and values lie represents a symptom of the larger illness that now grasps the House if not the country at large. But a failure to understand who our allies are or why they desperately need our support puts them at risk and endangers our vital interests, and that is unforgivable. – The Hill

William W. Burke-White writes: The brazen effort to shutter the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and curtail the freedom of religion currently being contemplated by the Ukrainian parliament undermines these commitments and Ukraine’s claims to the higher legal and moral ground. Ukraine must correct course; its western supporters must ensure that Ukraine prevails both on the battlefield and its commitment to rights and law. – The Hill

Alexander J. Motyl writes: One can only conclude that, whether or not a Russian civilization even exists (Russian historian Alexander Etkind rhetorically asks, “Is there such a thing as a Russian civilization?”) Putin’s use of the term is, at bottom, only a smokescreen for his veneration of the Russian state and nation — in a word, of fascism.  – The Hill

Ted Snider writes: Since Istanbul, Ukraine has suffered the loss of lives, limbs, and land only to sign an agreement that they were willing to sign at the start of the war. That is the tragedy. The whole war was fought to end the same way it could have ended weeks into the war, but on worse territorial terms and with horrendously greater loss of life. – The National Interest

Elizabeth Wahl writes: But we do know that faced with an opportunity to exploit foreign wars for short-term advantage, Russia will happily do so. It is helping the Hamas propaganda effort, echoed by a small army of social media extremists hungry to spread any disinformation that harms the legitimacy of democratic states. The explosion at the al Ahli hospital in Gaza is a propaganda win for Russia, Hamas, and its backers in Iran. It amounts to a psychological warfare operation and should be treated as such. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Zoe Reiter writes: And to get to the root of the problem, the West must accelerate its transition to renewable sources of energy and help others do the same. Western companies have helped Putin to build a carbon bomb, but there is still time to defuse it. – Foreign Policy

Hezbollah

As Israel prepares a possible ground invasion of Gaza to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the enclave, many are now turning to see what action Hezbollah, the armed group on Israel’s northern border, will take. – New York Times

Mohammed Fattouh didn’t wait for the war to possibly reach his own backyard in southern Lebanon. The day he saw Israeli airstrikes begin to rain down on Gaza, he packed seven bags for himself and his 14-month-old daughter Jana and secured them to his motorcycle in case they needed to dash. – Washington Post

The Lebanese army said a journalist was killed by Israeli gunfire on Thursday in a southern Lebanon border area where Israel’s forces and Lebanese group Hezbollah had a heavy exchange of fire. – Reuters

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari made a statement to the media this evening (Thursday) in which he addressed, among other things, the rocket launches from Lebanon earlier today. Hagari claimed that the Hezbollah terrorist organization is responsible and will bear the consequences for any incident in the north. – Arutz Sheva

Thursday’s escalation along the border between Israel and Lebanon has revived Hamas’s hope of fulfilling its vision of the “unity of the battlefields,” which aims to trigger a multi-front confrontation with Israel. Both Hamas and Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the firing of dozens of rockets at Israeli army bases and communities. Hamas is desperate to drag Hezbollah into the war. – Jerusalem Post

Dennis Nthumbi writes: The goal of Hamas, Hezbollah, their sponsors, and terrorist groups globally can be summarized as the attempt to establish its illegal supremacy and achieve full control of all socio-political aspects of the nation under the war of submission. All nations must see this as a carefully thought-out established plan to subjugate freedoms, liberties, and sovereignties of nations.The global call must be to destroy Hamas and resist jihadism for a peaceful world. – Jerusalem Post

Egypt

The Japanese government has presented to the country’s parliament a plan for Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa’s visit to Egypt from late on Friday, Kyodo news agency reported. – Reuters

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will travel to Egypt on Friday, part of a trip to the Middle East where he wants to press his message that there should be no escalation of violence in the region after the Hamas attack on Gaza. – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Egypt vowed at her Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday to help secure humanitarian aid flows to Gaza amid its conflict with Israel, and to press Cairo on human rights. – Politico 

The United States was still hammering out details of a deal with Israel and Egypt on Thursday to get aid into the Palestinian Gaza Strip as Egypt sent machinery to repair roads in expectation the Rafah crossing would soon open. – Reuters

Gulf States

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stressed to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that the kingdom considered targeting civilians in Gaza “a heinous crime and a brutal attack,” the Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Drones and rockets targeted two military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq on Thursday, sources and officials said, the latest in a series of attacks after Iraqi militants warned Washington against intervening to support Israel against Hamas in Gaza. – Reuters

Haider al-Musawi writes: The splintering of emerging political forces will make them an easy target for traditional political forces and a likely victim of political temptations. This could be remedied through unifying emerging political currents in a single electoral coalition with a coherent vision. Such an approach would make these currents a formidable rival to the traditional ruling forces in elections. However, the coalition must develop a clear and mature political platform supported by their candidates’ political and professional experience. They must aim to enact real democratic change in Iraq and end the rule of might and money. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

U.S. forces in the Middle East have come under threat by attack drones at least five times in three days and on Thursday intercepted numerous weapons launched by militants in Yemen, the Pentagon said, a new development amid fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could engulf the surrounding region. – Washington Post

Jordan’s foreign minister said on Thursday the country feared the worst was yet to come in the Israel-Hamas war, with no signs of success in efforts to de-escalate tensions. – Reuters

Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Irit Lillian, has left Turkey along with other Israeli diplomats, Turkish broadcaster NTV and other media said on Thursday. – Reuters

For years, the US has been working with its allies in the Persian Gulf on something that long seemed impossible: normalizing ties with Israel. – Bloomberg

Former head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency and former Saudi ambassador to the US Turki al-Faisal condemned both Hamas and Israel in a speech on Tuesday, saying Hamas committed acts forbidden by Islam and Israel was ‘indiscriminately’ bombing civilians in Gaza. – Jerusalem Post

Ben Fishman writes: In addition to preserving channels of communication, U.S. leaders should offer some public credit to Abdullah if Israel allows humanitarian deliveries to Gaza and the creation of safe areas for civilians, as suggested by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on October 16. For instance, Washington can highlight or direct resources to the Jordanian field hospital in Gaza, whose commander received a call from Crown Prince Hussein on October 17 to underscore the facility’s longtime presence. U.S. officials can also highlight the humanitarian assistance that the kingdom has pre-positioned in the event that a delivery mechanism emerges. Given Jordan’s vulnerability to domestic troubles, anything Washington can do to reassure the kingdom that America has its back would be helpful. – Washington Institute

Allison M. Prasch writes: Defining an appropriate role for the U.S. in world affairs is certain to be an important issue in the 2024 presidential election, especially with active conflicts in Ukraine and now in the Middle East. Biden has consistently called for U.S. engagement abroad – not only in words, but by showing up in places like Kiev and Tel Aviv. – The National Interest

John Calabrese writes: At the signing ceremony marking the Chinese-brokered restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran back in March, Wang asserted, “China will continue to play a constructive role in handling hotspot issues in the world and demonstrate its responsibility as a major nation.” Yet it remains to be seen whether Beijing will take concrete steps to facilitate a potential cease-fire, use its leverage to dissuade “other parties” from entering the conflict, help ensure humanitarian access and provide relief, and eventually join with other major players, including the U.N., in rebuilding and administering post-war Gaza. The Israel-Hamas war might prove to be a hotspot too hot for Beijing to handle. – Middle East Institute

Dalia Dassa Kaye writes: The problem is that this conflict will only remain contained if all parties have an interest in avoiding a regional war. For now, that condition seems to hold. But there is no guarantee that it will hold in the future. The situation on the ground is fluid, and changes to the strategic calculus in Israel, Iran, or both countries may lead their leaders to believe that avoiding wider conflict poses a greater danger to their survival than does confronting one another in war. – Foreign Affairs

Korean Peninsula

Russia said it supports holding regular security talks with North Korea and China to address the threat posed by the U.S. on the Korean Peninsula, as Moscow draws closer to its partners and attempts to counter Western isolation. – Wall Street Journal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thanked North Korea for its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine as he arrived in Pyongyang, days after the United States said the North had transferred munitions to Russia to boost its warfighting capabilities. – Associated Press

An Army private who fled to North Korea before being returned home to the United States last month has been detained by the U.S. military, two officials said Thursday night, and is facing charges including desertion and possessing sexual images of a child. – Associated Press

Jihwan Hwang writes: The problem is that North Korea is not likely to engage the United States either. Pyongyang has recently recognized the return of the Cold War order in international relations and seeks to take advantage of it on the Korean Peninsula. This is the reason for Pyongyang’s efforts to improve ties with China and Russia. A crisis may become a catalyst again, but it would be difficult to get out of the old pattern. So, the stalemate will continue. – The National Interest

China

China has developed an arsenal of more than 500 operational nuclear warheads and is set to double that number by the end of the decade, exceeding previous Pentagon estimates, according to a Defense Department report. – Washington Post

When the 5,100-ton Dayang Hao, one of China’s most advanced deep-water expedition vessels, left port south of Shanghai two months ago, a red-and-white banner — the kind used to blast Communist Party exhortations — reminded the crew of their mission: “Strive, explore, contribute.” – Washington Post

“And that kind of biodata is believed — by the Chinese Communist Party, by Beijing, by Chinese companies like BGI — to be potentially strategically advantageous.” –  Washington Post

Facing a potential financial collapse, the embattled Chinese property developer Country Garden on Thursday denied rumors that its two most prominent executives had fled China. – New York Times

In a war with the U.S. over Taiwan, China would need to create a global network of companies under U.S. sanctions, seize American assets within its borders, and issue gold-denominated bonds, according to Chinese government-affiliated researchers studying the Western response to Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. – Reuters

A U.S. Pentagon report saying China will probably have more than 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 was filled with prejudice and distorts facts, and China had no intention of engaging in a nuclear arms race, its foreign ministry said on Friday. – Reuters

China is willing to offer assistance to Sri Lanka without political conditions and buy more of its exports, President Xi Jinping told his Sri Lankan counterpart on Friday in Beijing, state media said. – Reuters

President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure gambit was supposed to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through a network of railroads and trade deals, cementing China’s global influence. A decade on, it’s run into a diplomatic wall at the European border. – Bloomberg

The US’s top diplomat in China called on President Xi Jinping’s government to denounce terrorism by Hamas, citing Beijing’s stance toward the group as yet another challenge in fraught ties between the world’s biggest economies. – Bloomberg

Karishma Vaswani writes: When it was first launched, the Belt and Road Initiative was heralded as China’s way of economically engaging with the world. A decade later, it appears to be a mechanism through which Beijing will collect friendships and alliances that can help buffer it against an increasingly hostile global environment. The West would do well to pay attention to next year’s guest list, to get a sense of who and where Beijing will focus on next. – Bloomberg

David Uren writes: The geopolitical advantage gained by China from its international lending is hard to assess. A study by a US-based research institute, Aiddata, examined more than 13,000 BRI projects and found that 35% had implementation problems, such as corruption, labour conflicts, environmental problems or public protest. However, the same study notes that China is an active financier of infrastructure in low-income countries that struggle to obtain funding from anyone else. – The National Interest

Connor Fiddler writes: However, policymakers must be clear-eyed about how the Chinese view engagement and cooperation. Since the Biden administration has taken office, U.S. officials have made several overtures to Beijing about cooperation. China’s unwillingness to delink areas of competition from realms of cooperation and its demand for unconditional concessions is the most significant barrier to a U.S.-China rapprochement. Beijing’s recent behavior demonstrates that China is not interested in reciprocal reconciliation. Washington must not sacrifice our interests for a goal that may be unattainable. – The National Interest

Benjamin Jensen writes: The United States is locked in a long-term competition with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Even though that competition need not turn to conflict, it will almost certainly continue to see a network of operatives linked to the CCP wage a systematic cyber espionage campaign designed to gain an intelligence advantage and steal intellectual property. Put simply, China is trying to cheat its way to the top of key industries in the 21st century. Their quest to achieve dominance in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) is unlikely to be any different. – Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Matthew Eitel writes: However, US export controls encourage Chinese firms to stockpile legacy tech and design out US inputs. As the controls stiffen, these costs will rise. Western industry will suffer. Transatlantic relations will face strains. Expect a tough road ahead in the battle to contain Chinese tech. – Center for European Policy Analysis 

Noah Barkin writes: Europeans are right to be concerned about the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House in 2025. They would suffer more than most from such a scenario. But they shouldn’t use the specter of Trump as an excuse not to lean forward with the Biden administration. What does Europe want to do with Biden if he wins a second term? That is the question that Europe must answer. The clock is ticking. – Foreign Policy

South Asia

Canada facilitated the departure of two-thirds of its diplomats in India after New Delhi threatened to strip them of their diplomatic immunity on Friday if they remained, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Thursday, calling the ultimatum a breach of international law. – Washington Post

The Taliban administration wants to formally join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s huge ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure initiative and will send a technical team to China for talks, Afghanistan’s acting commerce minister said on Thursday. – Reuters

A court in Pakistan on Thursday granted several days of protection from arrest to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in graft cases, clearing the way for him to return home from self-imposed exile in London, where he went in 2019 for medical treatment. – Associated Press

A group of former U.S. diplomats and representatives of resettlement organizations asked Pakistan not to deport thousands of Afghans who have been waiting for U.S. visas under an American program that relocates at-risk Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule. – Associated Press

Asia

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was visiting a province outside the capital, Manila, last month when his national security adviser urgently contacted him: China had installed a floating barrier in part of the sea claimed by the Philippines. Should it be removed? – Washington Post

A member of the International Atomic Energy Agency team visiting Fukushima for its first marine sampling since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant started releasing treated radioactive wastewater into the sea said Thursday he does not expect any rise in radiation levels in the fish caught in the regional seas. – Associated Press

Japan and Australia agreed Thursday to further expand defense ties, including with joint military exercises, under their upgraded security pact that took effect two months ago amid mutual concern about China’s growing influence in the region. – Associated Press

Chinese leader Xi Jinping told Vietnam’s second-highest ranking official on Friday that both countries must not forget the “original intention” of their traditional friendship. – Reuters

Ryan Ashley writes: Notably, the June 2023 trilateral Coast Guard exercise and its focus on protecting local fishing rights was widely praised by those I spoke to in Manila. Advancing shared objectives helps reinforce a shared trilateral alignment on regional security. As a result, by subtly shifting the focal point away from Taiwan, all three countries could, somewhat paradoxically, strengthen their deterrence posture vis-à-vis Taiwan. – War on the Rocks

Europe

Russian authorities have arrested an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American news outlet based in Prague and financed by the U.S. government, accusing her of collecting information about the Russia military that could damage the nation’s security. – Washington Post

NATO is stepping up patrols in the Baltic Sea following recent damage to undersea infrastructure in the region, the transatlantic military alliance said on Thursday. – Reuters

The European Union began taking steps on Thursday to limit the impact of the war between Israel and Hamas on the bloc, amid heightened security tensions after a firebomb attack on a Berlin synagogue and killings in Belgium and France by suspected Islamic extremists. – Associated Press

Abdesalem Lassoued had been denied residency in four European countries by the time he chased two Swedish men into a building in Brussels this week and gunned them down at close range with a semiautomatic rifle. – Associated Press

Saddled with a dysfunctional Congress, President Joe Biden has the task of assuring European Union leaders on Friday that the United States can nonetheless deliver on promises to send tens of billions of dollars’ worth of aid to wartime Ukraine and Israel. – Associated Press

The sumptuous Palace of Versailles was forced to evacuate visitors for the fourth time in less than a week for a security check after a bomb alert. Airports and schools around France also fell victim to bomb alerts and forced evacuations after similar warnings a day earlier. Even a nuclear research institute received a threat Thursday. – Associated Press

Kosovo’s prime minister on Wednesday asked NATO-led peacekeepers to increase their presence on the northern border with Serbia, saying the area was the entry point for illegal weapons and threats to stability. – Associated Press

Slovenia said Thursday it will introduce border checks with neighboring Hungary and Croatia following Italy’s decision to do the same with Slovenia because of security concerns due to violence in the Middle East. – Associated Press

A court in Amsterdam sentenced a Polish-Canadian national to two months in prison on Thursday for projecting a message alluding to an antisemitic conspiracy theory onto the Anne Frank House museum. – Associated Press

Hungary’s NATO allies raised security concerns as they condemned Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, laying bare widening divisions over Budapest’s ties with Moscow. – Bloomberg

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in Washington on October 20, at a summit set to deliver a message of unity on conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Editorial: Poland’s voters have cast a decisive vote in the right direction, an inspiring display that shows people’s desire for freedom is not easy to extinguish. The task now is to make the country and its neighbors a bulwark of democratic resilience in an area that lacked liberty for so long. – Washington Post

Max Bergmann writes: Lastly, it is unlikely to derail the EU climate agenda. The previous Polish government was a thorn in the side of the European Union’s climate efforts. While Poland may not lead the way on EU climate policy, it may also stop acting as a spoiler and instead take a more productive approach. This will be a relief to Brussels. The elections in Poland have the potential to reshape Europe. The question will be whether a new Polish government seizes the opportunity and lays out a positive vision and agenda for the European Union. If it does, Europe will likely follow. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Africa

Defense lawyers told the International Criminal Court on Thursday that their client was not a Sudanese militia leader who had participated in war crimes, but rather “a no one” who had no involvement in the ongoing conflict in the nation. – Associated Press

China’s President Xi Jinping pledged on Thursday for his country to increase investments in Nigeria’s power generation sector and its digital economy, the Nigerian vice president’s office said in the wake of a Belt And Road Initiative forum in Beijing. – Reuters

Djibouti joined Eritrea and Somalia in rejecting an appeal from Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to grant his country direct access to a port on the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. – Bloomberg

The Americas

The Biden administration’s removal of an array of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector is designed to stabilize that country’s calamitous economy and, in time, reduce the huge outflow of migrants toward the American southwestern border, said people familiar with the negotiations that led to sanctions relief. – Wall Street Journal

Canada on Thursday said dozens of its diplomats in India have left the country after the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi threatened to remove their diplomatic immunity. – Wall Street Journal 

Five people jailed in Venezuela, including well-known opposition figures, have been released, the opposition said around midnight on Thursday, following a deal with the government of President Nicolas Maduro and Washington’s demand that certain prisoners be freed. – Reuters

Nicaragua has released 12 Roman Catholic priests jailed on a variety of charges and sent them to Rome following an agreement reached with the Vatican, the Nicaraguan government said in a statement late Wednesday. – Associated Press

Escalating tensions between Colombia and Israel over the Gaza war could undo decades of close military ties between them and hamper Colombia’s ability to fight drug traffickers and rebels, security analysts say. – Associated Press

United States

President Biden declared the world at an “inflection point in history” in an Oval Office address Thursday, linking Israel’s battle against Hamas to Ukraine’s fight against Russia and stressing the need for the U.S. to continue funding both wars. – Wall Street Journal

The US conducted a high-explosive experiment at a nuclear test site in Nevada just hours after Russia revoked a ban on atomic-weapons testing, prompting concerns of a new arms race between the world’s top nuclear powers. – Bloomberg

In the nearly two week flood of violence and disinformation triggered by the Israel-Hamas war, powerful U.S. figures — including senators and the New York attorney general — have called for online platforms to stem the tide. – Politico 

Andreas Kluth writes: And spare a thought for Biden, whether you’ll vote for him next year or not. He’s trying to do what’s right, rejecting hate in all its forms, and using American power for good in the world. As he said, the US is a beacon — still. – Bloomberg

Desmond Lachman writes: If the IMF again fails in its surveillance function of U.S. economic policies, it will do serious damage to its credibility. After all, the United States is the world’s largest economy, and an unnecessarily deep economic recession to regain inflation control will send seismic reverberations throughout the world economy. – The National Interest

Kelebogile Zvobgo writes: Putin may not have his day in court. For a trial to occur, Putin would need to be arrested and transferred to The Hague. Nonetheless, the charges against him hold important symbolic value. Even if Putin is never apprehended, he will live as a fugitive of the law and be a pariah on the world stage. By answering Putin’s illegal conduct with a legal process, the international community is attempting to reaffirm its commitment to the rule of law and to distinguish itself from Putin, who so clearly despises it. To do that successfully, however, the United States must first recognize that the rules it applies to the world apply to itself, too. – Foreign Affairs

Cybersecurity

The European Union on Thursday demanded Meta and TikTok detail their efforts to curb illegal content and disinformation during the Israel-Hamas war, flexing the power of a new law that threatens billions in fines if tech giants fail to do enough to protect users. – Associated Press

House Republicans’ chaotic search for a new speaker is stymieing lawmakers’ work on ensuring that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is properly funded, the chairman of the chamber’s Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection said Thursday. – CyberScoop

Law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen countries seized a website used by the criminal hacking group known as Ragnar Locker to leak stolen data and information, according to a message posted to the site’s front page. – CyberScoop

An Android app designed to share updates for supporters of Hamas’ military wing is linked to a long-running Hamas-linked cyber espionage group, according to analysis by the security firm Record Future that sheds light on how the group is attempting to spread its messaging amid ongoing fighting with Israel. – CyberScoop

Hackers connected to Iran’s government spent eight months inside the systems of an unspecified Middle East government, stealing files and emails, according to researchers. – The Record

Researchers have discovered possible signs of cooperation between the Palestinian militant organization Hamas and one of the longest-running groups of Arabic-speaking hackers. – The Record

Defense

President Joe Biden on Thursday appealed to Congress to pass a massive defense spending package that would include tens of billions of dollars in additional weapons for Israel and Ukraine. – Defense News

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) conducted drills with a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) frigate in the East China Sea from earlier this week, and Russian bombers flew off the coast of Japan on Tuesday. – USNI News 

The Space Force’s primary acquisition command hopes to kick-start a strategic dialogue with allies on how to create a more resilient, collective supply chain at a first-of-its kind meeting next week, according to a senior Space Systems Command (SSC) official. – Breaking Defense

Jonathan Panter writes: If the U.S. Navy is to embark on a costly project with uncertain chances of success, it owes Congress and the American people a better Unmanned Campaign Framework, or an unclassified concept of operations that disaggregates the role of unmanned ships across the Navy’s various missions, and the warfare areas that comprise them. Such a concept must be honest about concentration risk and suggest ways to mitigate it. And Congress, which has already begun to take a deeper interest in unmanned platforms, should hold the Navy to account. – The National Interest

Michael Rubin writes: As the post-World War II rules-based order comes under the most serious assault since the Cold War, it is essential for Washington to have the defense infrastructure to project power where force is most needed. Unfortunately, a 20th century framework serves only to address 20th century problems. It is time to adjust America’s overseas basing in order to enable the United States to remain leader of the free world. – 19fortyfive