30 May 2021

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The digital era has transformed the way we communicate. Using social media like Facebook and Instagram, and social applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram, one can be in contact with friends and family, share pictures, videos, messages, posts and share our experiences. Social media has become an effective way of influencing human society and behavior, and shaping public opinion. By sharing a post, tweeting an idea, contributing a discussion in a forum and sharing a sentimental picture, we can influence others and sometimes convince into with our opinion.

Use of cyber tools and methods to manipulate public opinion is called ‘Cyber Influence Operation’. In the present day, many countries use cyberspace, especially the social media, to accomplish Cyber Influence Operations as a part of Information Warfare. Most of these operations are done covertly. It is difficult to differentiate between legitimate or malicious influence operations. Continue Reading.....

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

China feels that U.S. is its main adversary ... China is trying to match U.S. technological capabilities with its own strength in AI as a leap frog technology and a new concept of war ... But there will be lot of problems in implementing this concept of Intelligentization Warfare to reality. However, President Xi Jinping has thrown the gauntlet, and it is up to the U.S. the other adversaries and the rest of the world to follow this concept keenly. Continue Reading....

Don’t Write Off Indian Vaccine Diplomacy Yet

By Krzysztof Iwanek

The Diplomat has removed paywall restrictions on our coverage of the COVID–19 crisis.

India continues to cope with the devastating effects of its second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of thousands of people – the exact numbers remain uncertain. The unfolding tragedy has also shut the gates of New Delhi’s vaccine diplomacy.

In January 2021, India was not only kicking off its vaccination drive, but also sharing millions of doses with other countries. India was heralded in the news as the nation with the biggest vaccine manufacturing capacity. The country’s foreign minister was busy tweeting about each shipment of vaccines to another nation. By March, however, that rosy picture gave way to calamity, overshadowing earlier success. Some believe now that India’s vaccine diplomacy was a mistake, or at least that it did not yield the desired results. But it’s too early for that conclusion.

It is true that by April it became obvious that India was being hit by a massive wave of COVID-19 infections, and that the spike was not confined to specific states, like Maharashtra, but was quickly on its way to being a national crisis. New Delhi then blocked all exports of vaccines, promising it would be a temporary two-month measure to “prioritize” domestic needs. Should we treat the promise literally, that period will end by the beginnings of June, although it is not so clear exports will recommence then. Meanwhile, the current of assistance has started to flow the opposite way: The world is now helping India. As Indian hospitals overflowed with patients, many of them with severe symptoms and with thousands dying due to insufficient equipment, some countries starting to send emergency transports of medical aid to India, such as oxygen concentrators.

Operation Guardian of the Walls: Where Was Hezbollah?

Orna Mizrahi , Yoram Schweitzer

Over the 11 days of Operation Guardian of the Walls, Nasrallah’s attention was focused on Gaza, where he saw what can be expected for Lebanon in the event of a conflict in the northern arena; he also gained an opportunity to consider how he should prepare for a future confrontation with Israel. From Israel’s perspective, the events in the northern arena during the operation show that the Shiite organization is still deterred, but prepared to take risks that could lead to escalation

Operation Guardian of the Walls provided Jerusalem an opportunity to examine Hezbollah's policy while Israel was engaged in a military confrontation with Hamas. It was also a testing ground for Iran and Hezbollah. During the campaign, Hezbollah refrained from any direct military action against Israel and contented itself with emphasizing its support for Hamas's struggle for Jerusalem as part of the "axis of resistance." It encouraged solidarity demonstrations with Palestinians throughout Lebanon and along the border with Israel; these included damage to the border fence and attempts by protestors to infiltrate into Israeli territory, which were thwarted by the IDF. At the same time, rockets were launched from Lebanon at Israel on three occasions and one UAV was launched from Syria under Iranian supervision. The rocket fire was attributed to Palestinian organizations, and it is still unclear whether Hezbollah was a partner to the decision to launch these rockets or merely allowed it to happen by turning a blind eye while it emphasized its lack of responsibility for the incident. These occurrences support the assessment that Hezbollah is still deterred and reluctant to engage in a widespread military confrontation with the IDF at this time, and is unwilling to sacrifice all its resources in favor of the Palestinian cause. The IDF's strength and destructive power, demonstrated during the operation in the Gaza Strip, preserves the deterrence equation between Hezbollah and Israel, but the IDF must continue to deal with the primary threat facing the northern front from the Shiite axis in general and Hezbollah in particular.

Prospects For Russia’s Policy Towards Afghanistan

Anna Maria Dyner Arkadiusz Legieć

During the NATO stabilisation mission, Russia had relatively little ability to influence the internal situation of Afghanistan. The coalition’s actions against the Taliban (still considered a terrorist organisation in Russia) favoured Russia’s security interests by limiting terrorist threats, as well as arms and drug trafficking in Central Asia. At the same time, Russia has been preparing for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, building relations with the country’s most important political and armed parties. One of the goals of its contacts with the Taliban was to stop the expansion of ISIS to Afghanistan and the countries of the region and limiting the activity of other local Islamic terrorist organisations with which they had cooperated. Thus, at the moment of the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO forces, a sensitive time for regional security, Russia will be trying to weaken the ability of the terrorist organisations.

Russian policy towards Afghanistan aims to influence the internal conflict in that country, limiting the activities of terrorist organisations there that pose a threat to Russia while also increasing the sale of weapons. Russia will continue to maintain contacts with the central authorities of Afghanistan, local centres of power, in particular the Taliban and the politically and militarily influential regional leaders of the Afghan Tajiks (about 27% of the population), Uzbeks (9%) and Turkmen (3%). Russia also will seek to take over the American intelligence networks among this population in the north of Afghanistan, offer it military support, intelligence and arms supplies.

Russia also will use the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO troops to increase its diplomatic involvement in international negotiations on the future of Afghanistan. Although it has been active in this field for several years, it has only recently taken significant steps in this direction, such as a meeting in the “enlarged three format” (Russia, the U.S., China, Pakistan) in Moscow on 18 March.

Afghanistan’s Importance to the Future of U.S. National Security

By David S. Clukey

September 11, 2021 will mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 (911) and United States (U.S.) President Joe Biden recently called for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan on this date. U.S. forces have been on the ground in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001. In this time, the U.S. invested over 240,000 in human capital and over $2 trillion U.S.D. From 2001 – 2010, after the immediate route of the Taliban, the U.S. orchestrated a series of disjointed campaigns and priorities shifted almost as frequently as commanders. This misalignment with a concurrent refocus of U.S. resources to Iraq in 2003, realized a deteriorated situation in Afghanistan. Conditions improved in 2009 under a series of pragmatic U.S. Army Generals who commonly advocated Special Operations Forces driven Village Stability Operations (VSO).[1] VSO (2010 – 2014) achieved quantifiable improvements through a nested application of U.S. joint capabilities. Unfortunately, VSO’s potential was not realized due to U.S. President Barrack Obama’s decision to drawdown of U.S. forces in 2014.

The tumultuous history of Afghanistan has reinforced threefold enduring dynamics: 1) never underestimate the resilience of Afghanistan’s people, 2) Afghanistan is the proverbial “graveyard of empires”, and 3) Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked. Understanding these dynamics without diving into the cultural nuances of the country, it is imperative the U.S. does not permit Afghanistan to deteriorate into the conditions that ultimately realized 911. The U.S. arguably did this once, and can trace pre-911 conditions in Afghanistan to the conclusion of Operation Cyclone (1979-1989)[2], when the U.S. supported Mujahadeen insurgency drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Once the Soviet’s departed, so did U.S. support. The Soviet backed Afghan-government crumbled soon after in 1992, and Afghanistan subsequently endured years of turmoil. First, civil war ensued as warlord factions vied for control, and ultimately the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) supported Taliban asserted its Islamic fundamentalist influence from its power base in Kandahar.

U.S. Foreign Policy, implications of the past shape the future

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda Are Closing In on Afghanistan’s Provincial Capitals

Thomas Joscelyn

For the past two decades, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have waged an insurgency against the Afghan government. They have pursued a fairly basic strategy: Seize the rural areas while preparing the ground for an assault on population centers. They have woven nooses around at least several of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals, knowing that they would eventually tighten the rope. That day has come.

That dire situation is described in the latest quarterly report released by the lead inspector general for Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. That’s the lofty name chosen for the war effort in Afghanistan after Operation Enduring Freedom ended in 2015. But the forces of freedom are not on the march inside Afghanistan. The jihadis are.

The report cites the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) assessment of the “Taliban’s military strategy,” which “very likely focuses on preparation for large-scale offensives against provincial centers,” as well as “complex attacks” on Afghan security forces.

“As of February 2021,” the report reads, “the Taliban had surrounded the provincial capitals of Baghlan, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz, and Uruzgan provinces, and conducted attacks against military and intelligence targets.” Population estimates vary, but those cities house at least hundreds of thousands of civilians. While life is far from idyllic, to date, those Afghan citizens have not had to live under jihadi rule, with its harsh punishments and complete oppression of women. That could soon change.

And that may be the best-case scenario.

Introducing ‘The China Intelligence’


Welcome to The China Intelligence, an occasional series by P.W. Singer at New America, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.; and Bluepath Labs, a strategic analysis and technology consulting firm that regularly publishes analysis of China based on open sources.

In just one generation, China has transformed itself from a largely agrarian country into a manufacturing and trading powerhouse — with a matching boom in military and technology power. And the consequences have been world-changing.

A mere decade ago, the budget of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, was roughly $35 billion. Today, it is around $250 billion. China’s military now boasts capable long-range ballistic missiles, 5th-generation fighter aircraft, aircraft carriers, and the largest surface combatants in the world. Its forces are increasingly active in not just the Pacific but also carrying out operations far beyond. Its arms and equipment are the products of China’s defense industry, whose rise and global impact mirrors those of the country’s larger economy. Once reliant on imports for high-end capabilities, China is now in the top global tier of research, design, and production in fields that range from established areas like rocketry, shipbuilding, and aviation, to some of the most cutting-edge areas like robotics, AI, quantum, and hypersonic flight. This shift has also upended the global arms trade. China’s arms trade shows now preview not just what will equip the PLA next, but what will also show up next in the battlefields of the developing world.



There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Washington on a tighter embrace of Taiwan, which may soon become a stronger implied US commitment to go to war in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Taiwan matters to US security and the regional order, and the United States should continue to make clear that aggression is unacceptable. But those advocating a stronger US security commitment exaggerate the strategic consequences of a successful Chinese invasion. The stakes are not so high as to warrant an unqualified US pledge to go to war. American decision-makers, like their forebears confronting the seeming threat of communism in Indochina, may be trapping themselves into an unnecessarily stark conception of the consequences of a successful Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

It would be irresponsible for the United States to leave itself no option in the event of Chinese aggression other than war. But nor should Washington abandon Taiwan. There is a prudent middle way: the United States should act as armourer, but not guarantor. It should help prepare Taiwan to defend itself, to raise costs against aggression, and develop means of punishing China with non-military tools.

Faced with the possibility of another Taiwan Strait crisis, more and more observers in Washington and elsewhere are making the case for an unambiguous US commitment to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack. This essay contends that the United States has options between total commitment and abandonment. There is a prudent middle way in which the United States, while reserving the right to intervene if it so chooses, focuses on helping Taiwan to defend itself while building a menu of options for deterring and punishing Beijing’s aggression without fighting.This essay first argues that the case for Taiwan’s strategic significance is often overdrawn. Any Chinese attack would be a tragedy and a crime, and the United States should make clear that such a step is unacceptable and would destroy the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitious development plans. But it need not destroy the US position in Asia or produce a wave of successful Chinese adventurism. The essay then points to the intense dangers of a war for the United States, including outright loss, a crippled military, large-scale attacks on the homeland, and nuclear escalation. We make the case for an alternative to the binary choice of all-out war or desertion: Taking some additional risk to help Taiwan prepare for its own defence, combined with the development of multiple options short of outright war for punishing China in the event of an attack.


Senior Fellow for Chinese Defence Policy and Military Modernisation

Meia Nouwens

The evolving nature of China’s military diplomacy: from visits to vaccines

In 2020 and 2021, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) supported China’s civilian COVID-19-related diplomatic activities. This seemingly falls in line with President Xi Jinping’s call in 2015 for the PLA to play a more prominent role in supporting China’s foreign policy. However, compared with China’s civilian ‘mask diplomacy’ efforts, the PLA’s COVID-19-related military diplomacy were more limited in a number of ways. What do these activities tell us about the Chinese military’s place in China’s COVID-19-related foreign policy?

Executive summary

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military-to-military cooperation in response to the global coronavirus pandemic signals a growing role for the military within China’s diplomatic activities.

Historically, the PLA played a minor role in Chinese foreign policy. However, in the wake of a more nationalist and assertive Chinese foreign policy, the PLA’s role in national diplomacy and security strategy has grown to serve both strategic and operational goals and has reached new heights in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

Military-to-military COVID-19-related engagement has taken place within a larger context of Beijing’s expanded diplomatic efforts to improve China’s global reputation following its initial delayed and mishandled response at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

Key Decision Point Coming for the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal sits at the nexus of international political and economic concerns. Following the Canal’s expansion in 2016, the waterway annually registers nearly 14,000 transits, a value equal to 6 percent of global trade. The Canal’s global shipping role has only increased amid the disruption of global supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic and U.S. calls for nearshoring away from China. The United States remains the top user of the Canal—in 2019, 66 percent of the cargo traffic transiting the Canal began or ended its journey at a U.S. port; cargo from or destined to China made up 13 percent of Canal traffic. Still, China is the primary source of products going through the Colón Free Trade Zone and its increasing presence in and around the Canal has made the waterway a flashpoint for U.S.-China competition over spheres of influence. China’s influence in the Panama Canal has only grown since 2017 when then-president Carlos Varela severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognized China, further opening the door to China’s expanded footprint in critical Canal infrastructure and laying the groundwork for alignment with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Q1: How is the Panama Canal currently governed?

A1: The Panama Canal has been fully owned and administered by the Republic of Panama since the transfer of management from the joint U.S.-Panamanian Panama Canal Commission in 1999. Today, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is charged with the administration and maintenance of the waterway’s resources and security as an independent entity of the national government. Governed by the 11 members of its board of directors, the ACP’s members maintain overlapping terms to ensure independence from each presidential administration. Designated by Panama’s president, the chairman of the board holds the rank of minister of state for Canal affairs and under the supervision of the board, the designated Canal administrator heads the ACP, implementing the decisions of the board. Through contract awards, the ACP in turn grants concession agreements to companies for port operations.

Assessing 70 Years of China’s PLA Air Force

By Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Cristina Garafola – senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation and co-author of “70 Years of China’s PLA Air Force” along with Ken Allen (China Aerospace Institute 2021) – is the 273rd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Identify the top three strategic developments of the PLA Air Force in its 70-plus-year history.

While Western air doctrine has emphasized air forces’ speed, independence, and decisive capability during a conflict, in our book we found that People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) development and operations have often been constrained by domestic political, geopolitical, operational, and other factors. The PLA has historically been very ground-centric; developing the PLAAF’s capability “on the foundation of the ground forces” was the guiding principle leading up to and following its official founding in 1949. Until the 1993 revision of key PLA guidance, the military strategic guidelines, the ground forces were predominant in military strategic thinking, with naval, air, and missile forces relegated to supporting roles.

From 1960 to 1989, the Sino-Soviet split, the Cultural Revolution, and political tarnishing of its leaders ushered in a dark age for the PLAAF. PLAAF operations were often restricted to control escalation, due to concerns about the PLAAF’s political reliability, and also due to atrophied capability during the Cultural Revolution.

Managing the Military Problem of Space: The Case of China, Part 2

Robert Farley

Based on an assessment of the technological and strategic environment, in 2015 China overhauled its defense bureaucracy, with a particular emphasis on “information” domains such as space and cyber. The 2015 reorganization was intended to facilitate joint, multidomain warfare by establishing the conditions necessary for space, cyber, and electromagnetic dominance. This has resulted in what some call China’s “space force,” but in reality the resulting organizations differ dramatically from their counterparts in the United States.

Since the 2015 reorganization, China’s space capabilities are divided between several different agencies, but primarily reside in the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) and the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF). The latter, formerly the Second Artillery, manages the PLA’s extensive force of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as the communications infrastructure necessary for targeting and delivery.

For its part, the PLASSF has responsibility for space, cyber, and electromagnetic spectrum domains, making it a genuinely joint organization in concept, at least. A RAND report on the reorganization argues that the PLASSF should be thought of as an organization intended to facilitate joint warfare, rather than as a “space force” or “cyber force” in U.S. terminology. Indeed, in some ways the cyber warfare organs of the PLASSF more closely resemble intelligence than military organizations in the U.S. system. If the lines between the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command remain blurry and uncertain, the PLASSF in some ways more closely resembles the now defunct Joint Forces Command, which worked to integrate existing U.S. military capabilities and to shepherd “transformation” in the Department of Defense. It also resembles a grown up version of DoD’s now-obsolete Air-Sea Battle Office, which focused on concentrating and deconflicting air and sea assets in the Western Pacific.

Japan’s Backwards Island Defense Strategy Against China Is A Mistake

By James Holmes

This week over at the South China Morning Post, Julian Ryall reports that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government stands ready to spend more on defense. Since World War II the island state has informally capped defense spending at 1 percent of GDP to placate Asian neighbors worried about a potential resurgence of militarism.

China’s rise to martial eminence and overbearing conduct in the East China Sea have evidently induced a Japan with a strong pacifist streak to burst through the spending cap. Defense of southerly islands such as the Senkaku archipelago is a major concern for Tokyo. Declares Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi: “There should not be any areas not covered by the Self-Defense Forces. It is very important to deploy units to island areas.”

To that end, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has raised an Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, or ARDB. As retired lieutenant general Koichiro Bansho translates it in a RAND conference report from 2018, former defense minister Tomohiro Yamamoto announced that the ARDB’s chief purpose is “to conduct full-fledged amphibious operations for swift landing, recapturing, and securing in the case of illegal occupation of remote islands.”

Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications

By Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

Paper Tiger or Superpower: How Big Is The Threat of China's Navy?

James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: Military folk must beware of hubris, the worst of all strategic habits. As ancient Greeks warned, hubris begets nemesis, meaning divine retribution. It’s insidious—especially for a force like the U.S. Navy.

Admirals say the darnedest things. Over at the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine a few years back, retired U.S. Pacific Command Intelligence Chief Capt. Jim Fanell takes PACOM kahunas, past and present, to task for disparaging China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Respect for prospective foes, proclaims Captain Fanell, constitutes the most prudent attitude.

Such counsel is evergreen.

Military folk must beware of hubris, the worst of all strategic habits. As ancient Greeks warned, hubris begets nemesis, meaning divine retribution. It’s insidious—especially for a force like the U.S. Navy. After all, it’s been twenty-six years since the Cold War. Few sailors or naval aviators now in uniform have known anything except American maritime supremacy. Such a historical interlude can give rise to triumphalism that taints assessments of rising challengers.

Opinion – Could the Sino-Iranian Agreement Weaken US Hegemony?

Farhang Faraydoon Namdar

No agreement between two states is more comprehensive than the Sino-Iranian agreement. In fact, it resembles a semi-confederacy, for the deal covers many critical areas such as security, economics, finances, and infrastructure. As the years pass, the respective economies will become more interdependent and interconnected, making the agreement more difficult to expire. It is over-simplistic to call it a $400 billion deal, for its strategic significance, will determine the future of the Middle East.

The Iranian-Chinese deal was signed in a burgeoning multipolar world. For its part, the United States has increased its steps to create alliances in the Middle East. These alliances include Israel and Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. It also includes U.S. allies opposed to China, such as India. U.S. policies in the Middle East have effectively moved the Sunni Arab states closer to the Jewish state. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran has moved closer to communist China. As predicted by Samuel Huntington, a division across civilizations theorized that the future international order would be across civilizations. Although Huntington considers Islam a civilization, it lacks a core representative state resulting in its division among other civilizations.

The Cognitive Campaign in Operation Guardian of the Walls: The Battle over the Narrative

Yoram Schweitzer, David Siman-Tov, Kobi Michael

Over the 11 days of the recent military campaign in Gaza there was a second and no less important struggle – the cognitive battle. If at the outset of the campaign it seemed that Hamas had the upper hand in this battle, by the end it was clear that the terror organization’s cognitive achievement had dissipated. How can the message be conveyed repeatedly that a military venture against the IDF is not recommended, and what else can be done in this regard?

As in every kinetic military campaign against Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip, the cognitive aspect was embedded from the very beginning of Operation Guardian of the Walls, and its importance increased as the campaign progressed. The integration of the cognitive campaign with the kinetic is essential for the realization of military achievements in order to then reap political gains. For Israel, the first cognitive achievement required is a deep engraving in the minds of Hamas commanders and their associates, as well as in the minds of the Gaza Strip population, of the growing and intolerable cost of the recent military venture and any rounds to come.

Operation Guardian of the Walls saw Hamas's most intense use of military power since Operation Protective Edge. Heavy rocket barrages toward the Israeli civilian home front focused on massive “routine” rocket fire at the Gaza envelope communities and at cities in the south and center of the country, all introduced by the rocket fire toward Jerusalem on the opening day. In the most recent campaign, the severe damage to Hamas’s military infrastructure and rocket production industry, in addition to the damage to significant parts of the underground infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, was accompanied by targeted and widespread damage to the commanders' offices and houses and the commanders themselves. It included the demolition of high-rise buildings used by Hamas in addition to the military infrastructure, to convey a deterrent message of exacting a personal and economic price from the organization's leadership.

Open-source analysis of Iran’s missile and UAV capabilities and proliferation

Iran’s ballistic missile systems, supplemented by cruise missiles and UAVs, are intended not only for deterrence, but for battle, including by Iran’s regional partners. In a new report, the IISS provides a detailed assessment of Iran’s missiles, and the manner and purposes for which it has been proliferating them.

Nuclear issues are the exclusive focus of the negotiations on the restoration of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which have taken place in Vienna. The Western powers are keen, however, to engage in follow-on talks to address Iran’s missiles and activities in the region. To inform the public policy debate on the latter matters, the IISS has produced a fact-rich technical assessment of Iran’s current missile and uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities and its proliferation of these technologies to Iran’s regional partners.
Robust arsenal

Drawing exclusively from open sources, including Persian-language material, the IISS report details Iran’s roughly 20 different ballistic missiles (the exact number depends on how variants are counted), as well as cruise missiles and UAVs. For now, all of Iran’s ballistic missiles apparently adhere to a self-imposed range limit of 2,000 kilometres. Iran’s priority is to improve precision, notable in several missile systems: ­

The Qiam-1, which is an 800 km-range variant of the Shahab-2 short-range ballistic missile with a 500kg separable warhead and ground-based guidance augmentation. Qiams have been smuggled to Houthi rebels, who have named it the Burkan-2H and have used it against Saudi sites. A modified version of the Qiam, which appears to have a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MaRV) to further improve its accuracy, was used in the January 2020 attack against Ayn al Asad airbase in Iraq. ­

Five myths about cryptocurrency

Eswar Prasad

Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, was launched in 2009. Today, there are thousands of cryptocurrencies with a total value of about $2 trillion. The surge in their prices earlier this year minted tens of thousands of cryptocurrency millionaires—at least on paper. Cryptocurrencies might turn out to be a massive speculative bubble that ends up hurting many naive investors. Indeed, many cryptocurrency fortunes have already evaporated with the recent plunge in prices. But whatever their ultimate fate, the ingenious technological innovations underpinning them will transform the nature of money and finance.

A cryptocurrency is real money that can be used for payments.

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum were designed as a way to make payments without relying on traditional modes such as currency notes, debit cards, credit cards or checks. The bitcoin white paper, which set off the cryptocurrency revolution, envisions an electronic payment system that allows “any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party,” cutting governments and banks out of the financial loop. The website Pymnts claims, “Blockchain IS the future of the payments industry,” a reference to the computational technology that undergirds cryptocurrencies.

In fact, it has become very expensive and slow to conduct transactions using cryptocurrencies. It takes about 10 minutes for a bitcoin transaction to be validated, and the average fee for just one transaction was recently about $20. Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, processes transactions slightly faster but also has high fees.

The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions

In this report 
Minerals are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies – from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals will grow quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace. This new World Energy Outlook Special Report provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the complex links between these minerals and the prospects for a secure, rapid transformation of the energy sector.

Alongside a wealth of detail on mineral demand prospects under different technology and policy assumptions, it examines whether today’s mineral investments can meet the needs of a swiftly changing energy sector. It considers the task ahead to promote responsible and sustainable development of mineral resources, and offers vital insights for policy makers, including six key IEA recommendations for a new, comprehensive approach to mineral security. Download full report

Jamestown Foundation

Tianhe Launch Marks a Key Step in China's Growing Space Ambitions

China’s Port Investments in Sri Lanka Reflect Competition with India in the Indian Ocean

The PLA Navy’s ZHANLAN Training Series: Supporting Offensive Strike on the High Seas

Legal Obstacles to #MeToo Cases in China’s Courts

Tracking the Digital Component of the BRI in Central Asia, Part Two: Developments in Kazakhstan

The Strategic Realities of Twenty-First Century “Small Wars"— An Opinion Essay

Max G. Manwaring

“You know you never defeated us on the battlefield,” said the American colonel. The North Vietnamese colonel pondered this remark a moment. “That may be so,” he replied, “but it is also irrelevant.”[1]

Introduction and Problem

The traditional distinctions between crime, terrorism, subversion, and insurgency are blurred. This new dynamic involves the migration of the monopoly of political power (i.e., the authoritative allocation of the values in a society) from the traditional nation-state to unconventional actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), transnational criminal organizations, Leninist-Maoist insurgents, tribal militias, mafia organizations, private armies, cartel enforcers, third generation gangs (3GEN Gangs),[2] and other modern mercenaries and entrepreneurs. These actors conduct some form or level of war against various state and non-state adversaries and promulgate their own rule of law—within alternatively governed spaces—within the societies they control. That activity creates an ambiguous bazaar of violence where criminal entrepreneurs fuel the convergence of crime and war.[3] That kind of activity must inevitably result in an epochal transition from traditional Western nation-state systems and their liberal democratic values to something else dependent of the values—good, bad, or non-existent—of any given winner.[4]

All this represents a quintuple threat to the authority, legitimacy, and stability of targeted governments. Generally, these threats include the following: 1) undermining the ability of a government to perform its legitimizing functions; 2) significantly changing a government’s foreign, defense, and other policies; 3) isolating religious or racial communities from the rest of a host nation’s society, and replacing traditional state authority with alternative governance; 4) transforming socially isolated human terrain into “virtual states” within the host state, without a centralized bureaucracy, or any easily identified legitimate military or police forces; and 5) conducting low-cost actions calculated to maximize damage, minimize response, and display carefully staged media events that lead to the erosion of the legitimacy and stability of a targeted state’s political-economic-social system. The intent of this destabilization effort is to move the state into the state failure process and exploit the situation for one’s own purposes. State failure, however, is not the ultimate threat.[5]

Joe Biden’s ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ Is Complicity in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

by Alexander Langlois

As a new ceasefire ending another round of violence in Israel-Palestine holds, the United States continues to operate as an impediment to long-term resolutions. In a situation where world leaders should be condemning violence and human rights violations—particularly by oppressive states with significant power asymmetry advantages—the Biden team has instead committed to “quiet diplomacy.” This approach is undeserving of praise for its so-called “success” as it fails to address the underlying issues of the conflict, is an extension of U.S. obstructionism, and comes at the expense of civilian lives—most of which are Palestinian.

Clarity surrounding the origins of the latest round of violence can help illuminate why Biden’s approach is inappropriate and ineffective. Fighting did not start with Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza—as inexcusable as they are—but rather as a result of apartheid-style oppression in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Specifically, arbitrary attempts to force Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, constituting ethnic cleansing given the area’s occupation status, have produced the worst fighting since the Second Intifada. The removals, resulting from the unlawful and unequal application of property ownership laws in the OPT, produced massive protests at the al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle of Ramadan and through Eid.

This proved to be exceptionally poor timing for the operations that followed. For consecutive nights, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shut down protests at al-Aqsa, eventually storming the mosque during mid-day prayers on the holiest week of Ramadan. In a frenzied series of events, the IDF launched tear gas at Palestinians on their knees in prayer, producing an ultimatum from Hamas—remove security forces from al-Aqsa or face renewed attacks from Gaza.

Exactly How Helpless Is Europe?

By Stephen M. Walt

One of the more durable beliefs in the foreign-policy communities on both sides of the Atlantic is that Europe cannot handle its own security problems and must therefore rely on the United States for protection. Although European leaders and defense experts have spoken of wanting greater strategic autonomy and occasionally suggested that it was time to take their fate into their own hands (as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it in 2017), the belief that security in Europe ultimately depends on the United States dies hard.

This conclusion is puzzling. Although the nations of Europe face several security problems, the only threat to the continent for which U.S. military power might be relevant is a direct military clash with Russia. Yet, on paper at least, Europe has more than enough latent power to deal with that problem. NATO’s European members contain more than 500 million people; Russia’s population is only 145 million. Europeans are also much healthier: Average life expectancy in Europe is roughly 82 years, whereas in Russia it is only 72 (and even lower for men). NATO Europe’s combined GDP is more than $15 trillion; Russia’s GDP is only $1.7 trillion, which is smaller than Italy’s alone. More remarkable still, NATO’s European members spend three to four times what Russia does on defense every single year. Indeed, Germany and France together spend more than Russia does, and Russia must devote some of what it spends to the Far East, its large nuclear arsenal, and its engagements in places like Syria.

Even if one allows for the duplication of defense efforts and other inefficiencies (which could be reduced in various ways), Europe appears to have the underlying capacity to deter and eventually defeat a Russian offensive in Eastern Europe. Even today, Britain and France possess their own nuclear deterrents, and Europe’s defense industries produce some of the world’s best conventional arms, including first-class tanks and artillery, superb air-to-air missiles, advanced surface ships and submarines, and sophisticated fighter aircraft. Europe’s defense preparations certainly have some deficiencies, but the idea that it lacks the raw potential to defend itself and thus requires the United States to do the job in perpetuity seems risible.

The Electric-Car Lesson That China Is Serving Up for America


Would you drive an electric sedan with a single-charge range of more than 400 miles and automated driving functions, one that costs less than a Tesla Model 3 and, at least according to the manufacturer, can pull off a 2,000-mile road trip along chaotic highways during which the person behind the wheel needed to steer only about once every 60 miles? Those are the advertised specs of the P7, the sleek new model launched last year by China’s hot start-up XPeng.

The Chinese government would certainly be pleased if you did: Another important feature of XPeng cars is ample state support. In the past year, the company has signed deals with investment funds linked to the city of Guangzhou, Xpeng’s hometown, and the surrounding province, Guangdong, worth $700 million. XPeng has also gotten preferential terms on land, low-interest loans and tax breaks, and state subsidies that have helped it reduce the P7’s showroom price.

“The government is actually a lot more open to allow some of the innovative ideas of businesses to … push forward with their research and test their technologies,” Brian Gu, XPeng’s vice chairman, told me.

America Hasn’t Lost Its Demographic Advantage

By Nicholas Eberstadt

The United States’ global preeminence owes a great deal to demographics. After the collapse and fragmenting of the Soviet Union, the United States became the world’s third most populous country, behind the giants China and India. By comparison to other developed countries, the United States maintained unusually high levels of fertility and immigration—a phenomenon I termed “American demographic exceptionalism” in these pages in 2019. Since the end of the Cold War, the overall American population and its number of working-age people (between the ages of 20 and 64) have grown more rapidly than those of other developed countries—and faster, too, than those of rivals China and Russia. Growing working-age populations boost national productivity in economies run by governments that can successfully develop and tap human resources. For modern welfare states, the slower aging of the population forestalls some of the fiscal burdens built into current arrangements.

To the extent that crude demographic trends matter in world affairs, they have been running to the United States’ advantage for some time. But big changes are underway. The initial returns from the U.S. 2020 census and the reports about last year’s birth totals offered sobering news: with the slowdown of population growth

Russia’s real-world experience is driving counter-drone innovations

By: Samuel Bendett 

The Russian military is actively working to develop concepts, tactics, techniques and procedures against aerial drones. The Russian Ministry of Defence has invested heavily to defend its forces against the growing threat and proliferations of UAVs large and small, from those manufactured by foreign states to those used by a growing slate of nonstate actors and terrorist organizations.

This investment comprises the development of technologies, incorporating the lessons learned from its own military and from other forces’ combat, and continuing to refine its electronic warfare capabilities as a key element of counter-unmanned aerial system tactics, techniques and procedures.

Learning from experience

Russia’s own involvement in the Syrian conflict started in 2015 when it brought its military in direct conflict with forces and coalitions fighting the government of President Bashar Assad. While Russia considers Syria its own “sandbox” for testing multiple weapons systems, the unpredictable Syrian military battlespace also resulted in nonstate actors experimenting with commercial off-the shelf drone technologies by launching multiple mass UAV attacks against the Russian base at Hmeimim.

Thinking Small: How the Intelligence Community Can Catalyze Digital Transformation

Strategists in Washington, London, and other allied capitals continue to paint a bleak picture of the future. The Biden administration took the rare step of issuing its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance in March, which reflected the White House’s initial outlook on how to meet an increasingly complex and contested world. The tremendous challenges ahead are echoed in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) quadrennial Global Trends report as well as in the United Kingdom’s capstone, whole-of-government strategy document, the 2021 Integrated Review. As the Biden administration zeroes in on a final National Security Strategy in the coming months, there are serious questions about the U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) ability to provide timely, accurate, and meaningful warning and analysis on China, Russia, and an increasingly diverse range of state and non-state competitors.

The IC is not blind to the urgency of transformation. As recently highlighted during the public hearing on the ODNI’s 2021 Annual Threat Assessment, there is broad recognition that strategic competition and disruptive adversarial behavior in the information space will require the IC to modernize its technology, human capital, and culture. Over the past several years, components across the intelligence enterprise have issued strategic roadmaps that seek to transform how intelligence professionals integrate technology into their work.

This long-term planning is well-informed and essential; however, the promises of large-scale, disruptive technological change are years, if not decades, away. Meanwhile, the intelligence mission grows more complex by the day. Intelligence officers are already overwhelmed with data. The signal-to-noise ratio is unmanageable, and adversaries are using increasingly sophisticated methods to conceal those signals and to introduce more noise and uncertainty into the system.

Cyber and EMP Preparedness

By Peter Pry

Condolences that your appointment coincides with a looming existential threat to our nation from Cyber Warfare. Russia's cyber-attack on the Colonial Pipeline that provides 45% of petroleum needed by the eastern U.S. for civilian and military use, preceded by Russia's unprecedented SolarWinds cyber-attack on hundreds of federal departments and agencies, and thousands of industries and utilities, highlights U.S. vulnerability.

Just a few weeks ago, amidst concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine, Russia’s state-owned media warned that a Russia-U.S. Cyber War targeting critical infrastructures is “inevitable.” Russia threatens it can win a Cyber War decisively by attacking the U.S. electric grid. Russian TV described cyber-attack options ranging from small-scale to existential threats, including blacking-out part of New York City (Harlem was mentioned), or blacking-out the state of Florida, or blacking-out the entire continental United States.[i]

Now Colonial Pipeline has been hacked, shut down temporarily. Cyber-attacks can destroy pipelines, causing them to explode. Colonial Pipeline is crucial to fueling U.S. military power projection capabilities from the east coast to protect NATO or to help Ukraine during a Russian invasion.[ii] That is why the Colonial Pipeline was really targeted, not for the millions paid in ransom, but as a demonstration of Russia’s cyber-power.

The Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack proves Russia is not bluffing.