Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest - June 11, 2024

Interfor International‘s Weekly Security Digest – June 11, 2024

Interfor’s Weekly Digest | Global Security and Policy Insights – June 11, 2024

Global Security Matters

Israel – Gaza

  • On Monday, the UN Security Council approved a resolution endorsing the Gaza ceasefire proposal announced by President Biden late last week. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the resolution a “clearmessage” to Hamas that the current proposal is viable, internationally supported, and has the potential to halt fighting in Gaza. Under this three-phase framework, Israeli hostages would gradually be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, during which time Hamas, Israel, and mediating parties would negotiate terms for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the war. Only once those negotiations are successful would the third phase begin — the reconstruction of Gaza. Still, the actual parties involved — Israel and Hamas — have not yet issuedformal responses to Qatari and Egyptian mediators. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently in Israel attempting to push Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the proposal (which came from Israel’s own negotiators). 
  • Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and called for new elections on Sunday, fulfilling his promise to leave should significant progress toward a ceasefire deal not be made by then. Gantz was joined by National Unity Party Ministers Gadi Eisenkot and Chili Tropper, leaving Netanyahu’s government largely in the hands of far-right politicians. This will not topple Netanyahu’s government, though it may push him to choose whether to prioritize his coalition or Israel’s relationship with the US. 
    • Gantz’s departure reflects growing discontent among Israelis with Netanyahu’s prosecution of the war in Gaza. The majority of Israelis, according to recent polling, feel a hostage deal is a higher priority than the destruction of Hamas. Netanyahu’s far-right allies Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have alternative views — that the complete eradication of Hamas is essential to repairing Israeli deterrence and restoring security. At eight months into the war, however, this conflict is a drastic break from the Israeli military strategy of devastating, short conflicts, leading some analysts to question whether and for how long the IDF can sustain a military campaign in Gaza(or worse, in Lebanon). 
  • It is notable that recent polling of Israelis has consistently put Gantz’s National Unity Party ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud in the Knesset, should elections happen now. A former PM himself, Gantz is likely positioning himself to take over should Netanyahu’s government collapse. Gantz’s party is already taking steps in the Knesset to oppose Netanyahu’s government.
  • On Saturday, the IDF rescued four Israeli hostages in its third such operation since October. Noa Argamani (26),Almog Meir Jan (22), Andrey Kozlov (27), and Shlomi Ziv (41) were all kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7th. The hostages were being held in Nuseirat, in southern Gaza, guarded by Hamas forces and civilians. The rescue mission faced fierce resistance, resulting in the deaths of scores of Palestinians. The IDF operation was supported by US intelligence, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. There are still 120 hostages in Gaza, at least a third of whom are believed to be dead. 

International Affairs

  • While EU voters largely continue to support centrists, far-right parties made notable gains in Sunday’s European parliamentary elections. Most of the far-right gains were concentrated in France, Italy, and Germany. In France, for example, far-right politician Marine Le Pen’s protégé secured a projected 31.5% of the vote — more than double that of President Macron’s coalition — leading Macron to call for politically risky snap legislative elections. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany party (whose members have been criticized for pro-Nazi rhetoric) had a strong showing, becoming Germany’s second-ranking party. Such gains still fall short of a challenge to centrist political parties in the EU, though may make it harder for the EU to pass some legislation (especially related to the climate and migration) over the next five years.
  • The Belarusian Defense Ministry announced it will participate in nuclear drills with Russia. Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin claimed the decision was a reaction to Western attempts to drag Belarus into “revolution” and crush the government with economic sanctions. This will be the second time since May 2024 that Belarus and Russia have conducted joint maneuvers. During the first round of exercises, the Russian Foreign Ministry suggested the move was part of their strategy to deter Europe’s use of advanced weaponry and/or troops in Ukraine.  
  • The Biden administration is reportedly close to finalizing a defense treaty with Saudi Arabia, dubbed the Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA). The treaty would commit the US to help defend KSA as part of a larger US diplomatic strategy for securing Israeli-Saudi normalization. In exchange, the SAA would grant the US access to Saudi territory and airspace to protect US regional interests/partners. Should it succeed, this would be the first time since 1960 that the US concluded a mutual defense pact — and the first ever with an authoritarian country.
    • The SAA faces formidable roadblocks, however. For Riyadh, the agreement hinges upon an end to the war in Gaza and demonstrated steps toward a viable Palestinian state(and is thus dependent on Biden’s ability to navigate Israeli domestic politics). Additionally, in the US, the SAA must secure 2/3 approval in the Senate. Such a“megadeal” would be an incredible diplomatic victory for Washington. However, as Biden has yet been unable to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the likelihood of finalizing a regional power-shifting deal like the SAA is highly questionable. 

Cyber / Defense Technology

  • Google has acknowledged the presence of a “fake update” on Chrome that has infiltrated many users’ systems. While targeting internet users is not a new tactic, these “fake download files,” labeled as “Chrome_Update_[randomversion number].apk” or “Chrome.apk,” have put many users’ private information at risk. 
    • These fraudulent files contain Cerberus, an advanced Android-linked banking malware first identified in 2019. Cerberus is designed to steal banking information, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data directly from mobile devices. By bypassing initial security measures, the malware can operate undetected, compromising user security and privacy.
  • Ukraine has been alerted to impending cyber attacks targeting its defense forces. A malware called SPECTR has been detected within Ukrainian systems, attempting to infiltrate critical information and infrastructure. The malware is specifically targeting the SickSync Campaign. The Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA)has linked this suspicious malware to the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). The LPR, a Russian-backed, self-proclaimed state in Eastern Ukraine, is believed to be behind the infiltration. The attack involved spear-phishing emails loaded with additional malware acting as decoys. Previously utilized by the Vermin Group, SPECTR has been employed in past attacks targeting Ukrainian state bodies. CERT-UA has also warned of similar attacks targeting social media and messaging applications.