Crossing the Red Sea

Happy Tuesday! Paging all Gen Z TMD readers—there are some elder millennials at The Dispatch—to say nothing of the Gen Xers—who desperately need someone to explain Oxford University Press’ word of the year, “rizz.” No cap.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) advanced further into southern Gaza on Monday, moving “house to house, tunnel to tunnel,” according to IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, in an effort to remove Hamas from the Strip. Nearly 200 targets in Gaza were hit by Israeli airstrikes overnight on Sunday, the IDF reported, including Hamas commander Wissam Farhat, who Israeli officials believe plotted the massacre of civilians at the Nahal Oz kibbutz on October 7. U.S. officials have warned Israeli military leaders to limit the number of civilian casualties incurred in the expanded fighting. Meanwhile, Gazan terrorist groups have continued to launch indiscriminate rocket barrages at southern and central Israel, though the frequency of such attacks has slowed as Israeli forces take ground and target terrorist infrastructure across the enclave.
  • The White House sent a letter to congressional leaders on Monday warning that, in the absence of another funding package from Congress, the U.S. will be out of money to help fund Ukraine’s efforts on the battlefield by the end of the year. “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment,” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote. “We are out of money—and nearly out of time.” Additional aid is currently stalled in Congress, with a large faction of congressional Republicans making support for continued security assistance to the war-torn nation contingent on the adoption of stricter immigration policies at the southern border, which many Democrats have balked at. “The Biden Administration has failed to substantively address any of my conference’s legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers,” House Speaker Mike Johnson tweeted Monday in response to the White House’s letter.
  • In another blow to Europe’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa, Niger’s ruling junta—which took power in July—ended the country’s participation in two security pacts with the European Union. The announcement coincided with a rare visit from Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Yunus-bek Yevkurov, who arrived in Niamey—Niger’s capital city—on Sunday for meetings with top military officials. 
  • House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer released subpoenaed bank records on Monday showing payments made to President Joe Biden by his son Hunter in September, October, and November of 2018—after Biden’s term as vice president and before his presidential bid. Comer claimed the payments—described as recurring, though the published document showed just one $1,380 deposit—from Hunter Biden’s company, Owasco PC, were evidence of Biden benefiting from his son’s alleged influence-peddling. “This wasn’t a payment from Hunter Biden’s personal account but an account for his corporation that received payments from China and other shady corners of the world,” Comer said in a video accompanying the release of the documents. Reporting from the New York Post in April 2022 and the Washington Post on Monday suggested those transfers may have been payments for a truck Biden bought his son when the younger Biden was at the height of his addiction, and Abbe Lowell—Hunter’s attorney—accused Comer of “reheating what is old as new to try to revive his sham of an investigation.”
  • The Justice Department on Monday indicted Victor Manuel Rocha—who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002 and on the National Security Council from 1994 to 1995—for acting as an agent of the government of Cuba. Prosecutors alleged that Rocha worked for Cuba’s General Directorate of Intelligence as a covert agent from 1981 to the present, and that Rocha admitted to his work on behalf of the Cuban government to an undercover U.S. law enforcement officer in a series of conversations in 2022 and 2023. “Throughout the meetings, Rocha behaved as a Cuban agent, consistently referring to the United States as ‘the enemy,’ and using the term ‘we’ to describe himself and Cuba,” the DOJ said in a statement. He faces charges of “conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General; acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General; and with using a passport obtained by false statement.”
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday announced the suspension of his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Burgum, who failed to qualify for November’s Republican primary debate in Miami as well as this week’s upcoming debate in Alabama, criticized the Republican National Committee’s debate qualification rules as an “unhealthy” effort to “nationalize the primary system.” 

Escalation by Any Other Name

A picture taken during an organized tour by Yemen's Houthi rebels on November 22, 2023 shows the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by Houthi fighters two days earlier, at a port on the Red Sea in Yemen's province of Hodeida. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)
A picture taken during an organized tour by Yemen's Houthi rebels on November 22, 2023 shows the Galaxy Leader cargo ship, seized by Houthi fighters two days earlier, at a port on the Red Sea in Yemen's province of Hodeida. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

In the wake of Hamas’ devastating October 7 attack on Israel, President Joe Biden deployed two U.S. carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a show of force and deterrence, metaphorically wielding a big ship as he spoke softly. “To any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t,” he said in announcing the measure. “Don’t.”

Several Iranian proxy groups seem to have missed the message.

In the latest escalation in the Middle East, three commercial ships in the Red Sea were attacked on Sunday by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, responded to distress calls and shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as the Houthis continued to fire missiles at the cargo vessels. These Houthi-led attacks in international waters are part of a growing trend of aggression—one the U.S. has squarely blamed on Iran as part of the Islamic Republic’s plan to destabilize the region. Despite being clear-eyed about assigning blame, however, the U.S. has so far issued a tempered response, resulting in further attacks on Western ships and interests by Iran’s regional proxies. 

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