19 December 2023

Increased Russian-Iranian Defense Cooperation Poses Threat To Ukraine And The West

Fuad Shahbazov

On November 28, Iranian state media reported that Tehran had finalized a long-awaited deal with Russia to procure Sukhoi Su-35 fighters jets, attack helicopters, and military trainer aircraft. Although some sources dubbed the announcement as another round of government speculation, Iranian Deputy Defense Minister General Mahdi Farahi confirmed the reports to semi-official news agency Tasnim (Tasnim News Agency, November 28).

For its part, the Kremlin has yet to publicly confirm the reported agreement. Over the past year, Iran has made strides in the modernization and development of its air and naval forces. Intensified cooperation with Russia has largely facilitated that progress, with both sides signing agreements to boost their trade, energy, and military ties. The recent expansion of that partnership threatens Western interests in the wider region and could pose future risks to global stability.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Iran relied more on China than Russia for military assistance. Tehran steadily purchased Chinese-made cruise missiles to bolster its naval forces and upgraded surface warships despite the international embargo imposed on Iran (Inss.org.il, May 10, 2021; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, accessed December 12). Later, China abstained from exporting sophisticated weaponry to Iran out of concerns over possible sanctions and an open confrontation with the United States. As a result, Iran gradually established closer strategic ties with Russia, and Moscow began assisting Tehran in acquiring modern military technology (Al Jazeera, September 20).

The Real Beneficiary of The Gaza Conflict

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

Since the attacks initiated by Hamas on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s ongoing retaliatory counteroffensive, the situation in the region has been getting worse at an unprecedented rate. Although the armed conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a source of worry for decades, the Iran-backed Hamas attacks did absolutely nothing for the Gaza civilians or the Palestinian cause as a whole in terms of bringing about any potential reconciliation and achieving any peace in the short term.

Given that it funds and trains Hamas, it is very likely that Iran knew about Hamas’ plans in advance. At the same time, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) was close to reaching a normalization agreement with Israel under United States (US) sponsorship. Such an agreement was highly likely to include the possibility of a KSA civilian nuclear program, further strengthening US-KSA defense cooperation, and the possibility of a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians under Saudi influence.

Furthermore, almost a month before the Hamas attacks, a plan for creating the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC) was announced during the G20 summit in New Delhi. The IMEC, which is envisioned as a regionally strategic connectivity project, primarily includes India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the KSA, Jordan, and Israel. Given the macro-scale of the project and its impact on trade flow between India and Europe, it was expected that the project would bring about an unprecedented level of integration and strategic cooperation on multiple fronts between the nations involved, which would in turn contribute to a more peaceful, stable, safer, and rapidly developing Middle East. All the previously mentioned undoubtedly go against Iran’s longstanding regional ambitions and destabilizing agenda toward many of the Arab states.

Houthis Ramp Up Attack Against American Forces in the Red Sea


Amid Israel’s continued ground incursion against the Sunni-Islamic terrorist group Hamas, following the Oct. 7 massacre against Israeli civilians, the Houthi rebels, the Islamic Republic of Iran-backed terrorist group, continue to attack American naval ships and commercial vessels.

Houthi rebels claimed responsibility Tuesday for a missile strike on a Norwegian-flagged tanker, reiterating its support for the military campaign against Israel and the United States.

In November, the terrorist group seized an Israel-linked cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader, and its international crew onboard. The terrorist organization recorded their attack on social media and other websites, showcasing it to the entire world.

According to reports, the assault by the Iranian-backed terrorist group against the Norwegian oil and chemical tanker Strinda occurred in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Houthi military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Saree issued a video statement saying the group only fired on the tanker when it “rejected all warning calls.”

The U.S. military’s Central Command in the Middle East (CENTCOM) said an anti-ship cruise missile was “launched from a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen,” hitting the Strinda.

The Houthis say they are defending the Palestinians from Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip and have launched a series of drones and missiles towards Israel.

American and French warships patrolling the Red Sea have taken down several missiles and drones several times since the terrorist groups began the attacks.

Making Gaza Unlivable


Abdullah Al-Arian is a Palestinian American associate professor of history at Georgetown University in Qatar. He is the author of Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat’s Egypt and the editor of Football in the Middle East: State, Society, and the Beautiful Game. He is also the editor of the Critical Currents in Islam page on the Jadaliyya e-zine and a policy member of Al-Shabaka. In an interview with Diwan conducted via email in early December, Arian analyzed Israel’s ongoing and all-out military assault on the Gaza Strip.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf: We are now several weeks into the massive Israeli military response to the October 7 attack by Gaza-based Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on southern Israel. What are the people of Gaza facing?

Abdullah Al-Arian: Having already endured a debilitating blockade since 2007 and multiple Israeli military assaults since 2008, the 2.3 million Palestinian residents of Gaza are now suffering an unimaginable combination of the most destructive bombardment campaign of a civilian population in recent memory and the slow death that comes with imposed thirst, starvation, and the total decimation of the healthcare sector. To date, more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed by this combination of blockade and bombing, over 7,000 of them children. Nearly 50,000 people have been injured, with uncounted others still missing beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings. There is a growing consensus among scholars, legal experts, and human rights officials that Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to genocide.

Early indications, both in terms of the statements issued by members of the Israeli government as well as by the military’s actions on the ground, appeared to signal that Israel was pursuing a major ethnic cleansing campaign on the order of the Nakba of 1948, which resulted in the mass expulsion of an estimated 750,000 people—roughly 80–90 percent of Palestinians in the territory that would become Israel. Having failed to convince its American and European allies or any Arab state to accept the mass expulsion of Palestinians into Egypt as a matter of official policy, Israel now appears to be creating conditions whereby Gaza’s territory is significantly diminished through unprecedented destruction and a long-term military occupation.

Israel's War on Hamas: How Many Palestinian Deaths Is Too Many?

William M. Arkin

Palestinian civilian casualties have become the issue in the Hamas War, precipitating worldwide condemnation of Israel. "A staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said. "Far too many" Palestinians have been killed, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. President Joe Biden summed up the dilemma Tuesday, saying that while Israel has had European support in addition to U.S. backing, "they're starting to lose the support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place."

The high number of Palestinian deaths has provoked accusations of Israeli war crimes and even genocide, on the premise that civilians are being intentionally targeted. Government officials from around the world and media outlets have sustained the impression that Israel is attacking hospitals, schools, refugee camps and humanitarian facilities, all seemingly with a disregard for civilian life. If Israel were attacking indiscriminately or targeting civilians—it's not—that would indeed constitute a war crime.

Calculating the acceptability of taking any human life creates the weightiest of moral dilemmas, and the images of suffering in Gaza have prompted demands by many for a ceasefire. But armies must always weigh the cost of civilian lives against any perceived military advantage according to the laws of war.

To try to answer the question of whether so many civilian deaths and injuries are indeed too many—according to legal definitions of proportionality—Newsweek spoke to over a dozen active and retired Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and U.S. military and intelligence officers, all of whom were able to speak more candidly because they were granted anonymity, often in criticizing the conduct of the war. Newsweek also spoke to a number of prominent human rights experts and has reviewed Israeli and American classified data relating to the conflict.

Israel Is Looking for a Permanent Change on Its Border With Lebanon

Tom O'Connor

As Israel seeks to neutralize the threat posed by the Hamas movement amid the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official has told Newsweek that the country is also looking for a long-term change on its northern front with the powerful Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.

Since the IDF launched its full-scale attack on Gaza in the wake of an unprecedented surprise attack conducted by Hamas and other Palestinian factions on October 7, Hezbollah has engaged in an escalating series of clashes with Israeli forces, using rockets, drones, mortars and anti-tank weapons.

With violence on the Lebanese front approaching levels not seen since the last war fought between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, the IDF official told Newsweek that "we will not return to the situation that was on the 6th of October in the north."

"It means we will not allow our civilians neither in the Gaza envelope nor on the Lebanese border to be under this threat," the IDF official said.

While the IDF official emphasized that "our focus is on Gaza," and that operations continued to be centered on defeating Hamas, the official said that the recruitment of 350,000 additional IDF personnel and the existing capabilities of Israel, including its air force, remained ready to respond to a broader conflict in the north, or anywhere in the region if needed.

"We are prepared for that. We are on alert for that," the IDF official said. "We have the people, the personnel that is exactly ready for that, but we don't want to do that yet."

Israel's Netanyahu on Collision Course With Joe Biden

Brendan Cole

The Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spiraling toward a diplomatic row with its closest ally after it rejected criticism by U.S. President Joe Biden about its conduct in the war against Hamas.

Much has happened since Biden stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Netanyahu in Israel soon after the October 7 Hamas attacks in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage. Biden since has expressed growing discomfort over civilian deaths in Gaza.

Biden warned that Israel was losing international support because of "indiscriminate bombing" by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which health authorities in Gaza said has resulted in 18,600 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Biden added that Netanyahu needed to "change" and that his right-wing coalition allies were "making it very difficult for him to move" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The sentiment was echoed by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who said that Israel will continue the war in Gaza "with or without international support," posing a growing headache for the U.S. president over such a public rebuke.

"Biden has to walk a tightrope in his relations with Netanyahu, and the more his spat spills out into public view, the greater the risks for the White House," said Thomas Gift, the founding director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London.

Iran Warns Netanyahu Is Bringing Biden Down With Him in Gaza

Tom O'Connor

The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations has warned in an exclusive interview with Newsweek that President Joe Biden risked further hindering the United States' global image and influence along with his own election campaign if he could not bring an end to Israel's ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

Throughout the interview, Amir Saeid Iravani, who was appointed as Iran's permanent representative to the U.N. last year, recounted a history of resistance factions that have emerged throughout the course of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as Tehran's crucial relationship with these groups and their cause.

Amid the deadliest-ever confrontation sparked October 7 by a Hamas-led surprise attack, Iravani defended the use of armed struggle by Palestinians, but stated such efforts were not aimed at Israel's destruction, nor should they target civilians. Rather, he said the underlying goal was to achieve statehood and an end to Israeli occupation, something he contended could not be achieved by military means alone.

But as he argued Israel's military campaign would only strengthen Hamas, he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was staking his own political future to success in Gaza, and that Biden needed an end to the conflict to score points in the run-up to his own 2024 election. And if the war persists, Iravani warned, it will only beget more Middle East headaches for the U.S. as its troops already faced regular attacks across Iraq and Syria.

Iravani: Prior to the 1979 victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Palestinian militant groups predominantly espoused socialist ideologies. The genesis of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine stemmed from the influence exerted by the Islamic movement of the Iranian revolution. This influence instilled within them a profound self-assurance, fostering the belief that they could confront the occupier and emerge victorious. The enduring memory of Arab governments' defeats in the wars spanning from 1948 through 1982—the years 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982—imbued a prevailing sense of despondency among the Arab nations. This despondency rendered them bereft of the capacity to mount resistance to Israel.

Washington Urges Israel to Scale Down Its War in Gaza

Adam Entous, Aaron Boxerman and Thomas Fuller

Biden administration officials want Israel to end its large-scale ground and air campaign in the Gaza Strip within weeks and to transition to a more targeted phase in its war against Hamas, American officials said Thursday.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met with Israeli leaders on Thursday about the direction of the war. Mr. Sullivan did not specify a timetable, but four U.S. officials said Mr. Biden wants Israel to switch to more precise tactics in about three weeks. The officials asked for anonymity to discuss the president’s thinking.

American officials have made that timeline clear to their Israeli counterparts in recent days, the latest step in a gradual move by the administration to communicate that American patience with widespread civilian deaths is running out.

“I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives — not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday after a speech on prescription drug costs at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

The new phase that the Americans envision would involve smaller groups of elite forces that would move in and out of population centers in Gaza, carrying out more precise missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and destroy tunnels, the officials said.

The moment appeared to be the most definitive effort yet by the United States to restrain Israel in its campaign against Hamas for the attacks it led on Oct. 7, particularly as the conditions in Gaza turn catastrophic.

Stabilizing the Border: A Possible Way Ahead in the Post-Galwan Situation



An abnormal situation continues to prevail along the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) three years after the Galwan valley incident despite bilateral talks to resolve the matter. Although progress is being made, the force levels on both sides and the close proximity in which they are deployed increase the chances of a deadly mishap or an unintended encounter. Even after a mutually satisfactory resolution is achieved, it may still take several months to build back a broad political understanding at the state-to-state level and reverse the erosion in trust.

This paper examines why the existing agreements and measures to preserve peace and tranquility along the LAC were not entirely successful in mitigating the military face-offs between the two sides since 2013, including in the Galwan valley in 2020. It also explores whether the three-stage formula1 that is being talked of is a way of resolving the issue—disengagement, de-escalation, and de-induction2 of forces—especially the de-induction of forces, could practically work given the absence of trust as well as the geographical and climatic conditions in which the two sides operate. The paper concludes that unless political trust exists, the de-induction of forces may not be achievable. India should be ready for a prolonged state of military preparedness by establishing a credible deterrence along the LAC and adequate reserves in the rear to respond to fresh aggression, while simultaneously engaging China to negotiate a modus vivendi in the border areas. Specific options both on negotiating a new balance with China and building deterrence are suggested.

The first section of the paper looks at ways in which both sides created the building blocks of border management in the 1990s. The objective is to determine which elements succeeded in achieving peace and tranquility and why this framework has shown stress in more recent times. This section highlights that the border management framework, as originally envisaged, encompassed immediate measures to both stave off unintended conflict and longer-term ways and means to maintain peace and tranquility along the entire border region through mutual force reduction. It explores the possible reasons as to why the longer-term objective of mutual force reduction was not pursued. The paper concludes that peace and tranquility could not be sustainably maintained because the focus was on short-term management of situations to the detriment of long-term measures that would reduce the risks.

The Mystery of India’s Assassination Plots

Hartosh Singh Bal

On November 29, the U.S. Department of Justice made a startling announcement: an Indian government official had tried to assassinate a U.S. citizen on American soil. According to the DOJ, the official offered to pay $100,000 for a hit man to murder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun—an activist who has called for the Indian state of Punjab to secede and form an independent country. He is not the first Sikh separatist Indian that officials have been accused of trying to kill. Just two months earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that India was responsible for the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a separatist gunned down in June outside a Sikh place of worship in British Columbia.

Both the attempted killing of Pannun and the successful killing of Nijjar have prompted outrage from human rights activists around the world, as well as from U.S. and Canadian politicians. But the incidents have also prompted confusion. India is, ostensibly, friends with Canada and the United States. New Delhi has sought closer ties with Washington as both governments look to constrain Beijing’s ambitions. Sikh separatism may have been a threat to the Indian state in the 1980s and 1990s, when separatists waged a bloody insurgency in hopes of turning Punjab into an independent state called Khalistan. But it has since largely faded, with the cause kept alive mostly by zealots in the diaspora. Why, then, would India jeopardize important geopolitical relationships for the sake of murdering two individuals on the political fringe?

In its response to Nijjar’s killing, New Delhi hinted that the answer had to do with India’s security. The government accused Canada of providing “shelter” to “terrorists and extremists” who “threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” even as it denied responsibility for the attack. Other analysts have suggested the assassinations are designed to bolster Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image as a strong and decisive leader.

But neither hypothesis is compelling. Sikh secessionism has not returned to India. And if the government were looking to bolster Modi’s image as a strong Hindu nationalist leader, posturing that invokes an Islamist threat—with Pakistan as the perfect stand-in—would work much better. After all, New Delhi did just that ahead of elections in 2019; in February of that year, India claimed its aircraft hit targets in Pakistan in retaliation for a militant attack on an Indian army convoy in Kashmir.

Terrorism Hot Spots

In contrast to a declining terrorism threat in the West, attacks in other regions have increased in number and intensity. The data for 2022 shows improvement over the previous year, but this is because the Afghan Taliban were designated as a state actor after their takeover in the latter half of 2021. Islamic State remains the largest and deadliest terrorist group. Its affiliates in Africa (e.g., Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique, Islamic State West Africa Province in the Sahel and the Allied Democratic Forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) make up for its dwindling presence in the Middle East.

Western-backed military operations in West Africa, including the G5 Sahel task force, had somewhat stabilized those regions. However, frustration among civilians and some local military elements with the slow pace of progress resulted in a series of coups. Military regimes in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali promised greater security, but instead the situation has worsened; the Sahel accounted for 43 percent of all terrorism-related deaths in 2022, a 7 percent increase over 2021. The situation is similar in Myanmar, where attacks increased in 2022 and where the ruling junta is battling several armed groups.

Fighting reported to be continuing in northern Myanmar despite China saying it arranged a cease-fire

Grant Peck

Reports from Myanmar said there was continuing fighting Friday in the northeast of the country between the military government and an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups, even after China announced that the two sides had reached agreement on a cease-fire at meetings it had brokered.

Clashes have been raging in the northern part of Myanmar’s Shan state since Oct. 27, when the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, branding themselves the Three Brotherhood Alliance, launched a coordinated offensive.

MeKong News, an online news site reporting from Shan state, said on its Facebook page that the army was carrying out airstrikes and firing heavy weapons Friday morning in the area around 105-Mile Trade Zone in Muse, a major city that is a border crossing point with China.

The report said that according to town residents, the Three Brotherhood Alliance forces had occupied a strategic hill near the trade zone on Thursday evening after heavy fighting.

There were similar reports in other Myanmar media, including Khit Thit news, but no way to independently confirm them.

Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson of the ruling military council, was quoted in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper on Friday as saying that there was fighting in the areas between Namhkam township and the 105-Mile Trade Zone in Muse, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to its east.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning had said Thursday on the sidelines of a news conference in Beijing that China had acted as a mediator for a cease-fire between the army and the alliance, and that there had been a notable de-escalation of fighting in the area near the border with China.

Setting the Record Straight: The KMT Defense Blueprint for Taiwan

Howard Shen

On December 1, in an op-ed for The Diplomat, the director of International Affairs for Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Vincent Chao, deliberately distorted the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) position on compulsory military service. It misleads readers around the world who are eager to understand the issues that will determine the winner of Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, and that is most unfortunate.

KMT presidential candidate Dr. Hou Yu-ih, during his visit to the United States this past September, made clear to U.S. government officials and scholars that a KMT government will continue to invest in a strong national defense including deterrence capabilities. Defense spending, weapons systems acquisitions, and the length of compulsory service will all be threat-based. A Hou administration will not only uphold “continuity” in Taiwan’s defense strategy but will also inject innovative policy proposals to further expand cooperation in common security interests with Taiwan’s allies.

The KMT’s comprehensive defense policy includes the creation of a cabinet-level national defense council for civil defense and reserves mobilization, a common operations picture across our military services, improved C4ISRT, and investment in Taiwan’s asymmetric capabilities based on a rebalancing of where we invest and which defense systems we acquire.

The DPP’s defense policy lacks an overall strategic blueprint and overemphasizes superficiality in terms of overall defense mobilization. The DPP plan does not address the plummeting retention rate and is out of touch – with its unpragmatic conscription plan severely impacting both voluntary servicemen and conscripts.

New Stage for the Military Conflict in Myanmar?

Michael Martin

The military conflict in Myanmar entered a new stage over the last month, one that may portend the future collapse of the country’s military and its nominal government, the State Administrative Council (SAC). For the first time since the military coup on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military is facing serious challenges on at least six different fronts.

The future of the SAC has been placed at risk primarily due to the sacrifices of tens of thousands of volunteers who have joined previously existing major ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) formed after the 2021 coup. Although the self-professed National Unity Government (NUG) does finance a number of PDFs, it has not been a major military factor in the destabilization of the SAC.

On October 27, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, a coalition consisting of the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army launched a major military offensive, dubbed “Operation 1027,” in northern Shan State. The alliance’s forces quickly seized control of dozens of the Myanmar military’s bases and outposts in the region. On November 11, a coalition of Karenni EAOs launched a separate military offensive in Kayah (Karenni) State, named “Operation 1111,” with similar success. Then, on November 13, the AA attacked several Myanmar military posts in Rakhine State in apparent solidarity with the Three Brotherhood Alliance and the Karenni forces.

In addition to the three recent EAO offensives, the Myanmar military is also struggling with recent attacks in the states of Chin, Kachin, Kayin (Karen), and Mon that have resulted in the loss of military bases and outputs and have undermined SAC administrative control in those states. On November 30, various PDFs operating in Tanintharyi Region announced the formation of the Southern Brothers Army. As a result, the SAC has seen the territory under its nominal control shrink to a narrowing corridor running from Mandalay in the north, through the capital city of Naypyitaw, to Yangon in the south.

U.S. economy unprepared for conflict with China, House Select Committee on CCP says


WASHINGTON (TND) – In a new report, the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party issued 150 recommendations for federal action to fortify the American economy and put it in a stronger position to outcompete China.

In a new report, the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party issued 150 recommendations for federal action to fortify the American economy and put it in a stronger position to outcompete China. (TND)

The report says, “The United States lacks a contingency plan for the economic and financial impacts of conflict with the (People's Republic of China)," and prioritizes a diversification of supply chains and a crackdown on illicit trade practices.

The committee called for a reset of the U.S.-China trade relationship, restrictions on the flow of U.S. investment and technology that fuels China's military modernization and human rights abuses, as well as steps to make sure the U.S. leads the world in technological advances like artificial intelligence.

Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., called the recommendations a "roadmap for a new, ambitious economic policy."

“We can only outcompete the CCP by being the best version of ourselves internally and externally," Krishnamoorthi said.

The report passed almost unanimously out of committee on Tuesday.

Why the World Should Still Worry About Dirty Bombs

William C. Potter, Sarah Bidgood, Hanna Notte

In the years after the 9/11 attacks, a new threat loomed large in the minds of policymakers and the public: the dirty bomb. This term describes a radiological weapon that used an explosive to disperse radioactive material over a limited area. A dirty bomb is far less powerful than a nuclear bomb, but it is easier and cheaper to assemble and can cause tremendous panic and disruption. Many analysts feared that terrorist groups would seek to develop and use such weapons: In 2002, U.S. officials announced the detention of Jose Padilla, an American citizen and alleged al Qaeda operative who they insisted intended to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States. Since then, several governments in Europe have claimed to have foiled similar plots by terrorist groups.

But visions of dirty bombs and radiological terrorism obscured the fact that the threat from radiological weapons was not limited to terrorist groups. Indeed, for decades, major countries including the United States and the Soviet Union pioneered the development of these weapons. And now, as the norm against nuclear weapons is weakening and tensions between great powers mount, there is reason to worry that the dangers posed by radiological arms proliferation may be growing again.

In the past, at least five states expressed interest in weapons designed to disperse radioactive material without a nuclear detonation. Four states actively pursued them, and three—Iraq, the Soviet Union, and the United States—tested them on multiple occasions before ultimately choosing not to deploy them. The largely obscure history of the development of radiological weaponry helps to explain its appeal, especially in the context of rising international hostilities, a breakdown in nuclear arms control, and a loss of faith in the credibility of security assurances.

Bridging the gap: Army validates division-led river crossing

Jen Judson

The U.S. Army successfully validated a force structure change meant to help it make better wet gap crossings during large scale combat operations, according to service leaders.

Defense experts have long considered U.S. bridging capability inadequate, particularly in the European theater.

Building bridges over rivers or other bodies of water to advance forward in an operation sounds simple, but involves complex coordination to ensure the enemy is suppressed long enough to move thousands of soldiers and equipment across and that the bridges can support even the heaviest combat vehicles and tanks.

And strong wet gap crossing capabilities are expected to be needed in the Indo-Pacific region, according to both Army officials and defense experts.

“The U.S. clearly does not have enough river crossing capability, and river crossing is an important part of what’s happening in Ukraine,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who previously led U.S. Army Europe, told Defense News in an interview earlier this year. Beyond Ukraine, bridging is “a capability that we need to have in a lot of places in the world.”

Typically, engineer brigades, which provide bridging capability, are a corps-level asset, but during a large-scale combat exercise — Remagen Ready — at Fort Cavazos, Texas, earlier this fall, the 36th Engineer Brigade was taken out of the III Armored Corps and brought into the 1st Cavalry Division, Maj. Gen. Kevin Admiral, 1st Cavalry Division commander, told Defense News in a Dec. 12 interview.

Corps are made up of two divisions and roughly 20,000 to 45,000 troops total, while divisions are made up of three brigades and 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers.

Pentagon eyeing ‘bridging’ solutions for JADC2


Developing new technologies and architectures to enable the U.S. military’s ambitious vision for Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control may take a while. In the near term, the Department of Defense needs “bridging” solutions that might be discarded once better capabilities come online, according to a top official overseeing the initiative.

The aim of CJADC2 is to connect the various sensors, shooters and data streams of the armed services and their international partners, under a more unified network. A number of efforts are underway to facilitate that, include the Department of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, the Department of the Navy’s Project Overmatch, and the Army’s Project Convergence.

A cross-functional team on the Joint Staff has been set up to provide guidance across the services.

“One of the things that we have identified in the CJADC2 CFT is the requirement for a bridging solution, right, because we need something today to close the gap or to smooth interoperability,” Rear Adm. Susan BryerJoyner, the Joint Staff’s deputy director for command, control, communications and computer/cyber systems, J-6, said during a panel at the Association of Old Crows annual symposium.

“A bridging solution is something that’s good enough today but may not be the final solution. That is not exactly aligned with the way we do business in DOD, or the way that Congress likes to … see us do business, because that could be viewed as wasteful. And so what we also do is to say, ‘Okay, for the long term, is there a specific vector that we think the bridging solution should kind of aim to bridge towards?’ And when there is, we try and marry the two. Sometimes there’s not, because the solution may still be in development and there’s nothing to bridge to,” she said.

The final report card for COP28

After fourteen days in the desert, it ended with a “beginning.” On Wednesday, the 2023 United Nations Climate Conference in Dubai, also known as COP28, concluded with nearly two hundred countries agreeing to “transition” away from fossil fuels. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell called the decision the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. But the agreement text was only one of many outcomes from the conference, including the activation of the loss and damage fund and pledges to abate methane emissions and triple renewable energy. Below, Atlantic Council experts who were on the ground in Dubai share their insights on the agreement and the road ahead.

No ‘phase-down’ or ‘phaseout’

  • The compromise agreement to transition away from fossil fuels was “commendable,” Jorge tells us, but the lack of a timeline for attaining this goal “puts the world at risk of crossing the 1.5 °C warming threshold, significantly increasing the risks and impacts of climate change.”
  • At the same time, “the ‘success’ of COP28 was never going to be measured by unrealistic expectations around phasing out fossil fuels,” says Landon.
  • Among the opponents of “phaseout” language were African nations. Aubrey points out that this is because they “need to be able to harness their fossil fuel resources, namely natural gas, in order to provide electricity to the six hundred million” people on the continent who lack reliable access.
  • But for others, the compromise was a deep disappointment. The decision “evoked widespread frustration, notably among the small island developing states, indigenous communities, and climate activists,” Racha says.

US girding up for cyberattacks against satellites


This month, the US Space Force participated in a training exercise to refine its defensive and offensive skills using the Moonlighter imaging satellite.

The Space Force says Moonlighter is the world’s first and only hacking sandbox in space, previously featured in Space Systems Command’s Hack-a-Sat 4 competition. The source notes that the primary objective of the Moonlighter exercise was to enhance the US Space Force’s defensive cyber operations capabilities, aligning with evolving threats in the space-cyber domain.

The source says the exercise adopted a “Purple Team” approach, where offensive (Red Team) and defensive (Blue Team) forces collaborated to create a learning environment that encouraged growth and adaptability.

As for the participating units, the source says that the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron Cyber Flight took on the role of the Red Team, probing the Moonlighter satellite’s defenses and providing a realistic testing environment for the Blue Team.

It notes that the Blue Team, comprising units such as the 62nd Cyberspace Squadron (CYS), 64th CYS, 65th CYS, 68th CYS, 663rd CYS, 664th CYS, and Delta 6, Det 1, worked to protect the Moonlighter satellite, developing and deploying strategies to defend against cyberattacks and safeguard the satellite’s critical functions.

Military importance of satellites

Space-based assets such as satellites play an increasing role in enabling military operations. Satellites have become critical command and control nodes, bringing several cyber vulnerabilities.

Experts react: The EU made a deal on AI rules. But can regulators move at the speed of tech?

Frances G. Burwell, Rose Jackson, Graham Brookie, Konstantinos Komaitis, Kenneth Propp, Nicole Lawler & Trisha Ray

Ahead of the curve or behind the times? That’s what some are asking just days after European Union (EU) policymakers reached a deal on the world’s first comprehensive artificial intelligence (AI) rules in the form of the AI Act. The law would subject AI technologies to different requirements, with “limited risk” AI systems being required to abide by transparency rules and AI tools with “unacceptable” risk being entirely banned from the EU. But the rules aren’t slated to come into effect until 2025. Will the legislation keep up with the explosion of AI tools or will it get stale? And will other countries follow soon? Our (human) experts gave us their takes below.

A marker for how democracies should deal with AI

The agreement Friday by EU member states and the European Parliament on the AI Act opens an era in which governments will move beyond codes of conduct and voluntary guidelines in their efforts to manage this new technology. The law bans some uses of AI that infringe on human rights and civil liberties. It also requires that developers of “high risk” AI systems—systems that impact how companies treat their workers, as well as uses involving critical infrastructure, law enforcement, border control, and others—must provide details on training, ensure transparency for users, and offer opportunities for appeal and redress.

The AI Act’s aspirations mirror those expressed in the Biden administration’s recent executive order on AI and Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. But Brussels has created real rules, backed up with serious potential fines. Some issues of concern to US companies, such as including recommender systems from social media as high risk, are not in the final text, although many questions about implementation remain. But overall, the United States and EU are headed in the same direction.

Author Talks: Dr. Fei-Fei Li sees ‘worlds’ of possibilities in a multidisciplinary approach to AI

Artificial intelligence is ushering in a new era of discovery that will affect the future. Dr. Fei-Fei Li offers a human-centered approach to AI that could maximize its potential and mitigate the risks.

What’s the significance of the book’s title?

This book is a science memoir, so it captures both the science part of AI as well as the journey of a scientist who is coming of age. My background is, I guess, not that of a typical kid. So I do traverse different worlds physically, temporally. As a scientist who has been involved not only in the science of it but also in the social aspect of the science, I see the worlds in different dimensions, so it was very important that I made this plural, The Worlds. Because I’m a computer-vision AI scientist, the worlds I see capture that very essence of seeing.

Why was it important to capture the essence of ‘seeing’?

Capturing the essence is important because people can tell stories when they open their eyes and see a scene. I’m seeing you, and I can tell a story of you. That is part of the cornerstone of intelligence.

When I was a PhD student, I thought that would be my lifelong goal and dream: to get computers to “see” and tell the gist of the story. So I made it a project with my graduate students when I was a professor. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the technology has this long, linear acceleration. We pretty much solved that problem way earlier than my life’s work has finished.

Why did you write this book?

At the beginning of the pandemic, in 2020, I was invited to write a science–AI book for the public. I spent a year writing a nerd book while thinking about the public general audience. I showed it to my very good friend and codirector of Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, John Etchemendy. He’s a very wise guy and a philosopher. He called me and said, “You have to rewrite.” I was very shocked and depressed by his comment.

'It's both over- and underhyped': Young Global Leaders' insights on artificial intelligence

Miao Sun
  • Experts, regulators and business leaders must shape the direction of artificial intelligence with caution.
  • Inequalities generated by the technology should not be neglected.
  • Young Global Leaders from 22 countries recently met to discuss about this rapidly evolving technology.
As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues reshaping how we live and work, it has introduced new demands and expectations for leadership. Artificial intelligence, for better or worse, has not only revolutionized major industries, but will also deeply impact the global economy and beyond. In September, 39 World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders (YGLs) from 22 countries participated in an immersive education module at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), themed Our AI-Driven Future: Prospects and Pitfalls.

In today's fragmented world of geopolitical tensions, environmental crises and economic downturns fundamentally rooted in mistrust, it is imperative for leaders to take collective action addressing pressing global issues. This inaugural module convened a diverse group of young leaders to Greater China, serving a dual purpose. It provided a panoramic perspective on artificial intelligence while fostering cultural exchange within regional contexts.

Weapons aid sent to low-income nations may fuel instability, Army-sponsored study finds


Sending American weapons and other forms of military support to countries that lack stable governments raises the odds of armed conflict, proxy wars and terrorism in the places where those arms are sent, according to a new Army-sponsored study.

“In such cases, U.S. materiel assistance might embolden regimes in ways that ultimately prove self-defeating,” the Rand Corp. think tank said in a report released Wednesday.

The report, which looked at 65 years of overseas U.S. troop deployments, exercises and military assistance initiatives in 160 countries, revealed that some tools were more effective than others in deterring conflicts and promoting stability.

Perhaps the riskiest of the tools is sending arms to lower-income countries or those with a history of instability.

For example, Rand said it was possible that U.S. military assistance to Georgia “led to more-aggressive policies by the Tbilisi government, which ultimately set it on a collision course with Moscow that ended in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.”

A service member briefs Niger special operations soldiers on range procedures near Abidjan, Ivory Coast, while participating in Exercise Flintlock, March 2, 2023. A recent Rand Corp. report questioned the efficacy and risks of military aid in countries with fragile political institutions.