21 October 2023

The Last War

George Friedman

The world is focused on the Hamas-Israel war that is now raging. But this war has its psychological antecedents in a war that occurred 50 years before, in 1973, when Syria and Egypt simultaneously attacked Israel. In retrospect, neither intended to occupy Israel, and nor could they. But it was believed that a massive two-front war could force Israel into a negotiation in which it would have to cede some territory and, even more important, Israel would have to shed its reputation as the dominant force in the Middle East.

The fighting began with a dual attack. The Syrians moved into the Golan Heights, a highland overlooking northeastern Israel and the Galilee. The attack started at midday, with the major battle fought at night. The Syrians were equipped with Soviet tanks, and their objective was to take the heights to create a perfect theater for showering the Galilee with artillery fire, forcing Israeli armor to try to climb the heights and suffer great casualties.

The Egyptian thrust came over Sinai, and in terms of total forces available, it was the main force. Again, the primary weapon was Soviet tanks, plus surface-to-air missiles designed to neutralize Israel’s air superiority, a gift of the United States. The Egyptians had another surprise for the Israelis. The Soviets had developed a family of anti-tank missiles. One, the AT-3, was controlled by an optical system. The shooter would look through the lens at a tank, and the movement of the optical system directed the trajectory of the missile. It was a superb weapon, and it devastated a critical part of the Israeli armored force.

Israeli intelligence, particularly military intelligence, proved inflexible in understanding that an attack was coming. It did not believe that Syria or Egypt could launch a two-front war. The Israelis knew of the Soviet weapons, but their contempt for the Syrians and the Egyptians made it impossible for them to see that neutralizing Israeli air power and armor was possible, and that Russian trainers had helped professionalize the force. Israeli military intelligence shaped the threat to suit its prejudices.

The next drone war is coming to Gaza


If Israeli defense forces launch a ground offensive into Gaza, they could use a mix of drone-enabled hacking tactics to find Hamas targets, coordinating cyber operations and tactical drones in a way that no other country has achieved.

But the conflict has already revealed unexpectedly sophisticated drone tactics—by Hamas, experts say. Since launching its cross-border assault on Oct. 7, the group has used small commercial drones to drop grenades on tanks, ambulances, border posts, and—importantly—communication towers, according to a report from drone analysis group Dronesec. Hamas also displayed an understanding of how to configure the settings on DJI Phantom drones to avoid electronic countermeasures.

“DJI drone icons appear on the left-hand-side of the screen, showing a ‘Land’ and ‘Home point’ icon, with the ‘Return to Home’ icon greyed out. This could signal the operator has disabled RTH-mode, a common counter-counter operational security measure,” the Dronesec report said.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have used similar tactics, but observers were struck by Hamas’ ability to evade close scrutiny and to target their drones so precisely and effectively. The intelligence was so good that it indicated an unexpected cyber-intelligence capability, said Dmitri Alperovitch, founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator.

“When you look at the current atrocities that have been committed by Hamas, there's still a lot we obviously don't know, but the things that have come out, indicate that they have absolutely exquisite intelligence on the location of Israeli secret bases on their communications capabilities,” Alperovitch said Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., event.


Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld, Brian Carter, and Nicholas Carl

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments and in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Key Takeaways:
  • Palestinian militias continued indirect fire into Israel on October 17, attacking civilian and military targets.
  • The rate of small arms clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank remained low after peaking on October 13.
  • Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh called for mobilization in the West Bank following an explosion at a hospital in Gaza.
  • CTP-ISW recorded 10 attacks from Lebanon into Israeli territory on October 17, including seven against military targets. LH activity on Israel’s northern border creates opportunities for further operations against Israel.
  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterated what other senior Iranian officials are saying about the Hamas-Israel war during a speech.
  • Senior IRGC commanders are framing Hamas’ al Aqsa Flood operation as a prelude to future attacks on Israel.

Israeli cyber experts start 'war room' to track missing after Hamas attack

Hundreds of Israeli high-tech experts have temporarily put their private sector jobs aside to help locate Israelis missing after last week's attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Hamas gunmen evaded heavy Israeli security measures to escape the Gaza Strip and storm Israeli towns and kibbutzes, killing 1,300 people and taking almost 200 into captivity. In response, Israel has bombarded Gaza for days, killing more than 2,700 Palestinians while its troops prepare a ground assault.

Karine Nahon, one of the leaders of the initiative, said volunteers have been analysing footage - including videos posted online by Hamas - to help identify and locate the more than 1,000 people who are still unaccounted for. Any information gleaned is passed on to Israeli authorities.

Based out of Tel Aviv, the centre of Israel's high-tech and cyber security sector, the volunteers have created a makeshift command centre where they use artificial intelligence and facial and voice recognition to help locate those unaccounted for after the attack, sometimes by clothing or recognisable features.

"The government right now relies on the information that is coming from these rooms," Nahon said.

Pictures of the missing Israelis line the walls, reminding volunteers of their mission.

After Gaza


ABU DHABI – Gaza is now at risk of sinking into a new hell. There are no excuses for Hamas’s vicious attack on Israel, which killed around 1,600 people, many of them innocent civilians, nor for its hostage-taking. The world is rightly affirming Israel’s right to defend itself.1

But we also must consider how we got here, and whether there is still any viable path toward regional peace and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians. Though it is early days in this latest war, we have a duty to think through the various scenarios.

Following Syria and Egypt’s coordinated surprise attack against Israel almost exactly 50 years before, in October 1973, Israel stared the possibility of defeat in the eyes. But the Israelis eventually turned the tables and emerged victorious, creating the conditions for a gradual process to end the hostilities in the region.

After peace was achieved between Israel and two of its neighbors, first Egypt and then Jordan, everyone could turn to the issue of the Palestinians who had been living under Israeli occupation since 1967. To that end, the 1993-95 Oslo Accords created the possibility of a future in which a Palestinian state would exist peacefully alongside Israel, with the two states even sharing Jerusalem as their common capital.

Why the Gaza Hostage Crisis Is Different

Danielle Gilbert

The October 7 Hamas incursion into Israel—on the fiftieth anniversary of the surprise Yom Kippur War—was stunning for the apparent intelligence failure and reports of sheer brutality. Hamas killed more than 1,000 people.

One shocking feature of the attack was that Hamas also kidnapped an estimated 150 people—mostly Israelis but also citizens of several other countries—starting an ongoing hostage crisis that has gripped the world.

By Thursday, the Israeli government identified 97 hostages held in Gaza. This is an evolving crisis: much remains unknown about where the hostages are being held and how the crisis will end. In the meantime, here’s how I’m thinking about Hamas’s hostage taking.

Hostage Taking in the Israeli-Palestinian Context

Hostage taking is a war crime. It is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and has an international convention of its own. Hostage taking is, unambiguously, horrific violence: it confers serious physical and psychological trauma on victims and their families.

But kidnapping is also costly for the perpetrators. Hostage takers face the legal and reputational risks of breaking international law—and kidnapping requires time, resources, and labor. It is a risky engagement for individual combatants. Nevertheless, hostage-takers have long decided to bear these costs because they see enormous benefits to this asymmetrical escalation, ranging from winning ransom payments, coercing prisoner swaps, embarrassing an adversary, or attracting an outsized amount of media attention.

Can White House Diplomacy Help Prevent Escalation in Gaza and Beyond?

In Tel Aviv, on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters what President Biden had said passionately earlier this week—that the Administration has “Israel’s back.” For Israelis, mourning more than thirteen hundred murdered in the Hamas and Islamic Jihad attack from Gaza, stunned by the defensive breach, fixed on the fate of an estimated hundred and fifty kidnapped, and mobilizing three hundred and sixty thousand reservists, the Administration’s statements of support were timely. Blinken, standing next to Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, alluded to his family’s acquaintance with the sorrows of the Holocaust, and said, “You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself—but, as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to.”

What precisely the Administration and Netanyahu’s government—now expanded to include the opposition leaders Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, both former chiefs of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, in the security cabinet—are coördinating has not been made public. But the Pentagon, according to Politico, had already begun airlifting air-defense missiles and other munitions to the I.D.F., and it has repositioned the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group, which includes eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft, to the eastern Mediterranean. On Saturday, the Administration confirmed that it was dispatching a second carrier group, the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower, to join the Ford. Blinken and Netanyahu’s most urgent joint priority seems to be deterring Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. (The carrier group “sends a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to escalate or widen this war,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios’s Barak Ravid.) Hezbollah is no longer the ragtag force it was when its artillery barrages forced Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon in 2000; in 2020, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that Hezbollah had up to twenty thousand active fighters and some twenty thousand reserves. It is reported to have more than a hundred thousand rockets, thousands of medium-range missiles, and hundreds of long-range missiles with guidance systems. The great danger is that it will add its rockets and missiles to those already coming from Gaza.

Maybe China’s Economy Isn’t So Doomed

Bob Davis

It’s lonely these days for optimists on the Chinese economy. There’s widespread agreement among American China watchers—and there are so many of them now—that China has hit hard times that are bound to get a lot worse soon.

U.S. President Joe Biden has called Beijing’s economy a “ticking time bomb.” The New York Times’s Paul Krugman said the next few years “may be quite ugly” for China. “Dark clouds are hanging over China’s economy,” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said. Former PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian said he’s no longer certain China’s economy will eventually eclipse the United States’, even though it’s nearly three-quarters as large now and growing more rapidly than America’s.

But not everyone sees such a doom-laden future for Beijing. There’s an argument that needs to be aired, one that argues China will once again defy expectations and continue to grow healthily, if not at the astonishing rate it once did. A uniformity of views on a system as complicated and shrouded in mystery as the Chinese economy is always dangerous. Analysts’ assumptions about China’s leadership are bound to affect how they interpret Chinese economic data and could lead to false conclusions.

For many years, for instance, China analysts assumed Beijing’s superfast growth would continue uninterruptedly. That cheerleading is over, but analysts may now make the opposite mistake and overestimate China’s slowdown.

“China’s leadership is so good at withholding information about how it thinks and operates that it’s become some combination of a black box and Rorschach test,” said Tom Orlik, the chief economist for Bloomberg Economics. “When we read about China’s leadership, we read a lot more about the underlying view of the analysts than what China’s leadership is up to.”

China’s social-media attacks are part of a larger ‘cognitive warfare’ campaign


The phrase “cognitive warfare” doesn’t often appear in news stories, but it’s the crucial concept behind China’s latest efforts to use social media to target its foes.

Recent stories have ranged from Meta’s “Biggest Single Takedown” of thousands of false-front accounts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, and Substack to an effort to spread disinformation about the Hawaii fires to a campaign that used AI-generated images to amplify divisive U.S. political topics. Researchers and officials expect similar efforts to target the 2024 U.S. election, as well as in any Taiwan conflict.

Chinese government and military writings say cognitive operations aim to “capture the mind” of one’s foes, shaping an adversary’s thoughts and perceptions and consequently their decisions and actions. Unlike U.S. defense documents and strategic thinkers, the People’s Liberation Army puts cognitive warfare on par with the other domains of warfare like air, sea, and space, and believes it key to victory—particularly victory without war.

Social media platforms are viewed as the main battlefield of this fight. China, through extensive research and development of their own platforms, understands the power of social media to shape narratives and cognition over events and actions. When a typical user spends 2.5 hours a day on social media—36 full days out of the year, 5.5 years in an average lifespan—it is perhaps no surprise that the Chinese Communist Party believes it can, over time, shape and even control the cognition of individuals and whole societies.

In China’s military ‘purge,’ final outcomes remain to be seen


Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army’s Honor Guard Battalion wear protective masks as they stand at attention in front of photo of China’s president Xi Jinping at their barracks outside the Forbidden City, near Tiananmen Square, on May 20, 2020 in Beijing, China. *Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

SYDNEY — As many high-level military officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army have disappeared over the last two months, experts are in agreement that something disturbing is happening inside the world’s fastest growing military — even if what exactly is driving it all is unclear.

“Though China hasn’t confirmed it, I think the general consensus at the moment among China watchers is that a purge is underway,” Meia Nouwens, Chinese military expert at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email to Breaking Defense.

That term, “purge,” has appeared more and more this fall among China experts. And there is a reason: two ministers and three high-profile generals have all fallen under charges of corruption, an excuse that has historically been used to remove those that leaders in Beijing want removed:Defense Minister and (more importantly) member of the Central Military Commission Li Shangfu simply vanished from sight. He’s reportedly under investigation for corruption;

Foreign Minister Qing Jang was formally removed from office. No reason was given, though reports say he’s being investigated for corruption;

America’s ‘Gold Standard’ GPS Risks Falling Behind Rival Systems

Drew FitzGerald

Nearly 50 years since its founding, the U.S. Global Positioning System is in danger of losing its cachet as the world’s gold-standard location service.

The U.S. military, which runs GPS, is upgrading the system with more-modern satellites that can give nonmilitary devices more-precise coordinates in more indoor and hard-to-reach spaces. But the next-generation GPS service for civilians isn’t expected to go live for several years.

While academics and national-security officials caution that the delayed upgrades don’t mean that GPS is failing, they say that other countries’ more modern systems could give them influence over global commerce at Washington’s expense. China, for instance, uses its advanced-satellite service as a selling point for business and research partnerships in presentations to officials from African and Asian countries. In an extreme case, a government could feed inaccurate data to rival countries, making smartphones and vehicles that depend on their signals unusable during a conflict.

Where it began

China Isn't Going to War Because It Doesn't Have To | Opinion


Relax, boys and girls: China won't invade Taiwan, and the U.S. Navy won't engage Chinese forces any time in the foreseeable future. It's a scam, a goof, a Muppet show, whose point is to cover up the incompetence and corruption which led the Pentagon to spend trillions on obsolete weapons. We lost the South China Sea years ago. We're in roughly the same position as Britain was in Singapore in late 1941, except that unlike the feckless British, we know it. We just can't admit it.

The U.S. Department of Defense has known since no later than 2012—when I consulted for the late Andrew Marshall at the Office of Net Assessment—that Chinese surface-to-surface (STS) missiles can destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, or any other military asset that isn't submerged. Not until recently did the U.S. military concede this in official assessments.

In contrast to the Reagan Administration, which made missile defense a priority, we're doing little to counter China's formidable capabilities. We can't test defenses against hypersonic missiles, because we can't even launch a hypersonic missile. Lockheed junked its flagship hypersonics program last March.

China is under no time pressure to take military action. From a military standpoint, a seaborne landing like the Normandy invasion of December 1944 would be senseless. Taiwan has storage capacity for 11 days of natural gas consumption. A Chinese blockade would force Taiwan's surrender in short order.

How Disruption Of Al-Aqsa’s Status Quo Reignited The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Jonathan Gornall

On Friday, Sept. 29, Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer who specializes in Israeli-Palestinian relations in Jerusalem, made the finishing touches to a research paper he had been commissioned to write by the Research & Studies Unit of Arab News.

The subject was the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Haram Al-Sharif, known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount, which holds such significance for all three Abrahamic faiths, but where only Muslims may pray and other faiths may only visit.

That, at least, is the status quo that has prevailed at the site since 1967.

But as the founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, a nongovernmental organization focused on finding a resolution to the question of the city consistent with the two-state solution, in recent months Seidemann had become increasingly aware, and concerned, that the delicate balance that has been maintained at the site for the past 56 years was in danger of being torn apart.

That, he understood, was a recipe for disaster and in the hope of averting it he was anxious “to familiarize both leadership and the public at large with the relevant facts.”

Just over a week later, Seidemann awoke on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, to the news that the Palestinian militant group Hamas had launched its devastating attack on Israel from Gaza.

As he listened to the news unfolding, it came as no surprise to him when he heard that Hamas commander Mohammed Deif had described the assault as “Operation Al-Aqsa Deluge,” which he claimed had been launched in retaliation for Israel’s “desecration” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.


Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark

Ukraine used US-provided ATACMS long-range missiles to strike Russian targets in occupied Ukraine for the first time on October 17. The Wall Street Journal and other Western media outlets confirmed on October 17 that the US “secretly” provided Ukraine with ATACMS with a range of 165km in recent days and reported that Ukrainian forces already used ATACMS to strike Russian-controlled airfields in occupied Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast and Luhansk City, Luhansk Oblast.[1] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also stated in his nightly address on October 17 that ATACMS “have proven themselves” but did not directly confirm ATACMS were used in these strikes, and multiple Russian sources claimed Ukrainian forces used ATACMS in the Berdyansk strike.[2] Various Russian sources amplified images reportedly of ATACMS M74 cluster submunitions found at the site of the strike in Berdyansk.[3] The US likely transferred the ATACMS systems in secret to provide Ukrainian forces operational surprise, and the overall shock in the Russian information space suggests that Ukraine achieved the desired effect. Ukrainian Special Operations Forces Command did not specify that Ukrainian forces used ATACMS in the strikes but stated that the strikes destroyed nine Russian helicopters of various models, other unspecified special equipment, an anti-aircraft missile launcher, an ammunition warehouse, and damaged runway infrastructure.[4] Footage reportedly from the Berdyansk airfield shows heavy fires and explosions due to the continued detonation of ammunition in an ammunition depot.[5] NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data from October 17 also confirms heat signatures following explosions in Berdyansk but has not yet confirmed heat signatures at the Luhansk airfield.[6]

The Ukrainian ATACMS strikes on operationally significant Russian airfields in Ukraine will likely prompt the Russian command to disperse aviation assets and withdraw some aircraft to airfields further from the frontline. Russian forces notably operated rotary-wing aircraft from the Berdyansk airfield in the early months of the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive in western Zaporizhia Oblast to great effect against large mechanized Ukrainian assaults.[7] Previous satellite imagery of the Berdyansk airfield showed that Russian forces dispersed aircraft across the airfield, and Ukrainian forces were likely only able to conduct strikes on individual aircraft with previously available long-range missiles.[8]

The West Should Avoid Nagorno-Karabakh


In the wake of Azerbaijan's dismantling of the "independent" ethnic-Armenian enclave in its midst, the US might be considering sanctioning the country, while working to deepen security and economic ties with Armenia. But loosening Russia's grip on the South Caucasus will be nearly impossible.

Like civil wars, ethnic and religious conflicts usually end one way: with the total defeat of one side. These clashes arouse such intense passions that peace agreements are extremely difficult to negotiate, and when they are reached, they are fundamentally fragile, virtually impossible to enforce, and highly likely to collapse. The war over Nagorno-Karabakh – an enclave of about 120,000 Christian Armenians within the territory of majority-Muslim Azerbaijan – is no exception.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh was the site of a bloody campaign of mutual ethnic cleansing. In the decades since, despite endless mediation and a string of peace proposals, tensions have simmered, intermittently boiling over into violence. In 2020, thousands of people were killed in six brutal weeks of fighting.

But in late September, Azerbaijan reclaimed control of the territory with a 24-hour military offensive, which drove the self-declared republic’s president, Samvel Shahramanyan, to sign a decree dissolving state institutions. As of next year, the decree affirms, the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh – known by Armenians as the Republic of Artsakh – will “cease to exist.” Already, virtually all the enclave’s inhabitants have fled to Armenia.

American Doctor: Coming Home to War

Brent Ramsey

An inspirational and at the same time troubling account of an American warrior and healer at war in Iraq and Afghanistan who returns from multiple tours in combat to find war of a different and even more troubling nature at home. Dr. John Hughes’ personal history and family heritage is awe inspiring, fascinating, exciting, and humbling to behold. His story is also most troubling for anyone that values freedom and the traditional values that made this country great.

Number one in his class at West Point, an Infantryman, a Ranger, and combat zone veteran who then goes to medical school and becomes a doctor and then goes straight back into combat as an ER doc and Flight surgeon. Dr. Hughes pulls no punches in describing the horrors of war for everyone in the combat zone and in graphic detail the even worse horrors of a combat ER doc dealing with the horrendous injuries inflicted on our military personnel and the civilian populace including children by the criminal atrocities of the aggressors in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

His is an account of tremendous motivation and desire to serve, mind-numbing challenge and danger in every conceivable situation, and an iron will to persevere and overcome to save as many lives as possible. As if it is not enough to be in combat with harrowing dangers day in and day out, month after month, with growing experience and perception being refined over time, to come to the realization that he is caught up in a losing proposition concerning the overall objectives of our nation. On the one hand he is rewarded and gratified to be saving lives on an almost daily basis and improving and refining procedures with innovative techniques and sure dint of effort and at his own expense at times. But, on the other hand he, with time, experience, and dawning understanding, reaches the conclusion that US strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan is failing. And, that denial of that failure will be a stain on the nation that will last for all time. And, despite his best efforts there is not a thing he can do about it. His warnings and inputs to those more senior to him in the chain of command are ignored.

Information is the Most Important Tool in the new War for Truth


OPINION — The first step to winning a war is recognizing you’re in one. The world’s democracies are finally waking up to the waves of malign influence operations being launched against us by an amalgamation of autocratic regimes united in their antipathy for our vision of the proper relationship between peoples and their governments.

Our free-ranging public discourse, unfettered access to media and communications, and transparent democratic machinery make us asymmetrically vulnerable and all but invite subversion by those who mean us ill. And mean us ill they do, because no matter what policies we might pursue toward them, favourable or unfavourable, our mere existence as functioning democracies threatens the legitimacy of their repressive models. This is not the Cold War, it’s the Democracy War.

Yet even as we awaken to this threat, we gravitate toward a defensive “circle the wagons” approach and generally defer to our governments to lead the way. To this end, democratic governments have formed numerous counter-influence establishments, such as the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)’s Foreign Malign Influence Center (FMIC), and Sweden’s Psychological Defense Agency.

Nevertheless, while the mission of detecting and warning of foreign malign influence efforts strengthens our resilience, its reactive mindset keeps the battlefield on our own turf and squanders the biggest asymmetric advantage we possess, the talent, imagination, and agility of free peoples. We need a new paradigm that better plays to our democratic strengths, not just shores up its weaknesses.

Nighttime Attacks on Crimea: Russia Reports Drone Shootdowns

Isabella Walton

During the night of October 16th to 17th, according to Russian sources, eight Ukrainian drones were repelled, either being shot down or brought down by other means.

Near the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, eight Ukrainian drones were shot down or “disabled by means of electronic warfare” during the night, as reported by Crimea’s Governor, Sergey Aksyonov, on Telegram, according to n-tv.de. In the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine, local authorities reported that three more drones were shot down the previous evening. Drone attacks on Russian territory and the annexed Crimean peninsula have increased in recent weeks, in the context of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

These claims have not yet been independently verified and/or confirmed. Therefore, they should be taken with caution. In war, it can be advantageous for conflicting parties to deliberately spread misinformation to strengthen their own position or weaken that of the enemy.

Russia is scrapping its ratification of a key nuclear test ban. Here's what that means

Geoff Brumfiel

Russia is withdrawing its ratification of a landmark deal designed to prohibit nuclear testing. The Russian state duma carried out the first in a series of votes today that will lead to the de-ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Russia has said it remains committed to the treaty, but arms control advocates are worried that Russia's de-ratification is yet another step towards a renewed global nuclear arms race.

"We are in a bad place," says Andrey Baklitskiy, a senior researcher at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, Switzerland. "We are not yet in a terrible place, but we are in a bad place."

Here's why Russia's latest move is so worrying.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would put an end to the testing of nuclear weapons

The treaty, which opened for signature in 1996, is designed to stop the testing of all nuclear weapons. Arms control experts believe that ending nuclear weapons tests is an important way to prevent future arms races because it keeps nations from developing new kinds of nuclear weapons for their militaries.

The treaty has not yet received enough signatures to enter into force, but it is considered a major reason why many nations — including the United States, Russia and China — have observed a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing since the 1990s. Other nations who haven't signed onto the treaty, including India and Pakistan, have also refrained from testing.

The Global Alliance of Failed States

Walter Clemens

The visit of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to Russia, and the possible visit of Vladimir Putin to Pyongyang, represent the top layer of a global partnership of failed states that have been bound more closely together since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike Haiti or some African countries, the governments of Russia and North Korea are still very much in control of nearly everything inside their borders. So why regard them as “failed states?” The answer is that they and their partners fail to provide the basics for human development and mutual trust.

The UN Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries by their physical health (life expectancy), education (years of schooling), and material well-being (GDP per capita). The index is not perfect, but it provides the best single picture of global trends. By all these measures, Switzerland and Norway came out on top. Hong Kong, before China’s takeover, ranked fourth in the world on the HDI, while recent decades saw Canada fall to 15th and the USA to 21st.

A measure of mutual trust can be found in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Here too, Scandinavia ranks highest, joined by New Zealand and Singapore. Canada ranks 14th and the USA 24th.

When a CEO Plays President: Musk, Starlink, and the War in Ukraine

Wes J. Bryant 

Explosive reports from major news outlets in September declared that, last year, tech guru and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk had shut down the Starlink service for the Ukrainian military in Crimea, thwarting Ukraine’s ability to conduct a major counteroffensive against the Russian navy. Following these reports, Musk publicly acknowledged that he had refused a request from Ukraine to activate Starlink around the port city of Sevastopol meant to enable Ukrainian command and control of a counteroffensive against the Russian fleet. Musk stated on X:

“The obvious intent (of the Ukrainian military was) to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor. If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”

The Russian-annexed peninsula Crimea is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, the unhindered combat fleet bombarded Ukraine’s coastal cities and imposed a naval blockade. Ukraine’s Prime Minister of Innovations and Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, privately urged Musk to enable Starlink connectivity so that Ukrainian kamikaze sea drones could carry out an attack on the Russian fleet. A successful offensive would have prevented further bombardment and blockade. Musk refused. The implications were reportedly serious enough to be discussed in a meeting between President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.

Drop the protectionist rules — let Reagan National Airport add more flights


Washington’s history and beauty draws millions of tourists and visitors year-round from all over the country. The seat of the national government, where policies that shape our country are debated, is the destination of civic pilgrimages undertaken by legions of students every year.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), just across the Potomac in neighboring Arlington, Virginia, is America’s airport. It is the gateway to this vibrant city, just a short Metro ride away from everything.

Unfortunately, it is also the only airport in the country subject to a federal perimeter rule passed by Congress in 1966. The rule permits only 20 roundtrip flights out of DCA each day by seven airlines — less than 6 percent of its daily flights — to be flown to just 10 markets beyond a 1,250-mile perimeter.

This restriction made little sense in 1966. In 2023, it makes no sense at all.

One of the more prominent issues on Capitol Hill this year has been to loosen the rule’s restrictions. All eyes have been on the Federal Aviation Administration five-year reauthorization bill, as members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have come together to add more flights to meet demand at DCA.

Leidos Reinforcement Learning Exercise Illuminates How AI Can Automate Military Ops

Loren Thompson

Earlier this year, federal contractor LeidosLDOS -0.9% and machine-learning company Domino Data Lab conducted a digital wargame that simulated a maritime combat scenario. The scenario envisioned attacks on a naval fleet that needed to be defeated without harming nearby commercial vessels.

Over 60 artificial intelligence researchers from Leidos participated. The winning team achieved a perfect score, using a novel approach to machine learning that mathematically mimics the way human beings learn.

The approach is called Reinforcement Learning, or RL, and the basic idea is to generate software that can enable a machine to learn from its environment through trial and error—in much the same way that young children do.

The concept is operationalized by creating algorithms that guide a machine in achieving desired outcomes, learning over time from its environment so that the machine’s decisions become increasingly subtle and precise.

Leidos, a contributor to my think tank, invited me to a virtual roundtable with two experts who participated in the exercise—Kevin Albarado, an AI and autonomy branch chief at Leidos subsidiary Dynetics, and Thomas Robinson, chief operating officer of Domino Data Lab.

They laid out an intriguing story of how, using a computational approach similar to human learning, it is possible to achieve desired outcomes in unstructured situations more efficiently than other approaches to machine learning.

Cheap and terrifying surprise attacks are the new face of warfare


Israeli soldiers are seen in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, carried out a surprise, multi-front attack on Israel at daybreak Saturday, firing thousands of rockets and infiltrating the country by land, air and sea. 

Hamas’s heinous and dastardly attacks in Israel and the battle in Ukraine reaffirm one unchanging aspect of warfare and create what may be a new one. The critical reason why Israel was taken off guard by Hamas is that surprise attacks to start wars work. History is definitive on this.

From the mythical Trojan Horse to Japan’s surprise attack on the Russian base in Port Arthur to initiate the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 to Pearl Harbor 37 years later, the past is littered with examples.

Surprise does not guarantee victory. Often quite the opposite is the case, as Japan and Hitler learned in 1945, despite the latter’s initial success in surprising the Allies in 1939 and Stalin in 1941. While 9/11 was devastatingly shocking and it took more than a decade, Osama bin Laden paid the price.

What Hamas demonstrated in its attack and the damage Ukraine is doing to the Russian Navy is the value of cheap, readily available technology. In Gaza, Hamas used speed boats, paragliders and bulldozers. In Ukraine, with air and sea-based drones and missiles, Kyiv has severely damaged a number of Russian warships and forced that navy to retreat to the east out of missile and drone range.

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