2 November 2023


Ashka Jhaveri, Johanna Moore, Amin Soltani, 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.

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 and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Key Takeaways:
  • The al Qassem Brigade—the militant wing of Hamas—likely conducted a complex attack targeting the IDF at the Erez checkpoint.
  • The al Qassem Brigades and Saraya al Quds—the militant wing of PIJ— claimed a joint complex attack on the IDF in al Amiriya.
  • Saraya al Quds claimed a complex attack on the IDF advancing along the Gaza coast.
  • Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli forces and held large, anti-Israel demonstrations at their usual rate across the West Bank.
  • Iranian-backed militants, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted seven attacks into Israel.
  • Iranian-backed militants claimed two attacks targeting US forces in Syria.
  • Asaib Ahl al Haq Secretary General Qais Khazali met with a Hamas delegation in Baghdad.
  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gave an interview with Arabic-language outlet al Jazeera, during which he tried to rally the support of the Arab world for Iran and the Axis of Resistance in opposing Israel. This messaging is likely meant to support the Iranian effort to disrupt Israeli normalization with Arab states by concentrating attention on Israel-Palestinian relations.

Are US and Iran headed for war? It’s Tehran’s move


Washington has sent a warning to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about Iranian anti-US provocation in the Middle East.

This has been going on sporadically for years, but from October 17 to 25 there was an increase, as Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq carried out 16 drone and rocket attacks on bases with US personnel. One contractor died of a heart attack, and 21 troops suffered light injuries.

The US warning came in two parts. On October 25, Joe Biden sent a note to Khamenei, which he later summarized for the press: “My warning to the Ayatollah was that if they continued to move against those troops, we will respond, and they should be prepared.”

But on Thursday the militias fired another three volleys at US positions. So that night, US F-16 fighter jets struck a weapons depot and an ammunition store used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the militias, in northeast Syria near the Iraq border. The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized:

These US messages were loud and clear. But will Iran heed them?

‘Axis of Resistance’

The immediate context for the militia attacks was Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. Sources differed on whether the Revolutionary Guards or Iran’s leadership – or both – had advance notice of the deadly assault. But most analysts agree that Tehran provides funding, weapons, intelligence, and operational and logistical advice to Hamas.

Four nations that can contain or inflame the Gaza war


Fears are escalating that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could spill over into a broader war involving other countries in the region.

Neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, as well as regional players like Iran and Qatar, are currently navigating domestic and international pressures in their response.

So, how likely is it that another country could be dragged into the conflict – or have a diplomatic role in helping resolve the crisis? Here are four possibilities beyond Iran (which we covered in a separate piece).

Egypt: limited desire to get involved

In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s regime came to power in 2013 by ousting the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was democratically elected following the Arab Spring uprising. The Muslim Brotherhood movement has long been a focal point for political opposition in Egypt and is ideologically aligned with Hamas.

Although El-Sisi’s government has allowed some protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza, these have been tightly controlled. And notably, they have not been permitted at Tahrir Square, the heart of the Arab Spring protests.

Is the Gaza War a Transformative Global Event?

Leon Hadar

Pundits tend to analogize international crises, comparing them sometimes using apocalyptic terms to world events that have transformed the international system. Is this another Sarajevo? Munich? Cuban Missile Crisis?

War Shifts Global Dynamics,” proclaimed a recent front-page news report headline in The Wall Street Journal, suggesting that the war between Israel and Hamas wasn’t just risking a regional conflagration but is also affecting the global balance of power in a dramatic way, not unlike the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukraine War seemed to have created the outlines of the post-Cold War international system, under which a Western democratic bloc led by the United States faces a Sino-Russian axis of authoritarian states challenging the post-1945 liberal international system.

Some could argue that this “New Cold War” narrative disregards the reality in which the strategic interests of Moscow and China or even between Washington and Paris aren’t always aligned.

Hence, the Chinese didn’t vocally support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the French have distanced themselves from America’s “de-coupling” approach toward China. And the global balance of power could change once again depending on the outcome of the war in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, the Gaza War has encouraged members of Washington’s foreign policy community to try to extend the “New Cold War” narrative and integrate into it what is a national-ethnic war between Israelis and Palestinians and, in a wider context, a conflict between two regional powers, Israel and Iran and its regional proxies.

Israel says its war can both destroy Hamas and rescue hostages. Their families are less certain


The Israeli military has sought to assure the public it can achieve the two goals of its war on Hamas simultaneously — toppling the strip’s militant rulers and rescuing some 230 hostages abducted from Israel.

But as the army ramps up airstrikes and ground incursions on the blockaded enclave, laying waste to entire neighborhoods in preparation for a broader invasion, the anguished families of hostages are growing increasingly worried those aims will collide — with devastating consequences.

Annihilating Hamas would seem to require a ground operation of unprecedented intensity fraught with the risk of harming Israeli hostages. Saving hostages stuck inside Gaza would appear to require engagement with Hamas, the group that forever traumatized the country when it sent fighters into southern Israel to brutally kill over 1,400 people and take dozens captive on Oct. 7, sparking this latest war between the bitter enemies. Over 7,700 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel’s government has not described what a rescue mission could look like. In a televised address late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the agony of hostages’ families and promised their release was an “integral” part of Israel’s war effort, on par with its goal of destroying Hamas.

Settler Violence in the West Bank Undermines Israel’s Security


For the past few weeks, in the wake of Hamas’ brutal massacre of 1,400 Israelis and kidnapping of over 200 more, Israel has been teetering on the brink of a multi-front war. The threats are easy to grasp, as they typically take the form of Iran-backed terror organizations. But falling under the radar are events in the West Bank, arguably the most complex sphere of the ongoing conflict, and certainly one of the most consequential.

The West Bank has seen a significant increase in violence since Oct. 7 in what has already been the deadliest year since the Second Intifada. Since the outbreak of the war, at least 100 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in the West Bank. From Israel’s perspective, the most obvious threat emerging from the West Bank is Palestinian violence—including terror attacks against Israeli civilians—which had already claimed the lives of over 30 Israelis between January and September 2023. The Israel Defense Forces claims to have foiled several Palestinian attacks in the past three weeks through raids and even drones and other aerial strikes on militant cells in Palestinian cities.

It’s easy to see Israel’s challenge in the West Bank as merely an extension of Israel’s fight against terror organizations in both Gaza and in Lebanon, where the IDF and Hezbollah are engaging in clashes that have reportedly killed over 50 Hezbollah militants and 8 Israelis so far. But that is only part of the picture. The ongoing war has emboldened far-right Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who have escalated their attacks and provocations against Palestinian civilians.

Israel’s 9/11 Moment


In the wake of the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, Israel has every right and reason to pursue a sustained military campaign aimed at dismantling the terrorist group. And Israelis appear determined to do so.

Yet they also need to heed US President Joe Biden’s words of caution. During his visit to Tel Aviv on October 18, Biden empathized with the rage Israelis feel. “I understand, and many Americans understand,” he said. But Biden also advised Israelis not to be consumed by their fury. “After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States,” he warned, “and while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.” Two days later, in a primetime television address, Biden reiterated his call for the government of Israel “not to be blinded by rage.”

What would it look like in practice for Israel to follow Biden’s advice? Which lessons should the Israeli government draw from the strategic mistakes that the US made after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks?

First, while Israel should use its military capability to hit narrowly defined military targets – Hamas leaders, command centers, weapons caches, and tunnels – officials should be under no illusion that brute force can achieve a desired political outcome. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the US learned the hard way that superior military strength, while useful for eliminating adversaries, rarely produces the intended political objective.

Despite two decades of costly US involvement, Afghanistan is back in the hands of the Taliban, and Iraq is beset by political dysfunction and communal cleavages. While Israel has no choice but to use force to defang Hamas, it must employ other instruments – diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, economic opportunity – to shape what comes next.

Israel’s Proportional and Humanitarian Response

Sinan Ciddi & David May

Hamas murdered over 1,400 Israelis on October 7 in the deadliest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. As Israel prepares to launch widespread ground-based counterterrorism missions in the coming days, there is a growing chorus arguing that Israel is responding disproportionately to the terror attacks, launching indiscriminate attacks on Gaza, and engaging in collective punishment. Misconceptions surrounding these three issues are driving this anti-Israel sentiment.

Hamas’ horrific attacks continue to this day. The terrorist group is firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli population centers on a daily basis. A cursory look at a map of air-raid warnings in Tel Aviv poses an interesting question that critics of Israel seldom think about: what is the ethical and proportional response to indiscriminate rocket attacks on a civilian population by a terrorist entity?

Proportionality does not mean an eye for an eye or that there should be a balance of blood between Israelis and Palestinians. Hamas gunning down Israelis at a music festival does not give Israel a license to do the same to Palestinians. Instead, proportionality requires belligerents to weigh the expected military advantage derived from an action against the possible harm done to civilians.

Perhaps the most prominent example of Israel’s supposed use of disproportionate force relates to the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on October 17. According to initial reports, an Israeli air strike on the hospital killed hundreds of people. What military advantage could justify such a horrific attack?

Rocket Alert Apps Warn Israelis of Incoming Attacks While Gaza Is Left in the Dark


As Israel intensifies its war on Hamas, civilians in Gaza and nearby parts of Israel live under constant threat of aerial assault. Israel's military is launching hundreds of strikes a day on Gaza and said Friday it was moving in ground forces, while Hamas is firing hundreds of rockets back toward Israel. In Gaza, communications and power outages leave civilians struggling to access even basic information about the ongoing conflict. On the Israeli side of the border, an official warning app that gives civilians a chance to take cover is helping prevent casualties.

The Israeli government’s Home Front Command app has warned of 10,000 threats since Hamas first attacked on October 7, the country’s deadliest extremist incursion in years. Adoption has more than tripled since then to over 2 million active users, up from under 600,000, military officials who oversee the technology tell WIRED. Add in unofficial copycats, some of which connect directly to military servers, and “red alert” apps currently account for four of the 10 most popular free offerings on mobile app stores in Israel.

“By providing early warning to civilians, we are saving lives,” says a lieutenant colonel named Itay, who oversees the early warning system for the Israel Defense Forces. Like another IDF officer quoted in this article, he asked that his last name be withheld out of safety concerns. He says his team recently got a message of thanks from a mother saying the app warned of an attack four precious seconds before alarms blared on public sirens that have dotted streets since 2006. “That’s one more child she can get inside shelter,” he says.

India’s 2040 moon landing could make it a space superpower


The Indian government has announced a long-term plan for its space program. It includes a Venus orbiter, a Mars lander, a crewed space station by 2035 and a crewed lunar landing by 2040. India also plans to launch a crewed spacecraft dubbed the Gaganyaan by 2025.

The scope of New Delhi’s space ambition is breathtaking, to put the matter mildly.

India has been putting itself on the map as a rising space power. The country signed the Artemis Accords in July, placing it firmly in the NASA-led coalition to return astronauts to the moon and eventually land them on Mars. The Chandrayaan-3’s successful landing on the lunar surface, which coincided with the Russian Luna-25’s failure, further illustrated that India means to do great things in space.

The Indian Space Research Organization recently successfully conducted an in-flight abort test of the Gaganyaan spacecraft. The test was a crucial milestone that had to happen if India wanted to be the fourth nation to send its citizens into space on board a spacecraft that it developed.

India has not neglected fostering its own commercial space sector. The International Trade Administration notes that it “has experienced major growth over the last several years.” India has established a regulatory arm called the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center. The International Space Research Organization has a commercial space arm called New Space India Limited. Among the top Indian commercial space companies are Skyroot, Aerospace, Bellatrix Aerospace, Dhruva Space, Agnikul Cosmos and Pixxel.

Pakistan’s Afghan Gamble: Refugees as a Strategic Tool Against the Taliban

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

In the Chinese city of Nyingchi in Tibet, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani met his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi on October 5. They were both attending the 3rd Trans-Himalaya Forum for International Cooperation hosted by China. Bilateral relations and trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan were supposed to be the core of the discussion between the two sides. What dominated the proceedings, however, was the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who have been asked to voluntarily leave the country by November 1.

In no uncertain terms, Muttaqi told Jilani that “negative media outbursts, hindering transit and travel, and mishandling Afghan refugees can adversely affect bilateral relations and the economic scenarios of both countries.”

The UNHCR estimates that Pakistan currently hosts 3.7 million Afghan refugees, 700,000 of whom fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. It states that about 1.73 million are deemed to be in Pakistan illegally, with little legal protection or means to get asylum. Pakistan has decided to act tough against undocumented Afghans in its territory, and Taliban ministers and officials have decried the decision. Worried that the return of 1.73 million refugees would subject the beleaguered administration in Kabul and its failing government system to additional pressure, the Taliban authorities have asked Islamabad not to carry out its decision in haste.

“Pakistan’s decision to expel Afghans is unjustifiable and inhumane, and we condemn it,” Taliban Defense Minister Muhammad Yaqoob said on October 5. U.N. agencies also fear that Pakistan’s forcible deportation for Afghans would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.

Indonesian Presidential Candidates Call on President to Remain Neutral

Sebastian Strangio

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (second from left) has lunch with presidential candidates (from left) Ganjar Pranowo, Prabowo Subianto, and Anies Baswedan at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 30, 2023.

Two of Indonesia’s three presidential candidates have called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to remain neutral in the run-up to next year’s election, not long after his son registered as a vice presidential candidate on their rival’s ticket.

Jokowi met the three presidential candidates for lunch at the presidential palace in Jakarta yesterday, during which candidates Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo urged the leader to maintain his neutrality ahead of the February 14 polls.

“We often meet with people who love the president and they have a message: the president must maintain neutrality, “Anies, the former governor of Jakarta, told a news conference after the meeting, according to a Reuters report. “He responded positively and well, so our discussion was smooth.”

BenarNews reported that Ganjar, a former governor of Central Java who is representing the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), under whose banner Jokowi contested the 2014 and 2019 elections, said he relayed a similar message to the president.

“He is a good person and God willing he will support a good democratic system,” he said. “Our duty is to safeguard a peaceful election, make sure the state apparatuses are impartial, and make sure the election runs fairly.”

Can Laos’ Communist Party Recover From the Current Economic Crisis?

David Hutt

For the past three decades, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) government appeared to prove the claim that Asia’s communist parties survive – and can even thrive – through “economic legitimacy.” In 1989, as the Cold War came to a shuddering end and hermetic Laos found itself forced to engage with the rest of the world, the country’s GDP stood at $714 million, with GDP per capita of just $170. Fast forward to 2019, and after almost a decade of above 7 percent annual growth rates, its GDP was nearly $9 billion and per capita GDP sat at almost $2,500.

As such, the average Laotian was almost four times richer in 2019 than he would have been in 1989. The average Laotian could also expect to live 15 years longer than in the early 1990s. Most households had electricity by 2019. Healthcare was rudimentary and, at times, costly, but it was available. Things weren’t fantastic but, at least, they were improving, and the LPRP appeared a competent, though oppressive and corrupt, custodian.

According to the story told by the LPRP, all this was scuppered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic growth slowed to 0.5 percent in 2020 and 2.5 percent in 2021. Things got worse in 2022 as inflation started to skyrocket. It peaked at 41.3 percent in February of this year and is still hovering at around 25 percent, jacking up the cost of everyday goods and forcing many people back down toward the poverty line. The national currency, the kip, hit an all-time low in mid-September when it traded commercial banks at 20,000 to the U.S. dollar, compared to around 8,000 in 2019. The young are now speaking with their feet. My guess, based on data from the first half of this year published by the International Labor Organization, is that as many as 90,000 Laotians will have emigrated for work by the end of 2023, added to the 53,000 who officially left last year. Include unofficial migration and the true number will be far higher.

The Hawala System : Its operations and misuse

Hamid Aziz

Key findings 
• Hawala is a Money or Value Transfer Service (MVTS) that has been used for centuries, originating in the Middle East and South Asia. It is overwhelmingly used for legitimate purposes, including personal and business financial transactions and for the sending of remittances by migrants and refugees to family members. Cultural preferences, convenience, low-threshold accessibility, low processing fees, reliability, and faster value transfer services are some of the reasons for using hawala, and customers using the service come from all walks of life.

• Despite being widely used for legitimate purposes, some attributes of the hawala system also make it vulnerable to use by organised crime for the purposes of transferring illicit funds and values. This includes financial transfers by drug traffickers, migrant smugglers and other criminal actors and organisations, as well as safekeeping of funds obtained from illegal activity. The 113 hawaladars interviewed for this study do not commonly ask about the source of money or the reason for sending and receiving money. Additionally, when they did have doubts about the source of the funds, over half of the interviewed hawaladars reported that they had never refused a hawala transaction. 

• There is no single global regulatory framework for the hawala system. However, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has produced international standards and recommendations for countries to take measures to regulate the hawala system and ensure regular monitoring and compliance. Specific regulations and monitoring regimes vary by country, but FATF recommends countries take a risk-based approach to regulating the hawala system. Of the 18 countries covered by this study, the hawala system was regulated in most of them. However, in four countries it was not regulated, and in Afghanistan – following the events of August 2021 – the current regulatory status of the hawala system is unclear as of the time of writing.

California governor visit gets high marks from China


California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has been praised by Chinese commentators after he made a series of “pro-China” comments during his trip to the People’s Republic.

Newsom, 56, described by Chinese media as a rising star in US politics, ended his weeklong trip by launching a new climate partnership with Shanghai and touring Tesla’s gigafactory in that city on Sunday.

Some US commentators speculated that Newsom may run in the US presidential elections next year – although he dismissed such speculation in September.

On October 25, he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice President Han Zheng. Chinese pundits said it’s worthwhile for top Chinese leaders to meet with Newsom, who said he opposes Taiwan independence and US-China decoupling.

Meanwhile, an unnamed US official told the local media on Saturday that China and the US have agreed in principle to hold a Biden-Xi Summit during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in mid-November. The official said details are still being worked out.

Guan Yao, a commentator of Shenzhen Satellite TV, notes in an article that Newsom has been the first governor in the US to meet with Xi since 2017. He says the Xi-Newsom and Biden-Wang meetings have increased people’s expectations for a Xi-Biden Summit in November.

‘Technology surprise’: Are China, Russia ahead of us in UFO retrieval, research?


Last week, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency scientist became the 10th ex-government official, military officer or scientist to allege (or suggest) publicly that the U.S. government has recovered at least one UFO.

The overwhelming majority of these individuals also claim that the government transferred the retrieved craft to defense contractors for technical and scientific analysis.

Separately, sources interviewed by investigative journalist Michael Shellenberger allege that defense contractors are studying a dozen or more recovered UFOs. All of Shellenberger’s sources claim that excessive secrecy is hindering a comprehensive understanding of the retrieved objects’ enigmatic technology.

Moreover, an expanded network of sources told Shellenberger that at least 30 whistleblowers familiar with these alleged UFO retrieval and analysis efforts have provided testimony to Congress, the U.S. government’s congressionally-mandated UFO analysis office and the investigative watchdogs that oversee the U.S. Department of Defense and Intelligence Community.

Importantly, the inspector general for the intelligence community deemed the lead UFO whistleblower’s core allegations “credible and urgent.” Moreover, the whistleblower, former intelligence official and U.S. Air Force veteran David Grusch is represented by the intelligence community’s first inspector general. This high-profile attorney, now in private practice, sat prominently behind Grusch during an extraordinary July 26 congressional hearing.

Russian Defense Minister Uses Stage at Chinese Military Forum to Accuse US of Fueling Tensions

Simina Mistreanu

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks at the 10th Beijing Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, Oct. 30, 2023.

Russia’s defense minister accused the United States on Monday of fueling geopolitical tensions to uphold its “global dominance by any means” and warned of the risk of confrontation between nuclear-armed countries.

Speaking at a defense forum in Beijing, Sergei Shoigu also accused NATO of trying to expand its footprint in the Asia-Pacific under the pretense of seeking dialogue and collaboration with regional countries.

“Washington for years has deliberately undermined and destroyed the foundations of international security and strategic stability, including the system of arms control agreements,” Shoigu said at the Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest annual event centered on military diplomacy.

He added that the U.S. and its Western allies are threatening Russia through NATO’s expansion “to the east.” Shoigu also reiterated Moscow’s stance that Russia was open to negotiations about the war in Ukraine under what he described as the right conditions.

“The Western line of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” he said.

Takshashila SlideDoc - China’s Approach to Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Drone Autonomy

Anushka Saxena

Executive Summary

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, largely referred to as UAVs or drones in this document, have become all the rage in performing a host of military and defence-related functions, including Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), ground attack, and countering electromagnetic interference from the enemy. Chinese military policy is paying significant attention to the development and deployment of drones around the world, and is deploying its own ‘Military-Civilian Fusion’ (MCF) strategy to create a drone industry capable of meeting the demands of modern warfare.

This also includes equipping drones with autonomous and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled systems, in a quest to achieve the goals of ‘intelligentised’ warfare. This document assesses Chinese military policy on UAVs. It further details use cases of contemporary Chinese drone systems in military training, dogfighting, electronic countermeasures, and ISR, among others. It also identifies some Chinese drone systems with autonomous capabilities. In its annexure, the document discusses drone types and stakeholders involved.

In addition, this document studies drone deployments in the PLA Western Theater Command, the structural constraints faced by the Chinese military UAV ecosystem, and potential future points of emphasis for China’s efforts in the domain.

China’s No First Use of Nuclear Weapons Policy: Change or False Alarm?

Dr Sari Arho Havrén

China recently released its proposal for a new global order: ‘Proposal of the People's Republic of China on the Reform and Development of Global Governance’. The blueprint repeats several earlier talking points on how China aims to change the global order. The pillars of the new order lean heavily on Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative, and Global Civilisation Initiative. As an unprecedently open step towards a global order that mirrors the governance of a one-party state, the proposal deserves in-depth analysis beyond the scope of this article. A significant issue examined here is China dropping its long-term No First Use of nuclear weapons policy from the proposal; this raises eyebrows as global security risks intensify with a protracted Russian war of aggression against Ukraine (where China is siding with Russia), along with China’s aggressive behaviour around Taiwan.

China officially became the world’s fifth nuclear weapon-possessing state in 1964 and was then recognised under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). For decades, China carefully advanced its nuclear arsenal to maintain its minimum deterrent strategy. However, in recent years, China has clearly abandoned this strategy, heavily increasing its count of nuclear weapons and becoming the world’s third-largest nuclear weapons power. The Pentagon has estimated that if the current trajectory continues, China could field approximately 1,500 warheads by 2035.

In August 2023, at the NPT Review Conference, the Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Foreign Ministry of China, Sun Xiaobo, reaffirmed China’s 1964 policy ‘not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances’ and ‘not to threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states’.


Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan

Ongoing antisemitic demonstrations in the Republic of Dagestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus are highlighting heightened interethnic and interreligious tensions in Russia. Hundreds of demonstrators in Dagestan broke into Makhachkala airport, blocked the runway, and attempted to board a plane arriving from Israel on the evening of October 29 following the circulation of rumors that Russian authorities were planning to resettle “Israeli refugees” in Dagestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus.[1] Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at a hotel in Khasavyurt, Dagestan on the evening of October 28 to look for suspected “Israeli refugees” based on similar rumors.[2] Unknown actors reportedly set fire to a Jewish cultural center under construction in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkarian Republic on the night of October 28 to 29.[3]

The rumors appear to have originated with a local Dagestani Telegram channel, which claimed that “Israeli refugees” were staying at the hotel in Khasavyurt, Dagestan on October 28 and proceeded to announce plans for demonstrations that took place several hours later in the center of Makhachkala.[4] The Telegram channel called on Makhachkala residents to demonstrate at the airport on the night of October 28 and on October 29 and posted flight tracker data for the plane from Israel ahead of its arrival on the night of October 29.[5] Demonstrations are currently ongoing at the Makhachkala airport, where demonstrators temporarily blocked all individuals at the airport from leaving. Demonstrators also checked identification documents in search of Israeli citizens, although there are no reports of demonstrators finding any Israeli citizens.[6] Demonstrators have chanted “death to Jews” and have also occasionally gotten physical with security personnel at the airport.[7] Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) elements have removed demonstrators from the premises of the airport, but crowds are still present outside of the airport.[8] The Telegram channel that spread the rumors is currently down, which may be the first indicator that Russian authorities are actively trying to suppress the continuation of the antisemitic demonstrations.

An indispensable alliance on artificial intelligence


When I visited the White House earlier this year, I called the relationship between our two countries the indispensable alliance. The world is a safer, better and more prosperous place when we stand together, as we have throughout our history. And we do so again today, from the military and humanitarian aid we’re sending to Ukraine to our urgent diplomacy in the Middle East.

But right now, one of the greatest challenges facing American and British leadership is artificial intelligence (AI). As President Biden said back in June: In the history of human endeavor, there’s never been as fundamental a technological change. He was right. And as the world’s leading democratic AI powers, the United Kingdom and United States must urgently work together on proposals for how we govern this transformative technology.

Like the coming of electricity or the birth of the internet, AI will bring new knowledge, new opportunities for economic growth, new advances in human capability and the chance to solve global problems we once thought beyond us. AI can help solve world hunger by preventing crop failures and making it cheaper and easier to grow food. It can help accelerate the transition to net zero. And it is already making extraordinary breakthroughs in health and medicine, aiding us in the search for new dementia treatments and vaccines for cancer.

But like previous waves of technology, AI also brings new dangers and new fears. So, if we want our children and grandchildren to benefit from all the opportunities of AI, we must act — and act now — to give people peace of mind about the risks.

5 things to know about Trump’s 14th Amendment disqualification trial in Colorado


Whether former President Trump instigated the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack is at the core of a Colorado lawsuit seeking to disqualify him from the state’s 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause.”

Opening remarks in the trial began Monday, where a lawyer for the plaintiffs – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and six Colorado voters – argued that Trump “incited a violent mob” to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 “to stop the peaceful transfer of power under our Constitution.” Those actions, the lawyer said, deem Trump “ineligible” to be president again.

“It was Trump’s dereliction of duty – in violation of his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution – that caused the constitutional process to stop,” attorney Eric Olson said.

But the former president’s legal team argued that the “anti-democratic” lawsuit is tantamount to “election interference” in the 2024 presidential race, where Trump is the undisputed frontrunner in the GOP primary.

“(This lawsuit) looks to extinguish the opportunity…for millions of Coloradans – Colorado Republicans and unaffiliated voters – to be able to choose and vote for the presidential candidate they want,” Trump attorney Scott Gessler said. “In fact, the leading Republican presidential candidate, and by many measures, the candidate most likely to win the presidency.”

The U.S. Economy Has Drifted into the "Great Uncertainty"

Scott B. MacDonald

The U.S. economy has drifted into the Great Uncertainty, which is defined as a multitude of contradictory data signals, a greater emphasis on state-led industrial policy (with massive amounts of money being pumped into targeted sectors over a relatively short period of time), and the popping up unexpected geopolitical problems. This is further complicated by an overarching and often contentious debate over the energy transition and climate concerns, played out against a backdrop of growing disenchantment with the political status quo and the growing shadow of AI. And conditions are likely to get worse before they get better.

What the “Great Uncertainty” also means is that the American public is pessimistic. According to a USA Today/Suffolk poll released on October 22, 2023, only 17 percent of Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction; 71 percent thought it is heading in the wrong direction, with the rest undecided. The same poll asked, “How much confidence do you have in the nation’s leaders (White House and Congress) to handle the major challenges the nation faces?” Only 4 percent responded with “a lot of confidence” and 32 percent with “some confidence,” but 34.5 percent said “very little confidence” and 27 percent “no confidence.” Most Americans look to the future, its political institutions, and economic prospects with trepidation.

The Great Uncertainty is also reflected in the ongoing misses in economic forecasts. Many Wall Street mavens and many economist shops have been consistently wrong about interest rates through 2023, repeatedly calling for an end to the rate-rising cycle and a new cycle of rate cuts. The same has been true regarding calls for the next recession; several Wall Street economists and rating agencies called for one in the summer. Now, the call is for Q4 2023 or Q1 2023.

The Armenian Dilemma after Azerbaijan’s September Attack on Nagorno-Karabakh

Jakob Hedenskog

Executive Summary

Armenia finds itself in an extremely vulnerable position. Azerbaijan’s military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh on 19–20 September 2023 completed Baku’s unfinished objective from the Second Karabakh War in 2020, effectively ending the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and fully restoring Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. As a result, more than 100,000 Karabakh Armenians – almost the entire Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh – left the region for Armenia.

Armenia suspects that Azerbaijan’s military campaign was coordinated with Russia, since the recent deterioration in relations between Armenia and Russia was synchronized with a growing convergence between Russia and Azerbaijan on resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Baku’s main goal was to have Nagorno-Karabakh cleared of Armenians, while Moscow sought to weaken the pro-West Armenian government. A common gain for both was the humiliation of the Western-led peace process. Russia’s officials and its media blamed Armenia and the West for Azerbaijan’s attack, linking Russian peacekeepers’ inaction to Armenia’s pro-West foreign policy turn.

In the aftermath of the attack, the European Union and individual EU member states declared its support for Armenia’s territorial integrity and for humanitarian aid to the Armenians leaving Nagorno-Karabakh. The EU border mission in Armenia, established in February 2023, at least provides a certain level of protection against a larger attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia. However, Armenia is concerned by the EU’s commitment to double its imports of energy from Azerbaijan, which is interpreted as a willingness to compromise on the security of Armenia, as well as on the EU’s core values with regard to the rule of law and human rights.

Mark Zuckerberg vows that Meta is very much all-in on AI

Patrick Kulp

Between open-sourced AI models with animal names and guest spots from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton, Meta has carved out an idiosyncratic and perhaps more whimsical lane in Silicon Valley’s race to own the next wave of AI.

Sure, much of the attention in this week’s earnings call went to Meta’s core business of advertising—for which the company put up strong numbers—and some worries about how the Israel-Hamas war could affect the next quarter, which subsequently sent the stock spiraling. But Mark Zuckerberg also seemed hyped to talk AI—and analysts had some questions about Meta’s plans there.

Forget the namesake metaverse: In the earnings call, Zuckerberg only used the term thrice. AI, however, merited nearly 70 mentions, and Zuckerberg said it will be the “biggest investment area in 2024.” Rather than hiring new people to manage this push, the Meta CEO said the company will continue “deprioritizing a number of non-AI projects” and reassign those workers to AI efforts.

While many tech giants’ plans center on one key assistant—ChatGPT, GPT-4, or Bard—woven throughout their products, Meta boasts more of an ensemble cast. The company does have a new all-purpose assistant called Meta AI, but it’s also building business chatbots, AI personas of real-life celebrities, and even imagined AI characters.