Fdd's overnight brief

October 24, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Hamas set free two more civilian hostages on Monday, but negotiations over a possible release of a group of 50 captives stumbled over the militant group’s demand that Israel allow fuel deliveries into Gaza, according to officials familiar with the talks. – Wall Street Journal

Israel intensified its aerial bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip, striking more than 320 targets in the enclave over the past day, as President Biden and other Western leaders expressed support for Israel while urging it to protect civilians. – Wall Street Journal

Now, 75 years later, Israel is telling their descendants to move out again. Israeli airstrikes are raining down all around, including one that killed 10 family members. But the family refuses to budge. – Wall Street Journal

Ahead of an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military, former president Barack Obama spoke out about the deadly conflict in the Middle East on Monday, reiterating that Israel has the right to defend itself against violence like the terrorist attacks inflicted by militant group Hamas while warning that any Israeli military strategy “that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire.” – Washington Post

The Biden administration is preparing for the possibility that hundreds of thousands of American citizens will require evacuation from the Middle East if the bloodshed in Gaza cannot be contained, according to four officials familiar with the U.S. government’s contingency planning. – Washington Post

Israel’s sweeping security measures in the West Bank are an extension of its war against Hamas in Gaza, an attempt to eliminate the militant group and permanently shift the balance of power in a conflict that has raged for decades. More than 1,400 people have been arrested and more than 90 have been killed in the West Bank over the last two weeks, according to Palestinian officials. – Washington Post

The Biden administration is concerned that Israel lacks achievable military objectives in Gaza, and that the Israel Defense Forces are not yet ready to launch a ground invasion with a plan that can work, senior administration officials said. – New York Times

For 17 days, Israeli ground troops and tanks have been on standby, idling in the dusty fields around Gaza. Their stated mission: to invade the Palestinian coastal enclave and destroy the military capabilities of Hamas, the armed Islamist group, and its ability to rule there. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron flies to Israel on Tuesday at a delicate juncture of its conflict with Hamas, coming with proposals and pushing for a humanitarian truce despite a looming ground offensive into Gaza. – Reuters

The United States has advised Israel to hold off on a ground assault in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and is keeping Qatar – a broker with the Palestinian militants – apprised of those talks, sources said, as Washington tries to free more hostages and prepare for a possible spillover in a wider regional war. – Reuters

China will do its utmost when it comes to contributing to Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation, its foreign minister told his Israeli counterpart in a phone call, according to Chinese state media. – Reuters

The Pentagon has sent military advisers, including a Marine Corps general versed in urban warfare, to Israel to aid in its war planning and is speeding multiple sophisticated air defense systems to the Middle East days ahead of an anticipated ground assault into Gaza. – Associated Press

Israel is scrambling GPS signals over most of its northern airspace to protect itself from Hezbollah missile strikes — potentially endangering Israeli civilians and commercial aircraft in the process. – Politico

While Washington, most Europeans, and the United Nations hail the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, Israelis suspect that delivery trucks there are carrying more sinister cargo than food, water, and medicine — including, perhaps, gear that could be used in chemical warfare. – New York Sun

The Biden administration is reportedly concerned that Israel lacks achievable military goals for its operations in Gaza, leading US officials to believe that the IDF is not yet ready for a ground incursion. – Times of Israel

Sirens sounded in the Gaza border town of Nir Oz over the suspected infiltration of a hostile aircraft from the Strip on Monday. Subsequently, Hamas released a statement on its Arabic-language Telegram channel regarding the incident. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas terrorists who took part in the October 7 massacre of southern Israeli towns received precise instructions to make deadly chemical weapons to use on civilians, President Isaac Herzog confirmed in a Sunday night interview with Sky News. – Jerusalem Post

Voice of America’s management has told staff of the U.S.-government-funded but editorially independent global news outlet not to call Hamas and its members terrorists, except when quoting statements, National Review has learned. VOA’s guidance also prompted some pushback from a reporter who urged a more extensive explanation of Hamas’s motives in the October 7 terrorist attacks. – The National Review

Jerome M. Marcus writes: Israel has a 75-year history of improvising brilliantly as it goes. But clarifying and announcing its plans now for Gaza’s future will promote the legitimacy of Israel’s actions and help it garner support for the steps it must take to secure peace. History teaches us what Israel needs to do. – Wall Street Journal

Robert Satloff writes: In sum, it would be a mistake to apply pre-October 7 rules—e.g., the pursuit of an elusive, false calm—to the post-October 7 reality. Such well-meaning efforts stand a good chance of widening/worsening conflict, not lessening the pain of the long-suffering people of this region. – Washington Institute

Robert Satloff writes: As an inveterate optimist, I hope that out of this crisis comes opportunity. Perhaps this opportunity is eventually to make in Gaza a reasonably well-functioning administration that puts first the needs of its citizens, and not the ideology of its rulers. […]With luck, this opportunity is to squeeze the irrationality from Israel’s political system, so that its government reflects the generally sensible (if scarred views) of the vast middle of the electorate, and not its messianic or egomaniacal fringe. And possibly, this opportunity includes Arab states reverting from the frenzied populism of the day back to the constructive pattern of recent years, of defining their policies based on national interest. – American Purpose

David Killculen writes: A ground campaign in Gaza also carries strategic risk. Amid information warfare from Hamas and Iran, the destruction of property, civilian casualties, and the expulsion of the population—likely painted, at best, as ethnic cleansing—of an urban battle in Gaza could damage Israel’s moral legitimacy, forcing a political halt regardless of progress on the ground. […]All these factors suggest that a ground assault into Gaza is likely to be horrific, with dire consequences. But as every soldier knows, it may still be necessary—and it may start very soon. – Foreign Affairs

Daniel Byman writes: But even if Israel is successful in reducing settler violence and helping prop up the PA, Palestinian anger is already high, and the casualties from a ground invasion will inevitably further their outrage. In the long term, reducing the consequences of the Gaza crisis will do little to restore the credibility of Abbas and the PA. As long as there is no real peace process or other hope for a negotiated settlement, the Palestinians will see groups that advocate for violence—like Hamas—as better leaders, despite the devastation their actions bring. – Foreign Affairs

Nelly Lahoud writes: Even though al Qaeda was unable to achieve a “decisive blow” through its September 11 attacks, bin Laden continued to describe them as “victories.” For now, Hamas will likely continue to double down on its rhetoric and sing the praises of its achievements. But in the years after his attack, bin Laden found that most regional jihadi groups proved to be a liability to global jihad, and that their indiscriminate attacks “repulsed” Muslims. Hamas, too, might be unnerved and potentially eclipsed if the conflict assumes a regional dimension. – Foreign Affairs

Matt Lewis writes: Our trust in institutions, including the media, is crumbling, and Americans have no trusted gatekeepers or referees to adjudicate reality. In such a time as this, you would think that major outlets would take their responsibility—if not to the public, then at least to themselves—seriously. I’ll be over here not holding my breath. – The Daily Beast

Konstantin Kisin writes: Many people woke up on October 7 sympathetic to parts of woke ideology and went to bed that evening questioning how they had signed on to a worldview that had nothing to say about the mass rape and murder of innocent people by terrorists. – The Free Press


The United States has not seen a direct order from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to attack U.S. troops in the region, the Pentagon said on Monday following a rise in attacks in Iraq and Syria by suspected Iran-backed groups. – Reuters

The White House on Monday said Iran was in some cases “actively facilitating” rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Syria, and President Biden has directed the Department of Defense to brace for more and respond appropriately. – Reuters

Russia and Iran are firming up bilateral relations in a ‘trusting’ atmosphere, Russia’s foreign ministry said early on Tuesday after its chief, Sergei Lavrov, was received by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a visit to Tehran. – Reuters

Battleground Senate Democrats are weighing a break with President Joe Biden on both border security and Iran — just as the two political issues move to the front of the upper chamber’s agenda. – Politico

The Defense Department ratcheted up its rhetoric against Iran on Monday, saying it will hold Tehran ultimately responsible for a spate of recent drone and rocket attacks on American troops in the Middle East. – Politico

Iran could launch a missile at Haifa “without hesitation,” deputy chief of the IRGC Ali Fadavi said on Monday morning, threatening direct combat between Israel and the Islamic Republic. – Jerusalem Post

Iran on Sunday warned Israel and the US of a regional escalation, while cutting its military conscription. – Jerusalem Post

Economy Minister Nir Barkat has threatened that if the Iran-backed Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group opens a second front against Israel in the north, Israel will target Iranian leaders and “wipe them off the face of the earth.” – Times of Israel

Editorial: What new catastrophe would cause President Biden to rethink his Iran policy? That’s the broader question given that every escalation by Tehran seems to earn Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei another reprieve. The forbearance—none dare call it appeasement—makes a larger war even more likely. The U.S. better send more missile defenses to the region. – Wall Street Journal

Gerard Baker writes: If there is one benefit we can draw from the atrocities we have witnessed by Iran’s proxy Hamas in Israel this month it is this: It is a heart-stopping reminder of what is at stake, a brutal warning that we take for granted what we have earned and what we have fought for at our own peril. It isn’t our values and our ideas that may ensure we prevail in this struggle, but the terrifying recognition of how fragile those values and ideas are. – Wall Street Journal

Colin P. Clarke writes: If Hezbollah decides to take advantage of the overstretched Israeli Defense Forces and officially open up a second front on Israel’s northern border, the situation could escalate — and deteriorate — quickly. Even the slightest miscalculation by Iran or one of its proxies could result in a dramatic response by the Israelis, potentially pulling in the United States and setting the stage for a bitter regional conflict. – New York Times

David Schenker writes: More effective than financial tools, however, is military might. American reluctance to employ force in the region has allowed, if not invited, Iranian adventurism. To be sure, establishing and maintaining deterrence could itself risk an escalation. Iran and its proxies are well aware that America wants to avoid another armed entanglement in the Middle East—another factor undermining the credibility of American threats. Unfortunately, to forestall a widening of the war in Gaza, Washington may have no choice but to engage militarily. – Washington Institute

Russia & Ukraine

The Justice Department last year seized a superyacht as part of a crackdown on Russia’s business elite. Now a tug of war has erupted over who owns it. On Monday, as a Russian oil tycoon sued the U.S. government to get the 348-foot Amadea back, prosecutors said it isn’t his and sought to have it forfeited, saying it really belongs to another billionaire close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Wall Street Journal

A Russian court formally arrested a U.S. journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in a case that is exacerbating tensions between Washington and Moscow, ordering her to be held in pretrial detention on an allegation she had failed to register herself as a “foreign agent.” – Wall Street Journal

Facing war on two fronts — in Ukraine and in the Middle East — Kyiv is calling on Western democracies to ramp up investment in weapons, saying that arms factory output worldwide is falling miles short of what is needed. – Politico

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the country’s forces are leaning heavily on Chinese DJI drones in the defense of their country, a claim that the manufacturer has since declared was news to them. – Defense News

Ukrainian hackers collaborated with the country’s security services, the SBU, to breach Russia’s largest private bank, a source within the department confirmed to Recorded Future News. – The Record


Hezbollah and Iran are “playing with fire” at Israel’s northern border in attempting to provoke a two-front war against Israel, President Isaac Herzog told French President Emmanuel Macron during his one-day solidarity visit to Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh overnight on Monday, according to Iranian media. During the call, which was announced by Hamas, they “discussed and exchanged opinions on the latest developments related to the continuous aggression of the Zionist regime in the Gaza Strip,” Tasnim News Agency reported, including “all the ways to stop the crimes committed by the enemy in Gaza.” – Jerusalem Post

In light of the ongoing Swords of Iron War and heightened tensions in the North, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) has released its assessment of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal. – Jerusalem Post

David Schenker writes: Iran appears for the time being to be inclined to preserve Hezbollah—its most important deterrent asset against a potential Israeli strike on the theocracy’s nuclear programme—rather than degrade its capabilities in the service of Hamas. It’s conceivable, however, that the group could join the effort to target Americans. Hezbollah could conduct operations against US forces in Syria, where it still has a presence. Or it could try to target American soft targets abroad, including in the United States. – Washington Institute


Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday submitted a bill approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid to parliament for ratification, his office said, a move welcomed by Stockholm as it clears the way for it to join the Western defence alliance. – Reuters

Turkey sent two cargo planes to Egypt on Monday carrying medical equipment and supplies for Gaza, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding two more aircraft would be sent with more supplies. – Reuters

A Turkish government official tells The Times of Israel that Al Monitor reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked the Hamas leadership, including Ismail Haniyeh, out of the country are “not true.” – Times of Israel


The Israel Defense Forces on Monday intercepted two apparent drones launched from Lebanon at northern Israel, while striking four Hezbollah cells allegedly planning to carry out attacks on the border. – Times of Israel 

Almost 20,000 people have been internally displaced in south Lebanon and elsewhere since early October, a U.N. agency said on Monday, as violence escalates on the Lebanese-Israeli border following the eruption of the Gaza war. – Reuters

US citizens in Lebanon are being urged to leave now, due to the unpredictable security situation, the US State Department said on Sunday: “The Department of State urges US citizens not to travel to Lebanon,” the agency said in a statement online. “We recommend that US citizens in Lebanon make appropriate arrangements to leave the country; commercial options currently remain available. – Jerusalem Post

Matthew Levitt writes: The lesson that terrorists of all stripes learned from the Beirut bombings has been difficult to dislodge: in their view, high-profile, psychologically devastating blows can still cause America to lose its courage and withdraw. The Hamas massacre and the war it started are proving to be very costly, but in the long run they may provide an opportunity to reverse that narrative. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

China views the situation in Gaza as “very serious” with the risk of large-scale ground conflict growing and because the conflict has begun to spill over in the region, state media quoted the country’s Middle East special envoy as saying. – Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday separately met US leaders from the Jewish as well as Arab and Palestinian-American communities amid war in the Middle East between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, the State Department said. – Reuters

Iraq’s prime minister has ordered security forces to pursue the perpetrators of attacks on military bases hosting international coalition advisers, a government military spokesman said on Monday. – Reuters

The continued deployment of American forces and equipment in the Middle East is showing no signs of letting up. Over the past two weeks, close to 80 cargo U.S. military planes have landed in the region, in addition to dozens of civilian aircraft retained by the U.S. and Israeli defense establishments. – Haaretz

Nicholas Karl, Brian Carter and Katherine Zimmerman write: This expanding conflict—regardless of its outcome—underscores that the United States must retain an active role in the region to promote stability and secure its interests. […]This pattern of episodically prioritizing the Middle East risks at some point straining US policymakers’ attention and resources when they cannot afford to do so, jeopardizing competition with China and Russia or other strategic priorities. Rather, the correct approach for the United States is to engage the Middle East consistently through this crisis and beyond to promote long-term stability and deter adversaries like Iran and its band of misfits in the Axis of Resistance. – The National Interest

Korean Peninsula

South Korean authorities on Tuesday detained a North Korean boat carrying people believed to be seeking to defect from the isolated country, the military said. – Reuters

The U.S. and the Republic of Korea’s navies completed a combined theater anti-submarine warfare exercise this month aimed at improving submarine tracking and engagement, amid heightened nuclear threats from North Korea. – Defense News

South Korean internet leader Naver Corp. won a contract to build and operate a cloud platform for Saudi Arabia, securing its first major high-tech export to the Middle East. – Bloomberg


China hasn’t said yet whether its leader, Xi Jinping, will accept President Biden’s invitation to visit the U.S. next month, but Beijing is gearing up an American charm offensive that appears designed to prepare the way for what would be Xi’s first U.S. trip in six-and-a-half years. – Wall Street Journal

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Washington this week, the State Department said Monday, the highest-level visit by a Chinese official since tensions spiked early this year after a Chinese spy balloon floated across American airspace. – Washington Post

Officials from the United States and China on Monday held a two-hour long virtual meeting to discuss domestic and global macroeconomic developments, the U.S. Treasury Department said, calling the meeting “productive and substantive”. – Reuters

Minxin Pei writes: Chinese strategists appear not to appreciate these benefits. Instead of responding positively to US overtures, the Chinese military has suspended dialogue to protest US support for Taiwan. Even worse, China’s recent aggressive intercepts of unarmed US military aircraft near its airspace have elevated the risks of an accidental conflict. The Cold War may be an imperfect analogy for today’s US-China rivalry. Unless China heeds its lessons, though, the end result may be the same. – Bloomberg


The watchdog for U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has warned that the Taliban are benefiting from international aid through the establishment of fraudulent nongovernmental organizations. – Associated Press

Tensions over the South China Sea escalated Monday with China filing a diplomatic complaint, the Philippines summoning Beijing’s ambassador, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordering a probe a day after vessels from both nations collided in the disputed waters. – Bloomberg

Michael Rubin writes: The Armenia-bashing of some analysts is deeply dishonest and comes at a substantial moral cost for the United States. Armenia is a country of genocide survivors. It is the first and only remaining Christian nation in the Middle East. Today, Russia, Turkey, and Iran jointly hold it hostage. It is an American interest to free Armenia from their grip rather than sacrifice it and other pro-Western democracies for the illusion of Azerbaijan and Turkish support. It is time to base American policy on reality, not endless Twitter repetition of the big lie. – The National Interest


Both Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Israel on Monday, the latest in a procession of foreign leaders who have made solidarity visits since the start of the war with Gaza more than two weeks ago. – Times of Israel

Britain should either increase it’s military presence in the Indo-Pacific or curb its ambitions in the region, according to the parliamentary Defence Committee. – Defense News

In the weeks since the atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel on Oct. 7, there’s been an alarming uptick in terrorist activity in Europe, with Western intelligence chiefs warning that Islamist extremists, jihadis, and antisemites, inspired by Hamas’s bold attack, could be looking for new ways to attack Western targets. Groups affiliated with al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and the Taliban, and based across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, will likely try to demonstrate their own capabilities to secure attention in a crowded field. After all, terror groups need the publicity of high-profile attacks to attract recruits, cash, weapons, and protection. – Foreign Affairs

Editorial: It’s shocking that Mr. Macron would endorse such claptrap — and at a critical moment. Agitating to set up a Palestinian state at a time when Israel is still reeling from the carnage of October 7 is precisely the wrong move. Rather than advancing on the Mideast like a Napoleon without La Grande Armée, better if M. Macron takes a page from De Gaulle, who reminded France in her darkest hour that she “has lost the battle but she has not lost the war.” – New York Sun


The United States has concluded that a military coup has taken place in Gabon, the U.S. State Department said on Monday, adding it was suspending most U.S. assistance to the African country’s government. – Reuters

European Union countries on Monday adopted a framework to impose sanctions on members of a junta that seized power in Niger in July. – Reuters

France has completed the withdrawal of troops from a northern base in Niger as part of a planned departure from the West African country in the wake of July’s military coup. – Associated Press

Eliot Wilson writes: U.S. policymakers and legislators know the Sahel is important for the security of Africa and beyond. But the pace of events is accelerating, and we are now in a position where failing to make a decision is by default a choice, as the geopolitical situation will not wait. – The Hill

The Americas

After the U.S. announced a six-month suspension on its economic sanctions against Venezuela this week, President Nicolás Maduro’s autocratic regime released five Venezuelan political prisoners, including former opposition lawmaker Juan Requesens, who had been jailed since 2018 on terrorism charges that his family and lawyers have said are false. – Wall Street Journal

The Canadian government said on Monday it detected a China-linked “Spamouflage” campaign that involved bots posting disinformation and propaganda on the social media accounts of members of parliament, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. – Reuters

Editorial: The State Department says Venezuela has until the end of November to “define a specific timeline and process for the expedited reinstatement of all candidates” who have been banned and “begin the release” of all political prisoners, or the sanctions relief will be reversed. Investors might want to hold off on that next oil rig in the Orinoco Basin. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Whether Mr. Maduro now makes way for a truly competitive political process, or just collects oil revenue and pays lip service to democracy, will depend first on Mr. Maduro, but, second, on whether the opposition, Venezuelan civil society and the United States hold him to his commitments. Otherwise, the gamble will have made the situation even worse than before. – Washington Post

Lee Hockstader writes: The lesson is that the United States can continue to passively acquiesce, and suffer the blowback of Haiti’s dysfunction, or exercise the influence it has in a focused, ongoing effort. The Kenyan-led mission might conceivably lower the body count. For a longer-term fix, the answer is up to Washington. – Washington Post

United States

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sparked controversy on social media after responding to a question about concerns of rising antisemitism amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas by talking about Islamophobia instead. – Jerusalem Post

U.S. President Joe Biden has earned plaudits from across the Jewish-American community for his leadership and rhetoric in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel. The opposite is true for Arab, Muslim and progressive communities across America, who have described Biden’s steadfast support for Israel’s military response to Hamas’ October 7 massacre as a betrayal, which could see him lose votes in next year’s presidential election. – Haaretz

Harlan Ullman writes: Biden is the most experienced foreign policy president America has had since Bush 41. But how good is his strategic judgment? Could any single president safely navigate the extraordinarily treacherous waters of a five-front war? We will see. – The Hill


The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as it heads to the Middle East, instead of joining the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group in the Eastern Mediterranean. – USNI News

Justin Bassi writes: This is a contest for long-term culture, standards and rules. Beijing and Moscow want war to be our red line, whereby we are so focused on deterring and winning a military war that we don’t see the ongoing battle for our societies, as these authoritarian regimes use broad technological advances to divide our citizenry and beat us into submission in everything short of war. Building and expanding AUKUS Pillar Two is our best starting point to avoid that. – The Hill

Raphael S. Cohen writes: Fifty years ago, the 1973 Yom Kippur War prompted the U.S. military to rethink its approach to modern warfare and the iconic doctrine of AirLand Battle. This conflict, too, may offer similarly profound insights.  Whether the U.S. military chooses to learn these lessons, though, is another question for which we cannot yet know the answer. – War on the Rocks