Mid-January SITREP Support
After Months of Attacks on Shipping by the Houthis, US and UK Airstrikes Hit Targets in Yemen
US and British forces conducted heavy airstrikes on rebel-held targets in Yemen following weeks of attacks on Red Sea shipping by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The strikes targeted an airbase, airports, and a military camp. US President Joe Biden termed the strikes a “defensive action” and stated his readiness to order further military action if necessary. The strikes involved fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles, hitting 60 targets at 16 Houthi locations with over 100 precision-guided munitions. Biden described the strikes as a direct response to the unprecedented attacks by the Houthis. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deemed the strikes necessary and proportionate. A joint statement by the US, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea emphasized the aim to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea. The Houthis warned that attacks on Israel-linked shipping would continue. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor, urged against escalation.
Southern Border Crossings Set Monthly Record Highs in December
In December, over 300,000 individuals were set to cross the US-Mexico border without authorization, marking a record high and prompting American immigration officials to process them. The Biden administration, facing heightened migrant flows, aims to curb this surge, with around 8,400 apprehensions daily. Among those crossing were parents with nearly 96,000 children. The spike follows the administration's consideration of asylum restrictions and deportation expansions. To address the situation, Mexico and Venezuela resumed repatriation flights for Venezuelan migrants. With a backlog of 3 million cases and a caravan of 6,000 migrants heading north, pressure mounts on the immigration system. Political figures and mayors from affected cities express concerns, highlighting the need for urgent federal action on the issue.
Texas National Guard Takes Control of Eagle Pass at the Southern Border
The Texas National Guard has assumed control of Shelby Park near the U.S.-Mexico border, restricting federal officials' access in an escalation of the state's conflict with the Biden administration over border policies. Texas Military Department claimed federal immigration authorities at the southern border "perpetuate illegal crossings." Fences and razor wire have been installed to block public and federal access, reinforcing Texas' stance against illegal immigration. Governor Greg Abbott asserted that the move signals Texas as a tough place for illegal immigrants. The Biden administration seeks a Supreme Court ruling to regain federal control over Shelby Park, emphasizing the ongoing clash between state and federal authorities over border issues.
7.6 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Japan – Tsunami Warnings Issued
A powerful earthquake of magnitude M7.6 (JMA) struck off the west coast of Honshu, Japan, with the USGS reporting it as M7.5. A major tsunami warning was issued for Ishikawa Prefecture and other coastal areas along the Japan Sea coast. Residents were evacuated as warnings indicated waves reaching up to 5 meters (16.4 feet). Tsunami alerts extended to Russia's Vladivostok and Nakhodka. The quake triggered a 1-meter (3.3 feet) wave along the coast, with a larger wave anticipated. Tremors caused building collapses in Ishikawa and affected Tokyo. Power outages affected over 36,000 households, but no abnormalities were detected at nearby nuclear plants. The event marks the first major tsunami warning since 2011, posing potential extensive damage and requiring substantial response efforts.
Following Delays and Confusion, Epstein Associate List Rolled Out
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is set to release names from a list of over 150 known associates of Jeffrey Epstein, despite an appeal for anonymity from one woman. While three Jane Does were granted anonymity until at least January 22, more than 150 names from Epstein's list will be unsealed. An attorney argued that one Jane Doe could face danger in her culturally conservative foreign country if her name were revealed. Reports suggest former President Bill Clinton is listed as “John Doe 36” over 50 times in redacted papers linked to a 2015 lawsuit by Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre against Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s partner. Maxwell is serving time for sex trafficking, and Giuffre received restitution from Prince Andrew for abuses she endured while underage.
NATO Pledges More Military and Economic Aid to Ukraine
During a video conference, NATO allies reiterated their commitment to providing Ukraine with significant military, economic, and humanitarian aid amid Russia's nearly two-year-long invasion. The alliance stated that member states have outlined plans to offer "billions of euros of further capabilities" to Ukraine in 2024. NATO strongly condemned Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians, emphasizing its support for Ukraine's air defenses. The recent intensification of Russian strikes on Ukrainian cities, particularly Kyiv and Kharkiv, was highlighted during the meeting. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his determination to provide defense forces with necessary resources and emphasized the effectiveness of world sanctions in slowing down the Russian defense industry. The international community continues to collaborate to strengthen Ukraine's air defense and exert pressure on Russia.
Former Officials Say UK Hiding Critical Shortage of Military Personnel
Former UK defense officials accuse the British government of hiding a shortage of skilled military personnel by removing data from the public domain and withholding information even from MPs with classified briefings. The Royal Navy's retirement of two warships is believed to be linked to this personnel shortage. Critics argue this secrecy undermines scrutiny and accountability, calling for greater transparency. Labour's John Healey claims there's a cover-up, while former Tory minister Tobias Ellwood believes the public is misled about operational limitations, raising concerns for national security. Data shows a decline in military strength to 184,865, the lowest since 1815, attributed to various factors, including housing issues and controversial policies like the ban on beards, raising alarms about the country's defense readiness.
USS Ford Aircraft Carrier Returning to Virginia After Extended Deployment
The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group is returning from the Mediterranean Sea, where it had been patrolling for months to protect Israel amidst its conflict with Lebanese Hezbollah. The US Navy announced that the USS Ford’s presence will be replaced by the Bataan amphibious ready group, which is currently transiting the Red Sea. This shift coincides with Israel’s announcement of entering the “next phase” of its Gaza operations and beginning to withdraw troops from Gaza. Despite the withdrawal, the Israeli military emphasized its intention to continue fighting. The move comes amidst White House pressure on Israel to reduce the intensity of the fighting, which has resulted in over 20,000 deaths in Gaza, and growing domestic criticism of the Netanyahu administration’s handling of the war.
Sec Def Austin Under Fire for Delaying Hospitalization Notification
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced criticism for delaying notification to the White House and Congress about his hospitalization after complications from a procedure at Walter Reed Medical Center. The Pentagon's public announcement came four days later, amid a Middle East crisis. The delay drew ire as it coincided with escalating violence in the Israel war impacting US forces. Criticism from Congress and calls for resignation surfaced due to delayed disclosures. Despite pressure, the White House supported Austin. The Pentagon acknowledged the notification lapse, citing a chief of staff's illness. Austin, still in hospital but back to full duties, took responsibility for the delayed disclosure, emphasizing the importance of public trust in the Defense Department.
US Flys Fighter Jets Over Bosnia in a Show of Support
Two U.S. F-16 jets flew over Bosnia to support its territorial integrity against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s secessionist stance, part of joint air-to-ground training with Bosnian forces. The flyovers in Tuzla and Brcko demonstrate advanced military cooperation, affirming the U.S. commitment to Bosnia's integrity under the Dayton Peace Accords. The 1992-95 war’s resolution established a divided Bosnia with joint institutions. Dodik, defying sanctions, backed by Russia, aims to split the Serb entity from Bosnia. He marked a contentious national holiday, defying court rulings, and fueling tensions. The U.S. emphasized no right to secession in Bosnia and demonstrated a projection of power. Concerns linger over Russian influence as Bosnia seeks EU entry amid internal divisions.
Canada’s SkyGuardian Drones to Get L3Harris Sensors
L3Harris has secured a contract to provide electro-optical and infrared sensors for Canada's MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones. The deal involves delivering 11 WESCAM MX-20D sensor systems, starting this year, with the initial aircraft expected to be delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2028. These sensors will enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of the drones, especially in challenging environments like the Arctic. The agreement aligns with Canada's defense policy, emphasizing the enhancement of remotely piloted aircraft systems with ISR capabilities. The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, developed by General Atomics, is an all-weather ISR-focused drone designed for extended missions and better situational awareness through radar and sensor systems.
Gaza War Will Continue Throughout 2024
Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza, with a military spokesperson indicating that the conflict with Hamas will persist throughout 2024. Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant assured that normalcy would return for residents affected by the war triggered by Hamas’s attacks in October. Amidst the ongoing conflict, Israel’s top court ruled against a controversial judicial reform. The war has resulted in around 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, and about 250 hostages taken by militants. Israel’s offensive has killed at least 21,978 people, mostly women and children, and left large areas of Gaza in ruins. Violence has also escalated in the occupied West Bank, with over 300 Palestinians killed since October. The conflict has raised fears of a wider regional conflict, with Iran-backed militant groups expressing support for Hamas. Israel also reported striking Lebanon in response to attempted drone launches.
Germany Pledges $15 ML Euros to Boost Lebanese Army
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has pledged 15 million euros to strengthen the Lebanese armed forces amid escalating tensions on the Israel border. The aid aims to help the Lebanese army secure the southern border with Israel and contain armed militias and terrorist organizations. The ongoing conflict between Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Israel has raised fears of a broader regional conflict. Baerbock, during her visit to Beirut, urged Hezbollah to withdraw from the border region as per UN Resolution 1701 and cautioned against using the Gaza war as a pretext to provoke a regional war. The German aid will be used for fuel procurement and border surveillance training for Lebanese troops. The conflict, which began with a Hamas attack on Israel, has resulted in significant casualties on both sides.
Russian’s Recently Purchased Ballistic Missiles Render Ukraine Air Defense Ineffective
Moscow is considering increasing its procurement of foreign ballistic missiles due to their higher difficulty in interception compared to cruise missiles. Ukrainian defenses struggled to intercept Russian ballistic missiles, managing to intercept only a few, while the interception rate for cruise missiles was higher. Ballistic missiles possess greater speed and predictability. The type and intensity of the missile attack affect interception success. Russia received North Korean ballistic missiles, with an undisclosed quantity of launchers and dozens of missiles. The origin of these missiles was confirmed by the White House after two attacks on Ukraine. Moscow's domestic production capacity includes 42 Iskander and 10 Kinzhal missiles monthly, while the production capacity of repurposed S-300 and S-400 missiles remains unclear. North Korea reportedly increased production of truck-mounted KN-24 ballistic missiles.
After Arming Ukraine, ‘Nothing’ Left in UK’s Military Stockpiles
The Times of London highlighted the UK's depleted military stockpiles, signaling a dire situation in aiding Ukraine's conflict with Russia. British defense officials scramble to bolster weapon production as UK intelligence doubts Ukraine's ability to secure a decisive victory due to limited resources. Internal debates in the UK government diverge on policy, some advocating for more time while others acknowledge the urgency. Concerns loom over the potential impact of a Trump victory in 2025, possibly ending support for Ukraine. President Zelensky faces waning international support amid a rising death toll and a lack of clear negotiation plans. Amidst US domestic politics hindering aid, European officials debate assuming a larger role in sustaining support, wary of Putin's unchecked influence if the US withdraws. Despite Europe's aspirations to assist, analysts doubt their capacity compared to the overwhelming US contribution.
Leopard 2 Tanks in Ukraine are All Nearly Destroyed or Broken
According to German Green MP Sebastian Schäfer, most of the 18 Leopard 2AG tanks sent to Ukraine have been destroyed or rendered inoperable due to damage, wear, and inadequate repairs. He emphasized the need for increased support from the government and industry. Schäfer urged for better training for Ukrainian mechanics and highlighted the scarcity of spare parts, impacting repair efforts. Footage of destroyed Leopard tanks in Ukraine circulated on social media, raising concerns. Schäfer, after visiting a repair workshop, noted the limited usability of the tanks due to damage and emphasized the necessity for more aid and weapons to bolster Ukraine's war efforts against Russia, especially considering the Ukrainian counteroffensive's failure and Russia's territorial gains.
US Intel Says Chinese Spy Balloon Used US Internet Service Provider to Communicate
U.S. intelligence findings revealed that a Chinese spy balloon utilized an American internet service provider for communication, primarily aiding navigation. The balloon connected through a U.S.-based company, facilitating data transmissions to and from China, employing burst transmissions for high-bandwidth data collection in short intervals. The Biden administration sought a secretive court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gather intelligence while the balloon traversed the U.S., the court's decision undisclosed. If granted, the order would permit electronic surveillance on the balloon's activities, including communications with China via the American internet provider. Despite these findings, the company refuted the assertion, stating their investigation and discussions with U.S. officials contradicted the claim of the Chinese balloon using their network.
US and UK Forces Repel Large Attack by Houthis in the Red Sea
US and UK forces have intercepted over 20 drones and missiles launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis over the Red Sea, marking the “largest attack” yet by the rebels. The Western allies’ warships and planes neutralized 18 drones and three missiles in their latest intervention. The Houthis claimed to have targeted a US ship with a “large number” of missiles and drones. The British destroyer HMS Diamond intervened as drones were heading towards it and commercial shipping in the area. This comes after a warning from 12 nations led by the US to the Houthis to cease firing on commercial vessels. The Houthis claim to be targeting Israeli-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that the Houthis had launched a complex attack from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, which was countered by US and UK forces. The incident is the latest since the US established a multinational naval task force to protect Red Sea shipping from Houthi attacks.
Iran Dispatches Warship After US Forces Kill Rebels During Ship Attack, Houthis Warn of “Repercussions”
In a potential escalation, Iran dispatched the Alborz destroyer to the Red Sea, challenging the US-led maritime security force established to protect ships in the region. Tensions in the Red Sea have escalated following a recent attack on a Maersk container ship by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. US forces responded by deploying attack helicopters, eliminating three small boats and ten rebels. The Houthi military spokesman warned of repercussions for the US aggression, stating that their actions were in support of the Palestinian people. US Central Command reported a distress call from the attacked Maersk ship and confirmed that a missile had hit it. Despite the Pentagon’s Operation Prosperity Guardian mission to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea, tensions across the Bab al-Mandab Strait continue to worsen.
Initial Report on US Employment Overstated by 439,000 Jobs in 2023
Recent revelations show discrepancies in US job reports: 439,000 jobs erased, painting an inflated picture of job market health. Government hiring largely contributes to job growth, impacting Treasury yields, Federal Reserve decisions, and consumer finances. Economist David Rosenberg criticizes reliance on the BLS "Birth-Death" model, claiming it overestimates job growth. December saw 52,000 government jobs added, raising concerns about sustainability. Sectors reliant on government spending, like healthcare, create jobs but face scrutiny over accurate figures. Past revisions showed overstatements, with private sector adjustments lower and government payrolls higher. Economists challenge Biden's claims of job creation post-pandemic. Manufacturing struggles persist, affecting other sectors. A historic low in labor force participation at 62.5% compounds worries about the economy.
Poll: 38% of US Companies Anticipate They Will Conduct Layoffs in 2024
A recent survey by Resume Builder indicates that 38% of U.S. companies anticipate conducting layoffs in 2024, reflecting an increase in job cuts toward the end of 2023. Another 52% plan to implement a hiring freeze, with half attributing the potential layoffs to the anticipation of a recession. Additionally, 4 in 10 companies cite replacing workers with artificial intelligence (AI) as a reason for potential layoffs, and 3 in 10 are reducing or eliminating holiday bonuses. Major companies like Nike, Hasbro, Spotify, Roku, Amazon, Citi, Flexport Logistics, and Charles Schwab have announced layoffs or significant workforce reductions, contributing to economic turbulence. The retail sector is also experiencing store closures, with UBS equity analyst Michael Lasser estimating that the U.S. could shed almost 50,000 retail stores by 2028.
German Farmers' Revolt Bringing Germany to a Standstill
Farmers in Germany staged massive tractor protests against Chancellor Olaf Scholz's policies, accusing the government of threatening their livelihood. The week-long demonstrations targeted tax hikes on diesel fuel, subsidy cuts, and eliminating car tax exemptions. The proposed measures aimed to fill a 17-billion-euro budget gap but faced strong backlash from the farming sector. Despite government promises to reorganize the tax increases and ease subsidy cuts, the German Farmers' Association deemed it insufficient, warning of economic disaster. The protests caused traffic disruptions nationwide, including blocked motorways and city entrances. Volkswagen factory production halted due to road blockades. Farmers decried rising costs, subsidy cuts, and tax hikes, claiming they risk losing a third of their income. While criticized by some officials, the protests gained support from opposition parties like the CSU and the AfD, mirroring Dutch farmer protests against environmental policies.
In Israel Blinken Carriers Arab Message to Keep Hope of Palestinian State Alive
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his mission to control the Gaza war, informed Israeli leaders that acceptance from their Arab neighbors could be achieved if they pave the way for a viable Palestinian state. During his fourth trip to the region, Blinken shared insights from his discussions with Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the war cabinet formed after the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants. The Israeli offensive has resulted in over 23,000 Palestinian deaths, widespread destruction in Gaza, and displacement of most of its 2.3 million population. Blinken emphasized the need for Israel to protect Gaza’s civilians and allow humanitarian aid. He also mentioned that Arab allies seek integration with Israel, provided it includes a practical pathway to a Palestinian state. He expressed optimism about potential opportunities but stressed the need to prevent a recurrence of the Oct. 7 events.
Parents Outraged at NYC’s Decision to House Thousands of Illegals in High School Gym
Parents and politicians expressed outrage outside James Madison High School in New York after approximately 2,000 illegal immigrants were brought to the school to spend the night due to high winds threatening a migrant tent camp. City officials transported the migrants, resulting in an early school dismissal and remote classes. Concerned parents criticized the move, emphasizing the impact on students' education and safety. Some feared this could become a recurring event, disrupting learning and posing challenges for students preparing for upcoming exams. NYC Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision, praising city workers for keeping asylum seekers safe. Critics, including Councilwoman Inna Vernikov and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, argued against using schools as migrant shelters, calling for prioritizing students' needs.
JP Morgan Strategist Predicts President Biden Will Drop Out of 2024 Presidential Race
JPMorgan Chase's Michael Cembalest predicts President Biden will withdraw from the 2024 re-election race between Super Tuesday and November due to health concerns, despite his job creation figures post-COVID rollout. Biden’s low approval and doubts about his mental acuity fuel this prediction. Kamala Harris's unpopularity adds complexity. Two Democrats and an independent plan to run, yet Biden remains the top Dem choice per polls, despite Trump leading in theoretical matchups. Concerns over inflation and Biden’s age loom. While Biden is the current Dem frontrunner, Trump leads GOP hopefuls in potential match-ups, with recent polls indicating a Biden loss if elections happened now.