30 November 2023

How Hamas built a force to attack Israel on 7 October

Abdelali Ragad, Richard Irvine-Brown, Benedict Garman and Sean Seddon

Five armed Palestinian groups joined Hamas in the deadly 7 October attack on Israel after training together in military-style exercises from 2020 onwards, BBC News analysis shows.

The groups carried out joint drills in Gaza which closely resembled the tactics used during the deadly assault - including at a site less than 1km (0.6 miles) from the barrier with Israel - and posted them on social media.

They practised hostage-taking, raiding compounds and breaching Israel's defences during these exercises, the last of which was held just 25 days before the attack.

BBC Arabic and BBC Verify have collated evidence which shows how Hamas brought together Gaza's factions to hone their combat methods - and ultimately execute a raid into Israel which has plunged the region into war.

'A sign of unity'

On 29 December 2020, Hamas's overall leader Ismail Haniyeh declared the first of four drills codenamed Strong Pillar a "strong message and a sign of unity" between Gaza's various armed factions.

As the most powerful of Gaza's armed groups, Hamas was the dominant force in a coalition which brought together 10 other Palestinian factions in a war games-style exercise overseen by a "joint operation room".

The structure was set up in 2018 to coordinate Gaza's armed factions under a central command.

An Extended Ceasefire Would Help Hamas but Hurt Israelis and Gazans Alike

Seth Cropsey and Austen Maggin

Pressure for an extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is building in the United States. Congresswoman Becca Balint (D-Vt.) has expressed in a newspaper op-ed the same idea which polls show growing in support — that both Israelis and Gazans have suffered enough and what is needed is “an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated ceasefire.”

A ceasefire, except for a brief one that returns hostages, implicitly condemns Israel for defending itself. This is as strategically foolish as it is morally vacuous. A ceasefire opens the door to Hamas’s recovery and more of its savagery.

The stated objective of stalling ongoing operations is to allow for time to convince Hamas to release its more than 200 hostages and to deliver emergency resources to Gazan civilians. The implication is that these objectives are worth prolonging the conflict and allowing Hamas to regroup, which in reality will only increase both Israeli and Gazan casualties.

Whether these objectives are worth the implied costs is immaterial: The objectives themselves are chimerical. At best, Hamas will release only a portion of its hostages, its best source of leverage, perhaps by offering up a few dual-citizens or a small group — as it did when Washington was delaying the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) initial ground response.

There is no reason to believe that what proved impossible in peace can now be done in war — a guarantee that emergency aid reaches Gazan civilians. That Hamas sits on a massive store of resources stolen from the billions of dollars of international aid seems to be of little consequence, as does the fact that prolonging the conflict only increases the suffering inflicted on Gaza’s population and delays reconstruction of local society and infrastructure. And the more pressure placed on Israel to end the war, the more likely the IDF will reconsider the deliberate approach it is taking in combat to limit casualties.

Israel’s war is about to escalate


As I look out over Lebanon from high up on Israel’s northern border, I see undulating hills dappled with hedgerows and green brush that glows golden in the winter sun. But this is far from an idyll. Lebanese Hezbollah have been firing into Israel since October 7. And it is from here that a regional, possibly global, war is most likely to start.

On the ground, with the ceasefire extended for another two days, relations between Israel and Hamas seem to be progressing. The temporary truce, however, is just a plaster on a gangrenous wound. If Hamas releases all of its hostages, then its leverage evaporates and it has nothing to deter Israel from its assault. If Israel ceases military operations now, then its promise that Hamas will never again be able to launch another attack is just empty rhetoric. Neither its traumatised population nor its desperate Prime Minister will allow that.

So, the war continues, with Israel completing its operation in northern Gaza and turning to the south. And along with its horrific cost, the chances of broader escalation will increase.

But the war with Hamas has already expanded. Hezbollah are firing from the north, Syrian groups from the northeast, the Houthis from Yemen in the south — and behind them all, Iran. Israel is now fighting a war on five fronts. But it’s in the north that the greatest threat lies.

“What we’ve been experiencing on the northern border are a few kinds of Hezbollah approaches,” says a source in the IDF’s Northern Command. “Number one: infiltration attempts on the border itself. Two: using anti-tank missiles to target Israeli soldiers, outposts, tanks and armoured vehicles. Three: using aerial vehicles [drones]. This did not really exist in [the Lebanon war of] 2006. The investment in aerial vehicles began in 2009.” Hezbollah, they tell me, is targeting a narrow strip just a few kilometres from the border, rather than cities further south such as Haifa. “From that we assess that the current decision of Hezbollah is not to escalate.”

Israel investigates an elusive, horrific enemy: Rape as a weapon of wa

Shira Rubin

The first indications of possible sexual violence came as early as Oct. 7, the day that thousands of Hamas and other fighters streamed into Israeli towns and began live-streaming bloodshed and torture.

Footage showed several women stripped of their clothing. One video showed a woman, her hands zip-tied behind her back, with blood on the crotch of her pants.

Later came testimony from witnesses and first responders. One witness described in graphic detail a gang rape at the Nova rave site near Re’im. An Israeli reserve combat paramedic told The Post that he found the bodies of teenage girls with signs of sexual assault.

Combatants from Gaza overran 22 Israeli communities, killed at least 1,200 and took 240 hostage in the surprise attack. But their greater goal, sexual trauma specialists say, was to introduce terror against women — and children and other unarmed civilians — as a means of spreading fear.

“The torture of women was weaponized to destroy communities, to destroy a people, to destroy a nation,” said Cochav Elkayam Levy, the head of a nongovernmental commission investigating crimes perpetrated against women and children on Oct. 7.

Hamas denies that its fighters use rape or assault against women as a weapon of war. To do so, Hamas official Basem Naim said, would go against its founding Islamic principles. The group, he said, considers “any sexual relationship or activity outside of marriage to be completely haram” — forbidden by Islam.

“Whoever does this kind of act is committing a major infraction and would be punished both legally and on Judgment Day,” he told The Washington Post. “So our soldiers would not go close to this forbidden” act.

Extend the Cease-Fire in Gaza—but Don’t Stop There

Matthew Duss and Nancy Okail

Recent days have seen the first good news out of Gaza in a long time. As part of a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that began last Friday and will expire tomorrow, Hamas has released dozens of the more than 200 people it took hostage during its October 7 attack on Israel; those released include many of the children whom the group took captive. For its part, Israel has released 150 Palestinian prisoners, paused its bombardment of Gaza, and allowed more humanitarian supplies into the territory, providing a brief respite to the millions of civilians there who have suffered immensely for weeks.

The agreement holds open the prospect that the parties could extend it, and U.S. President Joe Biden said yesterday that his administration was working to that end. That is the right call. Now, the Biden administration must make clear why such an extension is in the interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, as well as the interests of the United States and its international partners. An extended cease-fire could facilitate the return of more Israeli hostages and reduce the risk of deepening the humanitarian catastrophe among Gaza’s civilians. It could also help calm tensions in the West Bank and reduce the risk that the war could escalate by drawing in outside actors, such as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and its patron, Iran.

But extending the cease-fire should be just the first step in a larger process that would require intensive U.S.-backed regional diplomacy—and an overhaul of American policy. When Biden took office in 2021, he was determined not to spend his time and energy on fruitless efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the war in Gaza has shown that the issue cannot be ignored. To make good on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s November 8 statement that there can be no return to a manifestly unsustainable status quo ante, the United States must change its overall approach and commit to a broad-based diplomatic process that can finally resolve the conflict and prioritize rights and dignity for people in the region.

Ukraine’s artillery supply declines as shells go to Israel


Ukraine has seen a decline of deliveries of vital 155mm shells since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, even as Ukrainian parliamentarians warn of a dangerous shortage of ammunition across the front lines.

"Our supplies have decreased. It is life—and it is normal, as everyone is fighting for survival,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters in Kyiv on Thursday.

U.S. stocks of 155mm rounds that were originally meant for Ukraine are now being shipped to Israel, Axios has reported. The number of rounds were in the “tens of thousands,” according to the report, or close to U.S. monthly production rates.

The U.S. has delivered over two million 155mm rounds to Ukraine in the year and eight months since Russia’s February 2022 invasion. It has more than doubled production of the shells, going from 12,000 a month before Russia’s invasion to 28,000 now. EU members likewise emptied their stocks, and the EU as a whole launched a plan to supply one million 155mm rounds between March 2023 and March 2024.

Despite the effort, though, ammunition has frequently been tight. Ukraine uses 240,000 shells a month, a figure far higher than U.S. monthly production rates. Ukrainian troops regularly report ammo shortages across the front lines, even in hotspots like the country’s east.

The EU is also set to miss its March 2024 goal to supply one million rounds, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said this week.

The Taliban’s Plan to Rebuild and Legitimize al-Qaeda

Sajjan M. Gohel & Victoria Jones

In addition to plunging the Middle East back into turmoil, the Israel-Gaza crisis has resulted in entities around the world seeking to exploit the palpable tensions, and has even led some young Americans to re-evaluate al-Qaeda’s past comments on Palestine. At the same time, the global jihadist group itself is showing concerning signs of revival, having found refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

The current Taliban regime has renewed its symbiotic relationship with the remnants of al-Qaeda. And though their global return may not be imminent, it must be remembered that the terrorist group is laying low by choice. Under this arrangement, al-Qaeda has agreed to stay under the radar, for now, in order to aid the Taliban’s international image of upholding their promise to prevent extremist organizations from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Yet al-Qaeda views the Taliban-controlled country as precisely that—a base in which they can regrow and expand.

Those who lobby to recognize the Taliban make the case that they have changed and acknowledged their missteps. These individuals claim that security in Afghanistan has increased under the Taliban, seeming to forget or ignore the fact that the Taliban themselves were the biggest threat to civilian lives prior to seizing power. They argue the Taliban has stopped opium production, but appear oblivious to the fact that that’s due to the group’s diversification into methamphetamines. They insist that the Taliban is committed to rebuilding the nation and that engaging with the group will help to moderate them when it comes to issues like state-sanctioned misogyny and harboring terrorists. There is even a perception that al-Qaeda is unlikely to reconstitute in Afghanistan. But ground realities prove otherwise.

Possible Outcomes Of Northern Myanmar Military Conflict And Implications For China

Anbound & He Jun

Since October 27, conflict has erupted in northern Myanmar, lasting for a month, and the scale of the conflict is continuously escalating. There is a risk of the conflict evolving from internal conflict to civil war. The epicenter of this is in the Kokang region, located along the China-Myanmar border, and the resulting influx of refugees has begun to impact China. Will the situation in northern Myanmar escalate into a large-scale civil war? What geopolitical conflicts might arise in its future trajectory? What impact could this turmoil have on China and the relations of the two countries? These questions deserve the utmost attention from all parties involved.

Although the current conflict in northern Myanmar has erupted, the historical roots of the conflict between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Myanmar government run deep. According to Hein Khaing, a scholar at Huaqiao University, over the past decade, the MNDAA has formed a military alliance with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army, and the Kachin Independence Army, known as the “Northern Alliance”. This conflict, initiated jointly by these four entities, seems to be a meticulously planned endeavor with a longstanding strategy.

Analyzing the internal conflict in Myanmar requires a fundamental understanding of the local ethnic armed forces. These forces operate independently of the Union of Myanmar government, maintaining their own territories, thus existing in a somewhat adversarial relationship. The MNDAA, among others, operated in such a capacity, along with various other armed groups. In areas governed by these entities, a form of partial rule of law exists, fostering the persistence of gray industries, such as narcotics, gambling, and, in recent years, cyber fraud. Notably, cyber frauds along the China-Myanmar border do not involve Chinese defrauding Myanmar citizens or vice versa. Primarily, it involves the Chinese defrauding other Chinese citizens, with some criminal syndicates exploiting the relatively difficult-to-control nature of this special region in Myanmar for the development of gray industries.

The Guardian view on Myanmar’s military: the generals are in trouble

When Myanmar’s military launched a coup almost three years ago, snatching back the limited portion of control they had ceded to elected civilian leaders, it looked like the same old story. Once again, the generals were crushing the democratic aspirations of their people.

To widespread surprise, perhaps most of all the military’s, they failed to stamp out the resistance. What began as a courageous campaign of civil disobedience led to tens of thousands of civilians joining armed groups, including people’s defence forces (PDFs) set up by the national unity government formed from the remnants of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

Critically, long-running conflicts between the military and ethnic armed groups also reignited, with some aligning with the democratic opposition and helping to train PDFs. Then, last month, the Three Brotherhood Alliance – comprising three ethnic armed groups – launched a massive offensive against regime targets in northern Shan state. Their stunning success, capturing large swathes of territory including military bases and border crossings, prompted a further wave of attacks by groups around the country. The alliance also spelled out its commitment to unseating the junta and restoring democracy.

With the military hitting back, the UN has described the recent fighting as the largest and most geographically extensive escalation since the coup. It is a humiliating blow to the army, and an enormous boost to opposition morale. For the first time, many people in Myanmar are envisioning a future – however distant – without the generals.

The US Wants Vietnam to Be Its New Tech Best Friend


WHEN PRESIDENT JOE Biden traveled to Vietnam last month, he was accompanied by a coterie of leaders from top US technology companies. He and the executives from Google, Intel, Boeing, and chipmaker GlobalFoundries were all on the same mission: to find a new partner to help produce some of America’s most prized technology.

The subtext, conspicuously absent from official statements, is reducing dependence on China. Vietnam is central to a “friend-shoring” strategy the US is hoping can line up alternatives to China to provide the raw materials and manufacturing skills needed for key components in the tech supply chain—and especially semiconductors.

As tensions between the US and China over technology and national security have grown, so has the pressure on the US to diversify. Last month, the Biden administration tightened its chip sanctions on China still further. Yet although Vietnam’s government and industries are enthusiastic about working more closely with the US, supply chain experts in both Washington and Hanoi warn that it can’t replace China’s tech manufacturing scale and skills any time soon.

The US courtship of Vietnam as a new tech ally began with treasury secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to the country in July. Hanoi responded by upgrading its relationship with Washington to its highest diplomatic status, alongside Moscow and Beijing. Biden then cemented the partnership by announcing $2 million of seed funding to help Vietnam develop its semiconductor workforce.

Delay in China’s Annual Fall Party Plenum Meeting: A Sign of Deepening Institutional Erosion?

Carl Minzner

China’s Politburo concluded its monthly meeting on Monday with no mention of a date for the third plenum of the 20th Central Committee. Failure to designate a date for this key Party event suggests China’s reform-era political institutions and practices may be eroding yet further under Xi Jinping’s increasingly personalized rule.

Since the 1990s, Party Congresses (held every five years) and plenums (held annually) have followed in utterly predictable fashion, with Party leaders trooping into Beijing to pledge fealty to top leaders, listen to their speeches, pose for photos, and receive and review central Party documents setting out core policies. Such practices marked a partial institutionalization of one-Party rule in China’s reform era, particularly in comparison with the chaotic decades of Maoist rule, in which such events were held intermittently, if at all (over a decade passed between the 8th Party Congress in the late 1950s and the 9th in 1969).

Indeed, with only one exception, the Chinese Communist Party has held a plenum meeting of its Central Committee every autumn since the 1990s. The sole recent exception occurred in 2018, when the third plenum of the 19th Central Committee was advanced to February of that year—rather than the fall—as part of the process of amending the PRC constitution to eliminate term limits and pave the way for Xi to serve on as China’s state president for a third term (in addition to his far more important roles as general Party secretary and head of the military).

Singing the CCP’s Tune: Foreign Influencers and China’s Propaganda Strategy

Fergus Ryan & Matt Knight , Daria Impiombato

In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe, China faced international scrutiny over its draconian control measures and the nature and origin of the pandemic. The Chinese Communist Party saw an urgent need to push back as it scrambled to uphold its global standing.

The CCP’s propaganda machine sprang into action, launching campaigns through party-state media to underscore the effectiveness of the CCP’s leadership in navigating the crisis. ‘Wolf warrior’ diplomats and media workers, acting in accordance with Xi Jinping’s directives to boost propaganda work, took to global platforms like Twitter and Facebook, presenting a narrative of resilience, capability and control amid chaos. This portrayal emphasised the ‘advantages’ of China’s unique political and social system, turning scrutiny into an opportunity for praise.

Yet, it wasn’t merely the seasoned hands of party-state media or the fiery voices of diplomats that painted this rosy image. A relatively new set of players had stepped onto the stage: foreign influencers. This group of non-Chinese nationals residing in China and carefully nurtured by the CCP over the years has become an integral part of the choir, harmonising with the ‘main melody’ (主旋律)—the party’s term for themes or narratives that promote its values, policies and ideology. Our new ASPI report, Singing from the CCP’s songsheet: the role of foreign influencers in China’s propaganda system, explores how this process works.

In an era where digital content is king, the CCP has recognised the power that foreign influencers wield compared to more traditional communication channels. Boasting millions of followers in China and overseas, especially on platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, the CCP has identified, harnessed and actively developed foreign influencers as unique propaganda assets. It’s become a symbiotic relationship—aligned influencers flourish under the CCP’s regulated social media ecosystem, while the party uses their popularity to bolster its legitimacy both domestically and internationally.

Xi’s big push to reverse China’s massive capital flight


Xi Jinping’s first public visit to Shanghai in three years signals a new effort to boost China’s private sector. Yet even more important, Xi’s team in Beijing chose this week’s occasion to unveil a series of reforms that are a bigger deal than might meet the eye.

The stocks of Shanghai-centered tech companies like Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, Hua Hong Semiconductor Ltd. and Will Semiconductor Co. rallied on the news Monday.

The visit, coupled with new policies to level playing fields and increase private companies’ access to capital, is seen by some as Xi following through on vows made in California earlier this month to make life easier for China’s beleaguered entrepreneurs.

To date, Xi’s attempts to restore investor confidence amid struggles to move past Covid-19 fallout have fallen short. More than US$1 trillion of foreign capital fled mainland share markets since Xi clamped down on Big Tech in late 2020. More recent fears about deflation haven’t helped.

In recent weeks, Xi restarted China’s stimulus machine amid calls for greater government action amid a property crisis and stalling economic recovery. In particular, the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, has channeled more liquidity to troubled property developers.

Analyst Zerlina Zeng at CreditSights speaks for many when she says “we expect China’s softening external stance and warming relationship with the US and other developed markets to set a more conducive geopolitical backdrop for China credit.”

Erasing Tibet: Chinese Boarding Schools and the Indoctrination of a Generation

Tenzin Dorjee and Gyal Lo

China’s brutal treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang has won tremendous international attention in recent years, with human rights groups decrying the systematic detention in internment camps of a million people, as well as the Chinese state’s attempts to suppress Uyghur culture and the practice of Islam. But the plight of another oppressed ethnic group has flown largely under the radar. In Tibet, the Chinese state has also embarked on a campaign to quash the identity of a distinct people. Its chief weapon in Tibet is not dystopian camps but something seemingly more quotidian: residential schools.

Nearly a million Tibetan children live in state-run residential schools on the Tibetan plateau. Chinese authorities subject these children to a highly politicized curriculum designed to strip them of their mother tongue, sever their ties to their religion and culture, and methodically replace their Tibetan identity with a Chinese one. Children as young as four have been separated from their parents and enrolled in boarding kindergartens under a recruitment strategy based largely on coercion.

This alarming development has prompted a series of congressional hearings and formal inquiries in the United States, Canada, and the United Nations. “We are very disturbed that in recent years the residential school system for Tibetan children appears to act as a mandatory large-scale program intended to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards,” a group of UN experts declared earlier this year. In August, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for this program.

The West should be particularly concerned by China’s imposition of these schools on Tibetan youth. After all, the residential schools resemble the church-run boarding schools in which authorities thrust indigenous children in Australia and North America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In recent years, researchers and survivors have brought to light the horrific scale of abuses and trauma associated with these schools, which sought to separate children from their indigenous cultures and families. Australian and Canadian leaders have issued formal apologies to indigenous communities that still suffer from the legacy of forced enrollment in the residential schools. Chinese diplomats routinely excoriate the West for its colonial-era crimes against indigenous peoples. But now Beijing plans to do to Tibetans precisely what white settler regimes did to indigenous peoples.

China Takes Advantage of a New Era of World War

Dan Blumenthal

International politics is now defined by a world at war. The United States is consumed with a stalemate in Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression and what promises to be a long war by Israel to eradicate the terror group Hamas and its affiliates. This Middle East conflict may escalate as Iran, through its proxies, carries out attacks against both the United States and the Jewish State.

Though China is portraying itself as a fair and just potential broker of peace in the Middle East and Europe in contrast to America’s supposed warmongering, it is actually intensifying its own military and political pressure against Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. It is also backing the aggressors in Europe and the Middle East. Over the near term, Beijing will be tempted to take even greater military risks unless Washington better prepares for this new era of global conflict.

China is benefiting from global conflict in several ways. It is backing Russia and Iran while scoring international propaganda wins in parts of the world that do not like Western foreign policy. Moreover, Beijing sees a freer hand for its coercion campaigns as it notes gaping deficits in U.S. weapons production capacity and military posture.

The Biden administration’s eager search for a “floor” in its relationship with Beijing resulted in a bilateral summit that helped Xi Jinping’s global image.
China Throws Russia a Lifeline

Attacks on US troops in Middle East have diminished, Pentagon says

Meghann Myers

The barrage of attacks on U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Syria has subsided in recent days, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Monday.

After enduring dozens of attacks since mid-October, bases housing U.S. troops haven’t taken fire or spotted a drone bearing down since Nov. 23, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed.

The Pentagon’s last count totaled 73 attacks, Ryder said. Those resulted in more than 60 injuries, including several dozen traumatic brain injuries, but all troops returned to duty soon after.

The U.S. military in response executed three strikes in Syria against facilities used by Iran-backed militias to house weapons and equipment, the latest of which was carried out Nov. 13.

There have also been instances of air assets in the area immediately striking back against rocket or drone attacks, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters on Tuesday.

A Containment Strategy for Ukraine

Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage

On November 1, Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, changed the debate about his country’s war with Russia with a statement. “Just like in the first World War,” he said in an interview with The Economist, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries “have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.” Unless a massive leap in military technology gives one side a decisive advantage, “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.” These words prompted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to issue a rebuttal. The war “is not a stalemate, I emphasize this,” Zelensky argued. A deputy head of the office of the president noted that the comments stirred “panic” among Ukraine’s Western allies.

Such fear is understandable at a moment when the U.S. Congress, by far Ukraine’s largest source of aid, is deciding whether to sustain its military support. Before Ukraine launched its counteroffensive in June 2023, Washington evinced optimism that the Ukrainian military could swiftly achieve major military successes and secure Kyiv a stronger negotiating position to force concessions from Moscow. This has not happened. Not much territory has changed hands, and high hopes have yielded to a dispiriting narrative of impasse. A divided Congress likely has no “mountain of steel,” as U.S. officials have called the materiel they gave Ukraine in early 2023, to provide for a renewed counteroffensive in 2024, and European countries are falling short in the assistance they have promised. In purely military terms, Ukraine’s path to victory is unclear.

But Ukraine and its allies must face, not fear, the war’s current reality. They should accept and prepare for a multiyear war and for the long-term containment of Russia instead of hoping for either a quick Ukrainian triumph or, absent that, an imminent negotiated solution. An overwhelming victory is not guaranteed by either Ukrainian valor or Russian folly. And any hope that negotiations right now could benefit Ukraine is naive: Russia is not becoming more malleable or more amenable to compromise. In fact, the Kremlin’s aspirations to reshape the whole international order through violent conflict may be more ambitious now than they were a year ago.

Ukraine’s new enemy: war fatigue in the West

FOR MORE than 600 days of full-scale war, America has been Ukraine’s greatest saviour as it marshalled arms, money and more to help repel Russia’s invasion. Now America has become one of Ukraine’s greatest worries. Its aid for Ukraine is fast running out, and dysfunction in Congress is blocking new assistance. Nobody is sure when—or whether—it will be restored.

The effect is being felt at the front as America tries to stretch its dwindling funds. “In the spring the flow of military supplies was a broad river. In the summer it was a stream. Now it is a few drops of tears,” says one informed Ukrainian source. Ukraine faces a bleak winter amid great uncertainty: its counter-offensive has failed to break through Russian lines; its enemy is increasing its arms production; and its vital ally is paralysed by political turmoil and distracted by Israel’s war in Gaza.

Lloyd Austin, America’s defence secretary, visited Kyiv on November 20th to reassure Ukraine that the United States will support Ukraine “both now and into the future”. Yet Mr Austin knows that the power of the purse belongs to Congress; and the balance of power in Congress is held by an isolationist wing of the Republican party, especially in the House of Representatives, where one of their sympathisers now serves as the speaker. Twice since September Congress has passed a “continuing resolution” to avoid a shutdown of the federal government; and twice it excluded new aid for Ukraine.

The Senate is trying to unlock the assistance in December, before a shutdown looms again in January. President Joe Biden has requested a supplemental budget of $106bn, of which $61bn is for Ukraine, and the rest for Israel and other national-security priorities. Republicans are tying aid for Ukraine to tougher measures to curb migration across America’s border with Mexico. Those involved say the sides are still far apart.

Tensions are bubbling up at thirsty Arizona alfalfa farms as foreign firms exploit unregulated wate


A blanket of bright green alfalfa spreads across western Arizona’s McMullen Valley, ringed by rolling mountains and warmed by the hot desert sun.

Matthew Hancock’s family has used groundwater to grow forage crops here for more than six decades. They’re long accustomed to caprices of Mother Nature that can spoil an entire alfalfa cutting with a downpour or generate an especially big yield with a string of blistering days.

But concerns about future water supplies from the valley’s ancient aquifers, which hold groundwater supplies, are bubbling up in Wenden, a town of around 700 people where the Hancock family farms.

Some neighbors complain their backyard wells have dried up since the Emirati agribusiness Al Dahra began farming alfalfa here on about 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) several years ago.

It is unknown how much water the Al Dahra operation uses, but Hancock estimates it needs 15,000 to 16,000 acre feet a year based on what his own alfalfa farm needs. He says he gets all the water he needs by drilling down hundreds of feet. An acre-foot of water is roughly enough to serve two to three U.S. households annually.

Hancock said he and neighbors with larger farms worry more that in the future state officials could take control of the groundwater they now use for agriculture and transfer it to Phoenix and other urban areas amid the worst Western drought in centuries.

“I worry about the local community farming in Arizona,” Hancock said, standing outside an open-sided barn stacked with hay bales.

Antara Haldar Says More…


Antara Haldar: If one views macroeconomic policy through a behavioral lens, it becomes clear that controlling inflation while causing avoidable human suffering is counterproductive. For example, the United Kingdom’s adoption of austerity policies under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and after the 2008 global economic crisis led to the catastrophic – and entirely unnecessary – economic disaster that was Brexit.

Conventional economic theory assumes that people in acute economic pain are somehow comforted by the prospect of tax cuts at some point in the future. In the real world, which the behavioral perspective illuminates, they feel anxiety and panic in the present. This stifles productivity and hampers economic recovery, while stoking popular anger against the political and economic establishment – precisely the sentiment that Brexit campaigners redirected against the European Union.

The behavioral approach lends credibility to Keynesian countercyclical policy, and shows that it might be preferable to use mechanisms like strategic price caps, rather than inflict yet more financial distress on people. There is a growing openness to solutions of this kind, in both the United States and Europe. But, during the latest bout of inflation, policymakers did not make nearly enough use of them.

More generally, the behavioral perspective relies on aligning institutional design with institutional motivation, so that people work with, rather than against, institutions.

AH: Development has, so far, been an entirely imitative enterprise – an elaborate game of catch-up in which the Global South mimics, largely uncritically, the Global North. But the development model everyone is applying is now under siege across the world, partly because developed economies – beset by inequality and unhappiness – are increasingly looking like a flawed archetype. If the world’s two largest economies, the US and China, are facing turmoil, why should others scramble to emulate them?

A former CIA Officer’s take on War in the Middle East and the Growing Global Challenge


The Cipher Brief recently hosted a Subscriber+Members briefing with former Senior CIA Officer Glenn Corn, who served as the president’s senior representative on Intelligence and Security Issues. Among the topics Corn addressed: what happens if Iranian-backed Hezbollah attacks Israel from the north and how is this conflict playing into the hands of both Moscow and Tehran? Here is some of what he had to say. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Cipher Brief: There have been concerns since the October 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas that another front to this war might open up in the north of Israel with Hezbollah. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran. If Hezbollah were to attack Israel as it continues its war on Hamas, what would that mean?

Corn: It’s pretty clear that if Hezbollah opens up a full front in the north against Israel, this will be a strategic game changer for the Israelis. The Israelis are going to have to respond in a very large manner, and my own opinion is that the United States will also have to get directly involved to help the Israelis.

Hezbollah has a lot of capabilities with rockets and missiles. They have very well-trained fighters. We can’t forget that they are a terrorist group that just tried to attack Jewish targets in Brazil. Thanks to the good work of the Israelis and their Brazilian partners, they were able to stop a terrorist attack there.

Hezbollah has conducted attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide and we can’t forget that they have attacked US targets in the past and they present a very dangerous threat to the United States. In my assessment, if there is a conflict between the United States and Iran, Hezbollah will be used as a tool for the Iranians. These are all things we have to consider.

Could USS Eisenhower Now in Strait of Hormuz Stop Iranian Swarming Small Boats?


A powerful US Navy Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, cruiser and several destroyers joined a French destroyer transiting through the highly dangerous Strait of Hormuz bordering Iran, a narrow passageway connecting the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and Gulf of Oman.

The passageway is referred to as among the most critical “choke points” in the world, as massive amounts of commercial ship traffic travels through the waterway to deliver oil, supplies, food and other critical items traveling to and from key areas of the Middle East and beyond.

The Strait is only 90-miles wide in some places and as narrow at 35 miles at its most narrow point, so a US Navy aircraft carrier and its accompanying warships are well positioned to launch massive, impactful air and weapons attacks deep into parts of Iran should that be necessary. The show of US Navy power is likely a message of deterrence to Iran in response to Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on US personnel and facilities. The presence of such firepower is perhaps a reminder to Iran that indeed the US Navy operates with what is arguably an unparalleled ability to project destructive power.

The entire Persian Gulf spans roughly 210 miles across in many points, placing the Iranian coastline and other bordering areas easily within reach of carrier-launched fighter jets. Destroyers armed with Tomahawks, for instance, can also strike from hundreds of miles away from the Persian Gulf. Therefore, while the Persian Gulf’s Strait of Hormuz enhances and does not limit offensive strike capability for US warships, it does raise questions about ship-defenses and potential vulnerability to Iranian mines, shore-launched missiles and small boat attacks.

Of course littoral areas increase the risk of moored or freer floating sea mines intended to deny access to coastal areas, and certainly Iran operates a wide sphere of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles capable of targeting ships in the Persian Gulf, however the level of guidance accuracy, precision and ability to track and hit moving targets may be less certain. Nonetheless, concern over Iranian attacks are both quite significant and justified, given the geography of ocean passageways and known Iranian tactics. A report from US Central Command says Iran has interfered with or seized more than 20 vessels since 2021.

‘Russia is weaponizing time,’ Ukraine tells NATO


The premise of the annual Halifax International Security Forum is simple: like-minded democracies working together are far stronger than whatever threatens them. But never in the forum’s 14 years have global events presented attendees, or the policy community of Western-aligned democracies, with greater challenges.

In 2021, the event spotlit concerns that China might invade Taiwan within just a few years, while a senior Ukrainian delegation tried to draw attention to the Russian buildup on its border. Last year, the assembly stood in solidarity with Ukraine while spending little time on the Middle East. This year’s event showed how the policy elite are struggling to find a coherent response to multiple converging crises.

But the message from Ukrainians at this year’s event was clear: your support is more important now than ever before.

“We live every day between hope and belief. Because when we are stronger, we believe in our victory. We believe that we will be supported. If the situation is a little bit more difficult, we hope,” said Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s prosecutor general. “Russia is weaponizing time.”

Next to him, Gen. Robert Brieger, an Austrian who currently serves as the chairman of the EU military committee, said that the EU has rapidly increased production of new military equipment, for both EU members and Ukraine.

“The ambition is to produce one million 155mm artillery ammunition rounds by spring next year,” Brieger said. “Probably we will not fully reach this ambition.”

The Austrian general was sober to the point of sullenness in his remarks, acknowledging that June’s baby coup by Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had not weakened Putin to the extent many were hoping.

US, UK publish guidance for secure-by-design AI


The United States and United Kingdom released joint guidance late Sunday on how to develop secure artificial intelligence software in what officials call a “significant step” towards cybersecurity protocols for machine-learning tools.

Created by the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency and the UK National Cyber Security Centre — with input from 21 other global ministries and agencies — the Guidelines for Secure AI System Development serves as the first of its kind in internationally agreed-upon AI development guidance.

Experts have said the strength of the U.S. economy and national security depend on leading the development of global standards for AI and other emerging technologies.

“We are at an inflection point in the development of artificial intelligence, which may well be the most consequential technology of our time,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a press release. “Cybersecurity is key to building AI systems that are safe, secure and trustworthy.”

Implementing a secure-by-design approach to training machine learning systems is a key pillar within the guidance, which outlines four steps to reduce cybersecurity risks and other vulnerabilities in AI systems: secure design, secure development, secure deployment, and secure operation and maintenance.

A Shift in the EU

George Friedman

Last week’s election in the Netherlands produced a radical change. Traditionally, the Netherlands is among the most classically liberal states in Europe. But in a vote whose focus was immigration and climate change, Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom came out on top, though short of a majority. Governments in marginal member states in the European Union, such as Hungary, have taken similar stances in the past (particularly on immigration), but the Netherlands is a founding member of the EU and despite its small size, it has always been at the center of shaping and representing the bloc’s values. In times of economic disparity and division, the willingness of key EU members to stand together to defend certain core moral principles has held the bloc together.

However, the results of the Dutch election repudiated two core principles of the European Union. They may also give the Netherlands an economic advantage in Europe. Fighting climate change is an existential and moral imperative, but it is also expensive, dramatically raising the cost of production on a range of products. Meanwhile, curbs on immigration – particularly when the immigrants are low-skilled and come from a very different culture – will likely cut public costs on supporting immigrants.

These apparent economic perks are important, but they are not the critical thing to watch coming out of the Dutch election. In the Netherlands and elsewhere, proponents of fighting climate change or welcoming immigrants have tended to justify their positions by asserting moral and economic benefits. Critics and challengers have at times been met with not careful refutation but a kind of moral shaming, implying that the questions themselves are a sign of moral corruption.

Going Big: The Story Of Open Dat

Ivan Shkvarun

To anticipate the future, we need to make sense of the past. And while the implications that open data hold for us today are wide-reaching, they also emerge from a logical evolution that I have been closely connected to throughout my professional life. This is an account of that story through the lens of my career experiences and reflections on the subject, which span the past, present and future, as well as the corporate world and the individual.


It was 2004, and the era of social media was yet to appear. I was a fresh-faced student just starting my third year at university when a job opportunity arose—I was invited to join the information security team of a large enterprise company.

Taking up my new post, I was confronted by a pretty formidable task. Could I create a system capable of gathering and analyzing data from various sources and storing it in an orderly and accessible way for future use? There was no existing model to work from; I had to generate something from scratch by coming up with creative solutions to the challenges that the unstructured data posed.

Setting about the task, my major considerations were twofold. Firstly, the system needed to take into account the skill level of the end users in the analytics team. Secondly, it would also have to accommodate the analysts’ demands, allowing them to look into data extracted from a range of sources. The overall goal of all this was clear—to mitigate the inherent risks the company faced through its business dealings, especially B2C collaborations.

In the course of establishing the new system, I devoted a huge amount of time to researching companies and their personnel, digging up any information of interest to gain valuable insights and identify red flags. This work also gave me the chance to start integrating automation methods and accelerating the processes. However, the sphere of data in those days was hugely underdeveloped compared to what it’s like today.