Fdd's overnight brief

October 31, 2023

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Israeli tanks and infantry temporarily seized control of a strategic road linking the Gaza Strip’s north and south, a major advance that appeared aimed at encircling the enclave’s biggest population center, Gaza City. – Wall Street Journal

Palestinian militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, abducted over 200 civilians and soldiers and brought them back to the Gaza Strip. Israel has taken part in negotiations for the release of hostages while carrying out military efforts to crush Hamas, the militant group that is holding most of them. – Wall Street Journal

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a rare apology Sunday that inadvertently framed the political crisis that has engulfed him. – Wall Street Journal

Attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are surging, with at least 115 killed, more than 2,000 injured and nearly 1,000 others forcibly displaced from their homes because of violence and intimidation by Israeli forces and settlers since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, according the United Nations. – New York Times

Israel’s war against Hamas is exposing deep divisions among Democrats in Congress, as the most outspoken supporters of the Jewish state and vocal pro-Palestinian members on the left trade accusations of bigotry and feud over what role the United States should play in the hostilities. – New York Times

An Israeli soldier who was abducted by Hamas has been rescued in a special joint operation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN, the first successful hostage extrication since the militant group’s October 7 rampage. CNN

Striking a defiant tone at a rare news briefing on Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel ruled out a cease-fire in Gaza, dismissed calls for his resignation and rejected criticism of Israel’s strikes on civilian homes. – New York Times

Benjamin Netanyahu writes: I hope and pray that civilized nations everywhere will back this fight. Because Israel’s fight is your fight. If Hamas and Iran’s axis of evil win, you will be their next target. That’s why Israel’s victory will be your victory. Regardless of who stands with Israel, Israel will fight this battle until it is won. Israel will prevail. May God bless Israel, and may God bless all who stand with Israel. – Wall Street Journal

Eli Federman writes: The trajectory of the current conflict might have been different had Hamas embraced a metaphorical understanding of “jihad.” While Hamas and other extremist groups view jihad as a mandate for a literal holy war, many contemporary Muslim scholars advocate for a symbolic interpretation, framing “jihad” as an inner spiritual struggle. A shift away from dogmatic literalism toward a more progressive and metaphorical understanding of religious teachings like Amalek or jihad isn’t only advisable; it’s imperative for fostering dialogue, understanding and peace. – Wall Street Journal

William McGurn writes: That’s what makes Hamas members war criminals. On Oct. 7, they executed a plan to target, attack and murder innocent Israelis. Now that they have the Israeli counterattack they counted on, they are trying to use the Palestinian dead to claim victimhood. It isn’t just Queen Rania, either: We hear the same argument at the United Nations, in Congress and on elite American college campuses. – Wall Street Journal

Steven Hill writes: With a better electoral method, Egypt might have avoided its ill-fated election of a Muslim Brotherhood hard-liner who further polarized society and was subsequently overthrown in a military coup. That in turn contributed to the tragic end of the Arab Spring democratization movement. There is a golden rule in a healthy democracy, much espoused yet too rarely practiced: “Give unto others the representation you would have them give unto you.” If these lessons are not internalized by those trying to build a peaceful, decent state for the Palestinian people, the next attempts at representative democracy will likely also collapse. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: That’s a problem for Netanyahu. The Israeli leader has expended significant political capital, often to Washington’s dismay, in attempting to build close relations with Putin. But with Putin so obviously adopting a more hostile policy toward Israel, Netanyahu can no longer anticipate Putin’s support for Israeli action in Syria and beyond. Putin is choosing to isolate Israel when it is most in need of partners. – Washington Examiner

Blaise Misztal writes: Providing military, political, and strategic assistance to Israel can help to ensure that as Israeli leaders formulate strategies to address the southern threat from Hamas and the northern risk from Hizballah, they adopt an approach that reduces the risks to this close U.S. partner and rebuilds a viable stability in the region. – War on the Rocks


A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was arrested and severely beaten, her husband said on Monday — one of several activists taken into custody at the funeral in Tehran of a girl who was fatally injured after a reported confrontation with the enforcers of Iran’s strict dress code for women. – New York Times

Leaders of Israel Allies Caucuses in 12 European nations jointly issued a resolution denouncing Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism and urging the European Union to address critical issues related to Iran promptly. – Jerusalem Post

In recent discussions with the United States, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned the US and Israel that a ground invasion of Gaza could deepen the crisis and prolong the cycle of violence, according to a New York Times article. – Jerusalem Post

Sen. Roger Marshall writes: Without a clear message to Iran and its puppets, they will escalate their attacks on Israel and all humankind. Very clearly, Biden must communicate to Iran and its marionettes our policy, our priorities, and our mission. America stands beside Israel unequivocally and supports its efforts to eliminate Hamas. We demand the safe return of all American hostages now. And the administration must immediately reemploy and enforce harsh sanctions on Iran, cutting off its revenue streams and holding it responsible for any of its proxies’ actions. – Washington Examiner

Maya Carlin writes: With these extreme disadvantages in place, the blue team ultimately succeeded in their mission to destroy “Iran’s” military capabilities. However, the blue team’s inability to use flexibility and quick thinking in its response to the red’s initial attack reflected a rigidity that would not serve the U.S. well in a real conflict. The costliest wargame in America’s history did not play out exactly how the Pentagon had hoped. While obtaining advanced technology and sophisticated weaponry is a crucial component in war, it won’t necessarily guarantee a win. – The National Interest

Maya Carlin writes: The Quds Force has been tied to previous operations involving the abductions of opposition activists from the U.S. and Europe. Schemes like these highlight the regime’s refusal to comply with international law. – The National Interest

Russia & Ukraine

The tall chimneys of the Avdiivka Coke Plant stand out against the skyline. Beside it a sprawling slag heap juts into the sky, offering a high point overlooking the city of Avdiivka and surrounding villages. The two landmarks have been the focus of furious fighting since Oct. 10 as thousands of Russian troops began a major new offensive in eastern Ukraine to seize Avdiivka, a long-coveted prize that would extend Russia’s control of the coal mining region of the Donbas. – New York Times

It happened in the months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and in the days after Hamas’s attack on southern Israel, with one notable exception: Israel has not cleared space on the tarmac to welcome President Zelensky, despite the Ukrainian leader’s expressed wish to fly in. That such a visit has yet to happen may be less a reflection of Jerusalem’s cold shoulder than Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clear-eyed assessment of who some of the real power brokers are in the Middle East right now and the need to prioritize accordingly, especially as a complex and dangerous war is unfolding. – New York Sun

Pro-Hamas rioters briefly overran the Makhachkala International Airport in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan Sunday evening, surrounding a plane from Israel in search of Jewish passengers and shouting antisemitic slogans. – New York Sun

Kyiv military officials said on Monday that Russia has bulked up its forces around the devastated city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine and has switched its troops from defence to offence, but Ukraine has been preparing to repel the attacks. – Reuters

Elizabeth Braw writes: Governments can also inform the Kremlin that they’ll no longer allow dark vessels carrying goods to and from Russia to traverse their waters. According to international maritime law, traveling through other countries’ waters is a right — but having proper insurance is a requirement too. And it’s in everyone’s interest that the dangerous dark fleet be defeated. – Politico

Artyom Shraibman writes: When Lukashenko repeatedly urges Kyiv and Moscow for an immediate cease-fire, then, he is not just attempting to reincarnate himself as some kind of mediator, as with the earlier Minsk agreements. In these moments, Lukashenko is also speaking to another fear. He knows too well that if the current fragile equilibrium at the frontline morphs into something more dynamic, his mutually beneficial relations with Moscow may very well end—and with them, his own precarious legitimacy. – Foreign Affairs

Agathe Demarais writes: Sanctions represent a key tool for Western countries to weigh on Russia’s ability to wage war against Ukraine. As a result, ensuring the effectiveness and predictability of these measures should be a priority for allies, not least to ensure greater compliance and buy-in from the private sector. This, in a nutshell, is why greater British-EU collaboration on sanctions would make perfect sense. Of course, it would not be a silver bullet to change Moscow’s calculus in Ukraine. But every little bit helps, and greater collaboration on sanctions could also represent a low-hanging fruit to revive political relations across the channel. – Foreign Policy

Edward Lucas writes: The story is well-known in outline, but Kauffmann’s vivid and insightful reporting brings the details to life. We read of how in June 2021 Estonia’s Kaja Kallas, the newest member of the European Council, representing one of the EU’s smallest countries, single-handedly derailed a Franco-German attempt to “reset” relations with Russia after it seized Crimea. Initially, Kallas thought she had blundered, but then other countries congratulated her on her stance, and Angela Merkel apologized for berating her. Kauffmann recounts how Kallas’s eyes “sparkled” at the memory. – Center for European Policy Analysis


As Israeli troops move deeper south into Gaza with the goal of destroying Hamas, the world is closely watching what happens on Israel’s northern border, where its forces have engaged for weeks in intense clashes with another, more powerful foe, Hezbollah. – New York Times

With dozens of Hezbollah fighters killed in three weeks of border clashes with Israel, the Lebanese group is working to stem its losses as it prepares for the possibility of a drawn-out conflict, three sources familiar with its thinking said. – Reuters

Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday it shot down an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon with a surface-to-air missile, the first time it has announced such an incident, as clashes on the Lebanese border escalate. – Reuters

At 6:45 on the morning of October 7, as Hamas terrorists were embarking on their rampage against Israeli communities and military bases, Josh, a 39-year-old father of two, was awakened by a phone call telling him that there were rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. – Times of Israel

Gulf States

Four Katyusha rockets on Monday fired at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base which hosts U.S. and other international forces in western Iraq, security sources said. – Reuters

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday met with Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud and confirmed President Joe Biden’s commitment to support the defense of U.S. partners against threats from state and non-state actors, including those backed by Iran, the White House said. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia remains enthusiastic about the prospects of peace with Israel, according to President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who also served as a senior advisor to the president at the White House and was one of the key architects of the Abraham Accords. – New York Sun

Middle East & North Africa

Saudi Arabia’s military has gone into a state of high alert following deadly clashes with Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who also tried to fire a missile over the kingdom toward Israel, according to people familiar with the matter. – Bloomberg

The World Bank reported on Monday that oil prices could be pushed into “uncharted waters” if the violence between Israel and Hamas widens, which could result in increased food prices worldwide. – Associated Press

As the 3-week-old Israel-Hamas war enters what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says could be a “long and difficult” new stage, President Joe Biden is calling on Israeli and Arab leaders to think hard about their eventual postwar reality. – Associated Press

The Israel-Hamas war is spilling into Syria, fueled by growing instability, violence and a lack of progress toward a political solution to its 12-year conflict, the United Nations special envoy for the country said Monday. – Associated Press

Jordan has asked the United States to deploy Patriot air defense systems on its soil, according to Jordanian Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hiyari. – Defense News

Hamas’s green banners are prominent on America’s city streets and Europeans are pushing Israel to pause, or even halt, its Gaza operation. In contrast, many in the Arab world are quietly urging the Jewish state to finish off Hamas, as they consider the Gaza war a region-wide fight against extremism. – New York Sun

Shiri Fein-Grossman writes: Choosing the components of the one-state solution, such as occupying the Gaza Strip, controlling it, and continuing to weaken the Palestinian Authority, could lead the Abraham Accords countries (which are already forced to fend off harsh criticism against normalization) to sever relations with Israel. It would severely damage Israel’s international legitimacy and thus limit its leeway in fighting Hamas. It would also miss out on a historic opportunity to forge a joint regional camp against Iran and its proxies. – Jerusalem Post


Chinese and Russian military officials on Monday criticized the United States as an agent of global instability at a Beijing military forum, where Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, also threatened grave consequences over Western involvement in the war in Ukraine. – Washington Post

China has discovered illegal foreign government-funded meteorological detection sites around sensitive places including military compounds, its state security ministry said on Tuesday. – Reuters

China and the United States should have an objective understanding of each other’s strategic intention and take the correct view of competitive factors in future exchanges, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday. – Reuters

China’s declining aid to the South Pacific is increasingly targeted toward its political allies in the region as appetite there for Chinese credit declines and competition grows with the U.S. for influence, an independent Australian think tank reported Tuesday. – Associated Press


Indonesia’s counter-terrorism unit has arrested 59 suspected militants including some loyalists of the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) suspected of planning to disrupt an upcoming election, a unit spokesperson said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Philippines National Security Adviser on Tuesday said Manila’s vessel did not illegally enter any space under Chinese sovereignty and called on China to stop “its aggressive action in Philippine waters”. – Reuters

Mr. Torjan is one of more than 70,000 Afghans who have returned from Pakistan in recent weeks, according to the Pakistani authorities. The deportation order, which is largely seen as targeting Afghan migrants, is considered a sign of the increasing hostility between Pakistan’s government and the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan over militants operating in both countries. – New York Times

Husain Haqqani writes: Moreover, Pakistan is no longer able to obtain military and economic assistance from the United States by highlighting support for America’s global objectives; its close partnership with China is yielding fewer economic benefits than Pakistani leaders expected; and Pakistan’s traditional friends in the Arab world have expanded their economic ties with India and want Pakistan to also straighten out its economy and end Islamist militancy. – The Indian Express

Jeffrey Hornung writes: Collectively, let me end with two basic conclusions. First, Japan’s efforts deserve much credit. As noted above, the government is pushing ahead on a broad array of initiatives meant to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces’ deterrent power across multiple domains. Importantly, this was done on Tokyo’s own initiative. If successful, it promises to result in much more lethal and technologically advanced Self-Defense Forces. At the same time, and my second point, as positive as this is, we need to temper our expectations. Japan is attempting to do a lot of very impressive things with new technologies and capabilities that it either does not field or, in some instances, do not yet exist. There are bound to be limits in manpower, resources, capacity, or capabilities that will ultimately place limits on what the end point of Japan’s buildup ultimately looks like. – War on the Rocks


A Star of David crudely daubed on the doors of Jewish homes in Berlin. An Orthodox Jewish man punched in the face on a London bus. Threatening letters sent to a prominent Jewish politician in France. Across Europe, where centuries of pogroms and the Holocaust nearly wiped out Jews, those who remain have taken a double blow. The first is the grief and shock from the Hamas attack on Israel that shattered an assumption that at least there, Jews were safe from the kinds of attacks that mark their history in Europe. – Wall Street Journal

The European Union plans to help the countries of the Western Balkans pursue reforms needed for integration with the wealthy bloc with an investment of 6 billion euros ($6.4 billion), the EU executive’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, said in Skopje on Monday. – Reuters

The Jewish community of the mostly Muslim region of Dagestan, focus of international attention since an attack on passengers flying in from Israel as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza intensifies, traces its origins back to the 7th century. – Reuters

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu accused the West on Monday of wanting to expand the conflict in Ukraine to the Asia-Pacific region, Russian state media reported. – Reuters

Donald Tusk recently returned to Brussels as a “proud Pole” and a “proud European.” It is not quite clear which ascription comes first. Equally unclear is the capacity in which Mr. Tusk voyaged, for he is not yet Poland’s prime minister. Yet what is clear is that should Mr. Tusk assume the role, Poland could well see “more Paris in Warsaw,” as Mr. Tusk told President Macron of France last year — and likely not the good parts. – New York Sun

The Czech Republic’s Defense Minister, Jana Cernrochova, is calling for the European state to withdraw from the United Nations in response to the General Assembly failure to condemn Hamas or demand the release of hostages being held in Gaza. – New York Sun

Selin Uysal writes: In the meantime, European action in the region will probably continue to unfold in limited formats, as in the case of Iran. In this respect, the post–October 7 phase could see positions of the E3 (France, Germany, and Italy) and United States converge on a tougher line on Iran, an approach Washington has not favored so far. – Washington Institute


Islamist militants in Niger have significantly stepped up their attacks in the months since generals here ousted the elected president, jettisoning the counterterrorism support of French forces and throwing into doubt cooperation with the American military. – Washington Post

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that he intends to end the participation of Gabon, Niger, Uganda and the Central African Republic in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program. – Reuters

Britain’s King Charles begins a four-day state visit to Kenya on Tuesday, his first to a former colony, during which he plans to acknowledge “painful aspects” of a shared history that included almost seven decades of colonial rule. – Reuters

Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Monday they had seized an airport from the army west of the capital and workers at an oilfield said they were evacuated due to the attack as the warring factions reconvened for talks in Saudi Arabia. – Reuters

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Sunday to discuss trade and investment opportunities during a West Africa tour, as the European country looks to diversify its trade partners and expand economic partnerships in the energy-rich region. – Associated Press

The Americas

Venezuela’s Supreme Justice Tribunal said on Monday it has suspended the results of an opposition presidential primary that took place this month, despite an electoral deal between the government and the opposition that allows each side to choose its candidate. – Reuters

Haiti’s government has suspended all Nicaragua-bound flights leaving its capital, the Miami Herald reported on Monday, putting at least a temporary end to a key route for would-be Haitian migrants seeking to reach the U.S. – Reuters

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte said on Monday that she would discuss a plan to tackle drug trafficking in an upcoming meeting with her U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, as she travels to Washington for a regional summit. – Reuters

As the Israel-Hamas war plays out, Latin America largely watches from the sidelines. Five left-wing countries — Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and now Colombia — are pro-Hamas. The two heavyweights — Brazil and Mexico — sit on the fence. – New York Sun

United States

Editorial: Today’s threats to democracy are different, but one lesson is the same and is crystal-clear: A Western society that can’t or won’t muster the will to defend its Jewish neighbors and fellow citizens won’t be able to defend itself. – Wall Street Journal

Walter Russell Mead writes: History offers hope but shouldn’t make us complacent. We face grave challenges abroad even as the foundations of unity and concord at home have corroded to a dangerous degree. Those whose job it was to preserve the health of our educational institutions have dramatically and horribly failed while those charged with American foreign policy failed to prepare for the challenges coming at us overseas.The Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 unleashed a storm abroad and a storm at home. More storms, and worse ones, are likely as a disordered America struggles for balance in a disordered world. – Wall Street Journal

Harlan K. Ullman writes: To meet the recommendations for increasing conventional forces and modernizing the triad’s forces with strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, an annual increase of one-fifth to a quarter in defense spending ($1.08 trillion to $1.12 trillion a year) is needed. Given the debt and deficits and nearly $700 billion for annual interest payments, will Congress approve that short of war? – The Hill

Benjamin Zycher writes: The Biden offshore leasing proposal is perverse. It will raise prices now and over the long term. It will transfer wealth from Americans to odious regimes overseas, including that of Vladimir Putin. It will increase the emissions of various pollutants and greenhouse gases while yielding no measurable effect on future climate phenomena, even as it engenders massive environmental damage in other dimensions. – The Hill


Forty countries in a U.S.-led alliance plan to sign a pledge never to pay ransom to cybercriminals and to work toward eliminating the hackers’ funding mechanism, a senior White House official said on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Russian government plans to have its own analogous version of the malware scanning platform VirusTotal up and running within the next two years, due to concerns the U.S. government could access data from the popular Google-owned service. – The Record

Low-skill cybercriminals are using a new tool to create hundreds of fake social media accounts in just a few seconds, researchers have discovered. Called Kopeechka (“penny” in Russian), the service helps to bypass two main “hurdles” for someone trying to create a fake account — email and phone verification. – The Record

The White House announced a long-awaited executive order on Monday that attempts to mitigate the security risks of artificial intelligence while harnessing the potential benefits of the technology. – CyberScoop