29 October 2023

Big strings attached to Biden’s Israel, Ukraine aid


When US President Joe Biden, upon arrival in Israel last week, gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what Americans call a “bro hug”, commentators interpreted the gesture as a show of solid support for Israel in its war with Hamas.

One commentator on Israeli TV offered a subtler and, it has turned out, reality-based analysis. Besides showing support, Biden’s gesture also meant, “You’re totally in my hands.”

It’s a reality being digested not only by Israel but also Ukraine, which Biden visited in February and had pledged full backing for its war with Russia. Whether it’s Biden saying “We stand with Israel” or a promise to do “Whatever it takes” to help Ukraine, there are caveats.

In both cases, he is playing chaperone in struggles that each country considers vital to their interests, if not existence. It makes for tense times between allies.

Even before he arrived in Tel Aviv, Biden cautioned Israel to fight within the bounds of the “rules of war” and spare civilians from harm, advice Israel thought it, as a democracy, didn’t need.

On October 25, Biden took a swipe at two of Netanyahu’s long-standing policies: rejection of Palestinian statehood and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live side-by-side in safety, dignity and peace. When this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next,” Biden said. “And in our view, it has to be a two-state solution.”

Israel's war with Hamas is a battle to save human civilization


As we stand on the precipice of a ground invasion into Gaza, a decision burdened with the gravity of imminent human cost, we as Israelis, and indeed, I as a member of the Knesset from Likud, feel the weight of responsibility far greater than the defense of our nation’s borders. We are, at this very moment, at the forefront of a war that threatens not just our own survival, but the survival of the values that underpin Western civilization itself.

The horrifying acts of aggression perpetrated by Hamas are not simply attacks on Israeli citizens; they are assaults on the very ideals of democracy, freedom, and basic human decency that form the foundations of civilized societies everywhere. With its recent unspeakable violence, Hamas has torn away the façade, revealing an ideology that mirrors the abhorrent dogmas that fueled the ISIS caliphate’s reign of terror and the Nazis’ genocidal fury.

The world must understand that Hamas, restrained until now only by its limited capabilities, harbors ambitions soaked in the bloodthirsty fanaticism we’ve witnessed in our darkest adversaries. Their goal transcends the destruction of Israel; it’s an affront to humanity, a cancerous ideology that despises life and venerates death, seeking to spread its malignant hatred far beyond our region.

Israel’s Defense Forces, though yet to set foot in Gaza, are preparing for a battle that we cannot shirk. For this is not aggression – this is a response necessitated by the defense of life itself. Our soldiers are the barrier standing between the ruthless fanaticism of Hamas and the vulnerable heart of human civilization. They carry on their shoulders the daunting task of upholding the principles that separate order from chaos, freedom from tyranny, and life from senseless death.

Israel Agrees to Delay Invasion of Gaza So U.S. Can Rush Missile Defenses to Region

Dion Nissenbaum, Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef and Dov Lieber

An Israeli soldier standing at a position near Sderot on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. 

Israel has agreed, for now, to a request from the U.S. to delay its expected ground invasion of Gaza so the Pentagon can place air defenses in the region to protect U.S. troops, according to U.S. officials and people familiar with the Israeli planning.

The Pentagon is scrambling to deploy nearly a dozen air-defense systems to the region, including for U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to protect them from missiles and rockets. U.S. officials have so far persuaded the Israelis to hold off until those pieces can be placed, as early as later this week.

Israel is also taking into account in its planning the effort to supply humanitarian aid to civilians inside Gaza, as well as diplomatic efforts to free more of the hostages held by Hamas, officials said.


Nicholas Carl, Brian Carter, Kathryn Tyson, Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, Annika Ganzeveld, Peter Mills, and Andie Parry

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 in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

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:
  • Iran and its so-called “Axis of Resistance” are pursuing a coordinated strategy to (1) deter Israel from trying to destroy Hamas in the Gaza Strip, (2) prevent Israel from destroying Hamas if deterrence fails, and (3) deter the United States from providing military support for Israel’s ground operation in the Gaza Strip.
  • Hamas is conducting attacks targeting population centers and conducting an information operation to erode the will of Israel’s political establishment and public to launch and sustain a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip.
  • Palestinian militias are trying to drive anti-Israel unrest in the West Bank to draw in IDF assets and resources and fix them there.
  • The Axis of Resistance is harassing IDF forces with indirect and direct fire along the Israel-Lebanon border, which aims to draw IDF assets and resources toward northern Israel while setting conditions for successive campaigns into Israel.
  • Iran and the Axis of Resistance are trying to demonstrate their capability and willingness to escalate against the United States and Israel from multiple fronts.
  • Iranian and Axis of Resistance leaders will need to adjust their strategy and the subordinate campaigns if Israel launches a major ground operation into the Gaza Strip.
  • Palestinian militias continued attacks at the usual rate from the Gaza Strip into Israel on October 25. Hamas fired two long-range rockets Haifa and Eilat as part of its effort to erode the Israeli political establishment’s will to support a ground operation into Gaza.
  • West Bank residents demonstrated and took up arms against the IDF in response to calls from the Lions’ Den—an Iran-linked West Bank militia.
  • The IDF conducted airstrikes against two Syrian military positions in southwestern Syria on October 24 and an airstrike on the Aleppo International Airport runway on October 25. Militants are likely to respond with indirect fire attacks, which is the consistent response pattern to Israeli airstrikes in Syria since the war began.
  • The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed two attacks targeting US forces based at Abu Hajar Airport, Hasakah Province, Syria on October 24 and 25.
  • Hamas, LH, and PIJ appear to be coordinating and making final contingency preparations ahead of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The Persian-Russian Connection

Daniel Byman, Kenneth M. Pollack

The latest Gaza war is more than just another bloody round in the endless conflict between Israel and Hamas. The fighting is a product of a shifting Middle East, where new alliances are transforming the politics of the region. Although the Biden administration and other allies of Israel have been promoting Israeli-Saudi normalization as one such alliance, a counterforce is already in the works: deepening ties between Iran and Russia.

From Tehran’s perspective, an informal alliance with Russia is ideologically and historically odd, but it is strategically enticing. Iran and Russia have been rivals for almost two centuries and Iran’s former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini hated the Soviet Union almost as much as he hated the United States, scorning godless Communism and seeing the Soviet Union as an aggressive power that sought to undermine Iran’s revolutionary regime. But, today, the Islamic Republic needs a great power backer—and Russia fits their bill. Even if Russian arms are deficient compared with their Western counterparts, Moscow can provide the full range of weapons that Iran desperately needs. Add to this a friend on the United Nations Security Council that gives Iran diplomatic clout, as well as their mutual rejection of democracy and human rights, and Iran’s infatuation with Russia becomes even more understandable.

Moscow’s interest in Tehran is a bit harder to explain. It starts with a range of common interests that are generally anti-U.S., opposed to democratic values, and wary of Sunni Muslim fundamentalism. Indeed, the modern Iran-Russia relationship initially grew from cooperation between their respective intelligence services looking to keep an eye on various Sunni fundamentalist groups that emerged in the Caucasus and Central Asia after the collapse of the USSR. In the Middle East, they share a sense of fear and opportunism, worrying that regional unrest could topple anti-Western partners like Bashar al-Assad but hoping that the strife will allow them to undermine their enemies and expand their own influence.

New Power Polarization In Israel-Hamas Crisis

Collins Chong Yew Keat

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s visit to the Middle East, particularly to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, reflects the growing need for the country in stepping up its geostrategic role in transcending the conventional regional economic and security centric affiliation. The meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi provides the missing key to for on the ground short term relief to the crisis involving the civilians, with the right regional effort.

It will be difficult for a solitary Malaysian push and pressure, and it will need the leverage and influence of combined interests and importance of vital players including Doha, Riyadh and Ankara, where Malaysia has maintained good ties with the latter two. Malaysia has also maintained growing ties with Tehran, and thus Malaysia’s role is also tied to the returns from these players in their US ties. Riyadh’s normalization plans with Israel are now jeopardised, and this affects Washington’s Middle East objectives.

The deep complexity of the Israel-Palestine conundrum and with the current power rivalry and bloc divide contribute to the impasse that has divided the world. Initial ground works to stabilize the region and prevent further escalation have been intensifying, but remain polarized by the ongoing power and West-East and North-South polarization.

Conflicting Dilemma for Ongoing West-Moscow-Beijing Rivalry

Beijing and Moscow have worked across different platforms in trying to provide solutions and pushing for de-escalation. Moscow has also condemned the West’s hypocrisy and blamed the US as the prime factor in the long running Middle East crisis that has long dominated Middle Eastern politics and moulded the geopolitics of the region in its own interest frame.

China’s approach to the war in Gaza is not anti-Israel. It’s designed to contain the US

Ahmed Aboudouh

China’s position on the war in Gaza is controversial and ambiguous to many observers. Beijing has criticized Israel’s blanket bombardment of civilians and condemned violations of international law.

President Xi Jinping waited until after the Third Belt and Road Forum to comment on the crisis, reiterating China’s long-held position that a two-state solution should be implemented and calling for a humanitarian corridor to allow aid into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi went further, describing Israel’s bombardment of civilians in Gaza as actions that ‘have gone beyond the scope of self-defence’. At the same time, Beijing avoided condemning Hamas’s atrocities against civilians.

As in Ukraine, China is positioning itself as a peace-seeking, ‘neutral’ great power, in contrast to the US, whose committed support for Israel is depicted by Beijing as a destabilizing, violent influence in the region.

But China’s comments on the war, and its non-interventionist stance, mean it is unable to influence events – an uncomfortable position when its interests are directly threatened by the war.

That may be why Beijing is increasingly aligning with Russia on the Palestinian issue, an unprecedented development that aims to guarantee a place at the negotiating table at minimal cost to both – and undermine US influence in the region.

Space Force, AFRL ink first non-US research agreements with Indian AI, sensor firms


The US Space Force, working via the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has signed its first-ever Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with non-US firms — two space startups from India, AFRL announced today.

Under the CRADAs, New Delhi-based 114AI, an artificial intelligence firm that builds dual-use software for domain awareness, and 3rd ITECH, India’s sole image sensor company with offices in New Delhi and Berkeley, Calif., will work in partnership with AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. CRADAs can involve swapping of expertise, access to lab space and provision of equipment, but no transfer of any federal funds to industry partners.

“The CRADA will foster collaborative efforts in cutting-edge technologies, marking a significant milestone in advancing innovation in Earth observation sensors and space domain awareness,” AFRL said in a press release.

The two agreements come following the landmark June meeting between US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which the two sides launched the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), in part, to shore up the defense industry cooperation and technology sharing.

Pakistan: With Nawaz Sharif’s Return, Politics Comes Full Circle

Sushant Sareen

The prodigal Nawaz Sharif has finally returned to Pakistan, ending a self-imposed exile of four years. For months, Pakistan was rife with speculation on whether or not he will return. It hinged on a number of things. The first was the political circumstances. Would elections be held, or will there be a prolonged caretaker setup run by the military? The second was, what sort of a judicial setup would Nawaz be facing if he returned? He wanted to time his return after the retirement of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial whose bias in favour of Imran Khan was the stuff of legends. His successor, Faez Isa, was seen as a safer bet for Nawaz Sharif, because Isa isn’t seen as a lackey of Imran Khan or the Army. The third factor was, what were the conditions he had to accept? Basically, the dos and don’ts given by the military establishment. Finally, it depended on the guarantees of personal safety and liberty as also of a political level playing field.

That his return has been permitted by Pakistan’s permanent establishment—the Pakistan Army—is a no-brainer. Technically, Nawaz Sharif is an absconder in the eyes of Pakistani law. And yet, he received the protocol of a Prime Minister in waiting. All doors were opened for him, all courtesies were extended to him, all facilities were laid out for him on his return. Even the courts, which were hostile to him and ousted him in what was a judicial coup in 2017, were ready to accommodate his return and ensure he wasn’t arrested as soon as he landed back in Pakistan.

With Nawaz—the great comeback kid (actually he is a septuagenarian) of Pakistani politics—making a bid to become Prime Minister for the fourth and perhaps last time, he is once again the Army’s chosen one to take on its (and his) bete noire Imran Khan.

Philippines ‘Suspends’ Its Sovereign Investment Fund

Mong Palatino

The Philippine government has suspended the implementing rules and regulations of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF), three months after it was passed into law. MIF critics welcomed the decision and urged the government to conduct more studies and consult stakeholders about it. But President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. clarified that his government is merely “finding ways to make it as close to perfect and ideal as possible” and that the fund will be operational before the end of the year.

Marcos proposed the creation of a sovereign wealth fund in November 2022, despite it being neither part of his campaign agenda nor in his government’s original development plan. The House of Representatives passed the bill in 17 days but not before it agreed to remove pension funds as one of the sources of the program. The Senate passed its own version in May this year amid widespread concerns about the MIF’s viability and effectiveness as a tool to generate investments, create jobs, and stimulate the local economy. The opposition also warned that the MIF was prone to abuse and corruption.

Despite the doubts raised by some scholars and former economic managers of the government, Marcos signed the law creating the MIF in July and assured the public that it would yield substantial gains for the country.

But on October 12, the president released a memorandum directing state banks to suspend the implementation of the MIF.

South Korea, US, and Japan Condemn North Korea’s Alleged Supply of Munitions to Russia

Hyung-Jin Kim

South Korea, the United States, and Japan strongly condemned what they call North Korea’s supply of munitions and military equipment to Russia, saying Thursday that such weapons shipments sharply increase the human toll of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A joint statement by the top diplomats of South Korea, the U.S., and Japan came days after Russia’s foreign minister scoffed at a recent U.S. claim that his country received munitions from North Korea, saying that Washington has failed to prove the allegation.

“We will continue to work together with the international community to expose Russia’s attempts to acquire military equipment from [North Korea],” said the joint statement by South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko.

“Such weapons deliveries, several of which we now confirm have been completed, will significantly increase the human toll of Russia’s war of aggression,” it said.

The joint statement was meant to show the three countries’ resolve to actively respond to a weapons transfer deal that Russia and North Korea have been pursuing in defiance of repeated warnings by the international community, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soosuk told reporters.

Is China Killing Its Fledgling Golden Geese?

Jeremiah May

As China modernizes, one of the constant fears of the country’s leadership and academia has been the middle income trap. Originally introduced by World Bank economists Indermit Gill and Homi Kharas, this trap occurs when a country’s income rises to the point where its labor costs make exports uncompetitive when compared to low income countries, but it still has not seen significant enough growth to compete with high income countries in the high-value-add industries, such as finance and technology.

In East and Southeast Asia only South Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan have escaped the trap and achieved high income status, defined as having a Gross National Income per capita of over $13,845 (in 2022). China, with a 2021 GNI per capita of $11,880, has long been attempting to become the fifth Asian country to achieve this escape.

Over the past two decades a critical driver of China’s income growth has been the nation’s burgeoning private sector, and particularly the country’s mega-corporations. This trajectory bears striking parallels to South Korea and Japan, where giant, often family-owned, conglomerates and corporations spearheaded innovation and economic growth by frequently using their enormous political and economic influence to advocate for business and export friendly policies.

China and the US Appear to Restart Military Talks

China and the United States appear to be restarting dialogue between their militaries, despite continuing disputes over Beijing’s claims to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The U.S. confirmed on Thursday that it plans to send Cynthia Carras, principal director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, to represent the U.S. Defense Department at the Xiangshan Forum in Beijing this month.

The international gathering hosted by the Chinese Defense Ministry aims to discuss security cooperation and raise China’s status as a global power and rival to the United States and its Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea.

China froze military exchanges in August 2022, after then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

In one of the most notable incidents, Chinese defense officials refused to answer a call in February from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin following the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had flown across North America, sparking a major diplomatic crisis between the sides that had already seen ties plummet to a historical low.

In a statement, the Pentagon said it “welcomes the opportunity to engage with [People’s Liberation Army] representatives at the Xiangshan Forum on ensuring open and reliable lines of communication, ensuring crisis communications channels, reducing strategic and operational risk, and avoiding misperceptions.”

Can China Help in the Middle East?

Walter Russell Mead

As Team Biden contemplates the ruins of its Middle East diplomacy and scrambles to throw more U.S. military assets into the region in the hope of deterring Iran, it is looking to an unlikely partner. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be in Washington this week for talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Mr. Wang’s visit was originally part of a diplomatic process preparing the way for a trip by President Xi Jinping to next month’s Asia-Pacific economic summit in San Francisco. But as Mr. Blinken underlined in remarks to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, America wants help from China to prevent a wider war in the Middle East.

It isn’t a totally crazy idea. China imports a lot of Middle Eastern oil, and supply shortfalls and price hikes won’t help a Chinese economy struggling with the collapse of its real-estate market and a potential financial crisis. If China does want to play a major role, it is well prepared to do so. Because of a planned handover between China’s 44th and 45th naval escort task forces in the People’s Liberation Army Navy, both forces are currently active in the Persian Gulf, making Beijing, temporarily, the leading naval presence in the strategic waterway.

On paper, Team Biden and Team Xi seem to want pretty much the same things in the Middle East. China’s envoy Zhai Jun is touring the Middle East, Chinese state media reports, to promote dialogue, achieve a cease-fire and restore peace, as well as to promote a two-state solution. That sounds a lot like what Mr. Blinken says.

China's New "Multi-Domain Precision Warfare" Operational Concept "Mirrors" US Strategy


China’s emerging Core Operational Concept is described as “Multi-Domain Precision Warfare,” … a blend ot networking, AI, precision weaponry and joint operations all supporting what the People’s Liberation Army refers to as a “system-of-systems” approach.

Sound familiar? Interestingly, this PRC concept was fully articulated and unveiled to a certain extent in 2021, according to the Pentagon’s most recently published annual China Report, which describes the Chinese concept as specifically aimed at finding and countering US vulnerabilities.

“MDPW is intended to leverage a C4ISR network that incorporates advances in big data and artificial intelligence, what the PLA calls the “network information system-of-systems,” to rapidly identify key vulnerabilities in the U.S. operational system and then combine joint forces across domains to launch precision strikes against those vulnerabilities,” states the Pentagon annual China report to Congress, called Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.

Certainly upon initial examination with a mind to the Pentagon’s current thinking, the Chinese concept almost fully mirrors, replicates or simply “copies” the US military’s Joint All Domain Command and Control effort. The Chinese concept also appears to be a "several-years-behind" effort to copy the many US military Multi-Domain Task Forces which have for years been integrating land-sea-air operations into a joint warfare fighting conceptual paradigm.

So in a recent or immediate sense, the emphasis on networking, AI and multi-domain operational concepts could be seen as a transparent effort to simply “replicate” US modernization initiatives. An added variable to this is a concept of history to an extent, given the US Army introduced the “system-of-systems” idea as far back as 20-years ago as the foundatio

Newest F-35, F-15EX contracts are set. Here’s how much they cost


The flyaway cost for the F-15EX Eagle II is approximately $90 million for each aircraft in the program’s second production lot, about $7.5 million more than the newest price for an F-35A, Breaking Defense has learned.

The Air Force has confirmed to Breaking Defense that a contract for the next three production lots of the Boeing-made F-15EX was finalized on Sept. 28, a major milestone for the program. But the $90 million per unit cost in the contract — a number that is expected to grow in successive lots — will likely raise eyebrows among critics both within and outside the service who argue that officials should focus on buying more F-35s.

Under the new agreement, the price for an F-15EX will start at “approximately” $90 million for lot 2, rise to $97 million in lot 3 and then dip to $94 million in lot 4, according to an Air Force spokesperson. The two parties previously finalized a deal for the aircraft’s first lot in November 2022, setting a flyaway price of $80.5 million for six jets with two test aircraft already purchased — meaning the costs on the F-15EX are going up per unit year over year until the fourth lot is introduced. (The Air Force measures flyaway price in then-year dollars, which are adjusted for inflation.)

As a cost comparison, F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Russ Goemaere told Breaking Defense that the Air Force’s variant of the stealth fighter has an “average” flyaway cost of $82.5 million for the jet’s 15th, 16th and 17th production lots, which will be delivered in calendar years 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Yes, This F-14 Tomcat 'Banana Pass' Photo Is Very Scary and Totally Real

In a famous photo from 1988 (see the link to the left), Capt. Dale “Snort” Snodgrass, executive officer of the VF-33 Starfighters, performs a low level maneuver known as a banana pass off the USS America aircraft carrier.

The photo - and the one shown above - became an instant classic for military aviation fans, demonstrating the power and precision of jet fighters.

Introducing the F-14 Tomcat

Snort in the photo is piloting a Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the U.S. Navy’s premier fighter-interceptor during the latter half of the Cold War.

Developing a replacement for the F-4 Phantom, the Tomcat’s designers in the 1970s drew extensively on lessons learned during the Vietnam War to produce a highly capable fighter. To replace the F-4, the Navy was looking to acquire an aircraft that could intercept and shoot down missiles fired at its carriers while also holding its own in air-to-air combat. Its distinctive swept wings allow it to cruise at Mach-2.4 while also maintaining control at the slow speeds required for carrier recovery.

Specs and Capabilities

This slow-speed maneuvering capability was also essential in dogfights, where the F4 Phantom was found to be less agile than the Soviet MiGs against which it faced off. Furthermore, many dogfights in Vietnam ended in a draw even if American pilots were able to gain an advantageous position, because early missiles were highly prone to failure. To counter this, the Navy insisted on the inclusion of a gun on the F-14. Should the high-tech missiles fail, good old-fashioned bullets would do the trick.

Are Spy Satellites Really Worth the Millions?

Alex Hollings

In today’s pop-culture-driven world, most people tend to think the American Defense and Intelligence apparatus has spy satellites silently monitoring every square inch of the globe, collecting data from on high to take out threats to American sovereignty or interests as they emerge. Of course, despite how pervasive this belief is, news stories regularly refute the premise, with the Marine Corps losing a crashed F-35 in South Carolina for nearly 24 hours last month, and Hamas managing to launch a large and well-organized surprise attack against Israel in just the past few weeks.

The truth is, despite the incredible intelligence value spy satellites can offer, they are also extremely limited. Today’s spy satellites are exceedingly predictable, and are often relegated to their orbital paths. They are also vulnerable to a variety of ground and space-based attacks – all of which can limit their efficacy in supporting any sort of operation against a near-peer opponent.


The notion that spy satellites can meet all of America’s intelligence-gathering needs may be the result of a combination of the popular culture of recent decades (see 1998’s Enemy of the State film) and world-renowned intelligence agencies not going out of their way to dispel rumors about their alleged capabilities. This topic even came up in a discussion held last year on an episode of the Modern Warfare Institute’s Irregular Warfare podcast between Dr. James Kiras, a professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), and former SOCOM commander, Retired Lieutenant General Thomas Trask.


Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, and Frederick W. Kagan

Heavy Russian equipment losses around Avdiivka will likely undermine Russian offensive capabilities over the long term. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated on October 26 that Russian forces have suffered 5,000 personnel killed and wounded and 400 armored vehicles losses near Avdiivka and Marinka (southwest of Donetsk City) since October 10.[1] Satellite imagery has confirmed that the Russian military has lost at least 109 military vehicles, primarily armored fighting vehicles and tanks, near Avdiivika between October 10 and 20.[2] A Ukrainian reserve officer stated that Russian forces appear to be using fewer armored vehicles near Avdiivka, although Russian forces may be regrouping for renewed large mechanized assaults as they did between the initial mechanized assaults on October 10 and a second series of large mechanized assaults on October 19 and 20.[3] The Russian command has funneled additional forces to the Avdiivka front to offset heavy manpower losses and maintain the Russian military’s ability to sustain its ongoing offensive effort.[4]

The Russian command will likely struggle to offset Russian equipment losses, particularly in armored vehicles, however. Widespread Russian equipment losses and shortages in the first year of the full-scale invasion heavily restricted Russia’s ability to conduct effective mechanized maneuver warfare during the Russian military's winter-spring 2023 offensive, contributing to further losses in disorderly mechanized assaults near Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast in January and February 2023.[5] Heavy losses around Vuhledar likely prevented the Russian command from committing to sustained mechanized assaults elsewhere in Ukraine later in the winter-spring 2023 offensive.[6] Recent Russian equipment losses around Avdiivka appear to be much larger than earlier equipment losses around Vuhledar. It remains unclear if the prospect of further heavy equipment losses will deter the Russian command from launching another series of large, mechanized assaults near Avdiivka. Russia has gradually mobilized elements of its defense industrial base (DIB) to address equipment shortages but has not done so at a scale remotely sufficient to offset the cumulative Russian equipment losses in Ukraine.[7] Recent Russian equipment losses around Avdiivka will likely lead to even more pronounced Russian equipment shortages and setbacks for any progress that the Russian military has made in addressing degraded mechanized maneuver warfare capabilities.

Carbon Emissions, Net Zero and Future Forces – Comparative Analysis of Radical Emissions-reductions Plans and Processes for Defence

Shiloh Fetzek

The energy transition is reshaping the modern battlefield and geostrategic competition. A growing number of countries – primarily Western states and their allies – have committed to reducing defence greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by mid-century. This paper compares how countries and alliances plan to address the technical and political complexities of radical defence decarbonisation, suggesting ways to catalyse research and development and address the challenges around defence priorities and resourcing in a changing climate and strategic environment.

The energy transition is reshaping the modern battlefield and geostrategic competition, and it is increasingly clear that energy independence and diversification of supply will confer strategic advantage. Defence innovation is moving in this direction, spurred by a growing number of countries – primarily Western states and their allies – committing to reducing defence greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by mid-century. Achieving this target will be a significant technical, cultural and political challenge. This paper compares how countries plan to address the complexities of the defence energy transition.

Militaries facing the decarbonisation challenge are adopting a common approach – implementing available technologies and practices for emissions reductions while building the technical and institutional capacity to rapidly accelerate innovation and implementation in the medium term. High-emitting platforms have long development and procurement timelines and are in service for decades, meaning that major technological advancements must be achieved soon for militaries to reduce their emissions to a level that they could offset to reach net zero by mid-century. Realising such advancements will require changes to business-as-usual procurement and new ways of working with civilian partners – including government departments (such as energy, trade and transportation), commercial aviation and shipping, and newcomers working on breakthrough technologies – to accelerate energy technology development and uptake.

Ukraine targets Russian airfields with US-supplied ATACMS missile

Zuzanna Gwadera & Timothy Wright

The United States has after much deliberation supplied Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missiles. The missiles, which are single-stage, road mobile and solid fuelled, will allow Ukraine to hold additional Russian military equipment at risk and likely force Russia to adapt its force posture in response.

Delivery deliberations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested on 17 October 2023 that the US had supplied his armed forces with ATACMS and the US National Security Council later confirmed this. The same day, Ukraine struck two separate airfields in Russian-occupied Berdyansk and Luhansk in its first use of the system. Footage on social media showed the launch of at least six ATACMS missiles from an unknown location using what appears to be the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher. The US has so far delivered 38 HIMARS launchers to Ukraine.

Washington’s prolonged deliberation over providing Kyiv with ATACMS appears partly due to US President Joe Biden’s concern that its delivery might escalate the war. This worry seems to have waned following Russia’s muted response to France and the United Kingdom supplying Ukraine with the air-launched SCALP EG/Storm Shadow land-attack cruise missile. SCALP EG/Storm Shadow’s range is considerably greater than that of the ATACMS.

The US Department of Defense was apparently concerned that transferring ATACMS would pressure stockpiles and lower US readiness levels. The official number of ATACMS in US possession is undisclosed. In 2020, the DoD budgeted to update 1,075 older missiles as part of a life-extension programme. Imagery of wreckage of a missile apparently used in the attack appears to show Ukraine has been supplied with the M39 ATACMS Block I, produced in 1997.

Serbia-Kosovo: The Disinformation War

As the end of 2023 approaches, tensions in the relationship between Serbia and Kosovo are on the rise. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, coupled with the local elections in northern Kosovo’s municipalities of Mitrovica, Leposavić, Zvečan, and Zubin Potok, which were boycotted by members of the majority Serbian community, have led to an upsurge in tensions and violence.

In February 2023, envoys from France, Germany, the EU, the US, and Italy met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti(LVV) in an attempt to persuade them to sign a plan aimed at calming tensions and achieving full normalization of relations. The outcome was the unsigned Ohrid Agreement, outlining the parties’ specific commitments for implementation. More recently, Azerbaijan initiated a military operation, successfully reclaiming the secessionist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, an event that consequently reverberates in its implications for the situation in Kosovo.

The isolated armed incident in the town of Banjska on 24 September 2023, when a group of local Serbs clashed with the Kosovo police, further exacerbated concerns among the local population and heightened tensions. Milan Radoičić assumed responsibility, stating that he was present in Banjska with a group of local Serbs with the aim to encourage “the Serbian population in that region in offering resistance to the daily terror they are subjected to.” The aftermath of the Banjska conflict resulted in the loss of one Kosovo police officer’s life and that of three Serbs. Since then, the Kosovar government has persistently called for sanctions against Serbia, accusing it of complicity in the attack on the Kosovo police. On the other hand, the NATO/KFOR military mission has repeatedly dismissed the possibility of ‘assuming police duties’ from the Kosovo police.

On data privacy, look to the states and not to Europe for solutions


For the better part of two decades, Congress and bureaucrats in Washington quietly debated comprehensive federal data privacy legislation but decided against it. Instead, states have been left to cobble together their own patchwork of rules.

The U.S. has long prioritized protecting markets and consumers by regulating different markets differently. Healthcare in America is not regulated like Wall Street, nor is Wall Street regulated like education.

This varied, more tailored consumer protection has spurred technological experimentation and dominance by preserving relatively free markets. Europe takes a different tack, favoring a once-size-fits-all regulatory approach to data privacy that treats all different types of data the same. And as part of that regime, Europe grants consumers broad access rights to correct and delete data.

As a Buckeye Institute report explains, the European data privacy model has been disastrous. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has 99 intentionally vague and complex articles that make compliance difficult and expensive. And for all its expense and difficulty, the protection GDPR provides has been counterproductive. It has routinely and mistakenly knocked thousands of websites offline, unintentionally dug protective economic moats around technological targets, disproportionately harmed small businesses trying to make it in an e-commerce world, all the while failing to keep consumers and families safe from harm.

Get ready: The new Democrat-led FCC is poised to misrule again


With impending rulings on net neutrality and digital discrimination, the FCC could see its latest round of decisions overturned by federal courts — yet again.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is one of the most important regulatory agencies in America, and perhaps the world. It is home to scores of talented, dedicated and hard-working engineers, economists and legal experts who have eschewed private-sector lucre for selfless public service. With statutory authority to regulate the nation’s communications systems, devices and technology, the FCC has power to approve or deny mergers; levy fines and penalties; bring suit; award licenses and contracts; allocate spectrum; conduct hearings and inquiries; establish standards and codes, and promulgate regulations governing television, radio, telephone, wireless, mobile, Internet, cable, satellite and international services in the multibillion-dollar telecom, media and technology sector.

Established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 to consolidate oversight of all forms of wired and wireless communication in the U.S., the agency has played a central role in shaping the country’s communications landscape, adapting to technological advancements and the changing needs of the industry and the public. It has been at the forefront of monumental, paradigm-changing rulings, many of which have implications far beyond the realm of media and communications. The agency today is as critical as ever for both consumers and commerce alike, and its decisions have far-reaching practical and market implications for society.

Internet companies tackle the biggest ever denial of service attack

Simon Torkington

Internet companies including Google and Amazon are fighting off the world’s biggest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. They’re warning internet users that these types of attacks could cause widespread disruption unless cybersecurity measures are stepped up.

In a blog post, dated October 10th, 2023, Google said the attack, which began in August, was not yet fully contained. The scale of the latest attack dwarfed the previous largest which took place in 2022, Google added, saying it was 7.5 times bigger.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, 2023 identified widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity as one of the top 10 risks facing the world in the next two years.

Cybercrime and cyber insecurity are among the top 10 global risks. 

How does a DDoS attack work?

Denial of service attacks are nothing new but they are becoming increasingly sophisticated and disruptive. A DDoS attack is aimed at making websites unreachable by overwhelming them with requests for data.