21 December 2023

The Hamas plots to kill European Jews


German and Danish police have uncovered a Hamas terrorist plot to attack Jewish targets in Europe. This is potentially yet more evidence, if any were needed, that Hamas’s overriding objective is the slaughter of Jewish people, not the ‘liberation’ of Gaza.

Last week, German authorities arrested four suspects linked to Hamas, three in Berlin and one in the Netherlands. One of the four, Abdelhamid Al A, is alleged to have been in the process of transporting weapons from an undisclosed location in Europe to Berlin. From there, they are alleged to have been planning to attack Jewish institutions.

At the same time as the German police were moving in on the four terror suspects, the Danish police were also busy arresting three more on suspicion of plotting to carry out ‘an act of terror’. The Danish authorities said there is no direct connection between their counter-terror operation and Germany’s. Israeli intelligence services, however, have linked the two sets of arrests.

Hamas has predictably denied that it has any connection with those arrested. Such denials would be easier to take seriously if Hamas hadn’t explicitly called on its supporters to commit acts of violence in America, Britain and other countries that support Israel in the days after the 7 October attack. More damning still, German prosecutors stated last week that the four arrested in Germany and the Netherlands are long-standing members of Hamas and have close links to the leadership.

History shows Israel may never win a 'war of occupation'


In response to Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel on October 7, the IDF invaded Gaza with a stated purpose of destroying the terror group. As such, the IDF is fighting what many have come to call a “war of counter-insurgency.”

Hamas has no “army” in any well accepted sense of the word. Rather, Hamas’s military arm is reasonably well-organized (and well-funded) confederation of guerrilla fighters. The IDF’s aim is to kill or otherwise incapacitate Hamas’s fighters and, insofar as possible, leave civilians alone.

But the IDF is not really fighting a war of counter-insurgency in Gaza. What it is fighting is best understood as a “war of occupation.” The Israelis left Gaza in 2005, and now they are back as de facto occupiers. This characterization isn’t to imply that the IDF will stay in Gaza in the long term. They may, they may not. It is rather an apt description of the challenging and dangerous military situation the IDF faces as it stands today.

What is the difference between a war of counter-insurgency and a war of occupation, and is it useful for understanding the war in Gaza?

In a war of counter-insurgency — at least as understood by politicians and theorists insisting that such a war is being fought — there are insurgents and civilians. The former are politically motivated, well-armed, and deadly. The civilians are simply “in the way.” They are politically neutral if not exactly supportive of the troops sent to “help” them. In the understanding of the counter-insurgency experts, most civilians just want the war to end so they can get on with their lives. The West German operations against the Red Army Faction provide an example of a war of counter-insurgency, as does, perhaps, the American effort against al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Will Netanyahu Be the End of Joe Biden’s Presidency?

Paul R. Pillar

Israel’s war in Gaza has become one of the biggest political negatives of Joe Biden’s presidency. Part of this political fallout was inevitable once Hamas staged its attack on October 7. The attack, like most conspicuously untoward events in the world, would be perceived as a black mark on whoever occupies the White House at the time, regardless of whether a U.S. president could have done anything to prevent the event. Moreover, the attack upset the Biden administration’s foreign policy strategy, which had assumed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would stay sufficiently sidelined, allowing the administration to focus more attention on other parts of the world.

But much of the fallout is of Biden’s own making due to his immediate and unconditional embrace of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government, an embrace that Biden has had difficulty backing away from since that same government started inflicting unspeakable death, destruction, and other suffering on the residents of the Gaza Strip. Now, Biden shares ownership of one of the largest manmade humanitarian catastrophes of the past half-century. His “bear hug” strategy of trying to restrain Netanyahu’s government by staying close to him has largely failed. He has lost favor with much of his base within the Democratic Party, whose active support he will need to win re-election.

The most important consequences of these events involve the blow to U.S. interests, which has been painfully obvious as anger and resentment against the United States have surged. Washington has become increasingly isolated in international diplomacy, with a loss of support among other nations for U.S. objectives. But there are parallels with how domestic politics works against Biden. The motivations of the man Biden embraced have much to do with this.

Benjamin Netanyahu is in plenty of domestic political trouble himself. Hamas’s attack shattered the prime minister’s long-cultivated image as Israel’s “Mr. Security.” That shattering was reflected in polls immediately after the attack that showed a plunge in support among Israelis for Netanyahu and his Likud party.

Israel Faces Pressure to Shift to “Low Intensity” Conflict in Gaza

Seth J. Frantzman

Israel faces increasing challenges in Gaza as it continues to fight Hamas while facing calls from the White House to wrap up its combat operations. These twin problems for Israel, the need to execute a fast campaign, and respond to the international community’s concerns have placed the Israel Defense Forces between a rock and a hard place.

The campaign in Gaza began in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. Israel mainly relied on its air force in the first three weeks, carrying out thousands of airstrikes on Hamas targets. In late October, the IDF began a ground operation in northern Gaza. Israel set its sights on the opening moves of the ground operation on surrounding Hamas in northern Gaza and cutting it off from southern Gaza. To accomplish this goal, it sent the Thirty-Sixth Armored Division, one of the heaviest IDF units, to cut Gaza in two south of Gaza City. Once that unit reached the sea, the IDF assaulted numerous neighborhoods around Gaza City.

These first phases, the air campaign and the surrounding Gaza City, were accomplished by early November. Israel and Hamas came to an agreement in which Israel would release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas releasing hostages, primarily women and children. Hamas was holding 240 hostages at the time, including a number of foreign workers it had kidnapped on October 7. The hostage deal fell apart on December 1, and Israel resumed its military campaign.

The first week of the renewed ground offensive brought new surprises. The IDF sent its Ninety-Eighth Division, including commandos, to strike at Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar is the local Gaza-based Hamas leader, whereas other Hamas leaders reside in Doha, Beirut, and other places. The strike at Khan Yunis initially appeared like it might be able to catch Gaza’s Hamas commanders in their hiding place. However, days of fighting revealed that even though the IDF can find the homes of Hamas members and secure parts of neighborhoods, it can’t capture the high-level commanders. Eventually, the Ninety-Eighth settled in for the long haul of fighting street by street. Its rapid advance enabled the IDF to use an airdrop to resupply the unit, trying out precision airdrop technology that might be useful in other operations.

Israeli Military Reveals Tunnel It Says Hamas Built for Large-Scale Attack

Dov Lieber

GAZA—A quarter of a mile from a civilian border crossing between Israel and northern Gaza lies what Israel’s military says is the largest tunnel discovered in the enclave. It is large enough that large vehicles can drive through it, and yet, until recently, Israel didn’t know the tunnel reached right up to its border.

Israeli troops uncovered the tunnel exit buried under a sand dune a few weeks ago. Israeli officials believe that the tunnel, up to 50 meters deep at points, and 2½ miles long, took years and millions of dollars to build and was meant to facilitate a large-scale attack on Israel.

“This is for moving massive assets,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters on Sunday. “It’s strategic.”

The discovery of the large tunnel near the Israeli border provides further insight into how much Hamas has invested into its tunnel program and how little Israel knew about it before the group’s Oct. 7 attacks. Analysts say this large tunnel demonstrates how Hamas has improved its subterranean warfare over the years and raises questions about how many other tunnels of that size are located near Israel without the military being aware of them.

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari called the large tunnel “Sinwar’s secret,” a reference to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and his brother Mohammad Sinwar, who Israeli officials say headed the tunnel building project.

Representatives of Hamas didn’t respond to questions about the group’s tunnel network.

“Hamas has the most extensive and most sophisticated tunnel network ever encountered in warfare,” said Daphné Richemond-Barak, a professor at Israel’s Reichman University and author of a book on underground combat.

The Israeli military took a group of reporters, including from The Wall Street Journal, into the tunnel on Friday. Journalists were able to enter only the first approximately 50 yards of the tunnel, a limitation that the Israeli military said was for their safety.

Israel-Hamas WarU.S. to Push Israel to Scale Back War

Adam Sella

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to keep fighting in Gaza, even as anguish over the Israeli military’s accidental killings of three hostages in the enclave raised new questions about how his government is prosecuting the war.

Amid a mounting outcry over the civilian toll in Gaza, the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, is traveling to the Middle East this week. Mr. Austin is expected to voice support for Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza but also to reinforce the importance of taking civilian safety into account during operations, according to a senior Pentagon official said.

Mr. Netanyahu began a government meeting in Tel Aviv on Sunday by reading from a letter that he said came from families of Israeli soldiers killed fighting in Gaza.

“You have a mandate to fight; you do not have a mandate to stop in the middle,” Mr. Netanyahu read in Hebrew, according to a statement from his office.

As a “testament” to the fallen soldiers, Mr. Netanyahu said, Israel’s military would “fight to the end.”

The letter appears at odds with the message coming from relatives of Israelis still held hostage in Gaza, many of whom have taken to the streets to demand a cease-fire so that their loved ones can return home.

Weekly rallies in support of the hostages have drawn thousands of protesters to Tel Aviv to demonstrate outside the Israeli military’s main headquarters. News that the Israeli military had mistakenly killed the three hostages on Friday added a sense of urgency to the rally on Saturday night.

Why Are The Houthis Attacking Now

Nicholas Brumfield

On the November 19, forces from Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement launched one of their boldest international attacks to date when they seized the vehicle carrier GALAXY LEADER in a commando-style raid in the Red Sea. Flying in on an old Yemeni Army helicopter emblazoned with the flags of Yemen and Palestine, balaclava-clad, assault rifle-armed Houthi fighters rapidly deployed onto the ship’s deck before seizing control of its bridge. As the hijackers redirected the GALAXY LEADER with its 25-member crew to the Houthi-held port of Hudaydah, the world was left wondering if this was the next step on a path to regional war that started in Israel-Palestine and could end in Yemen.

Since October 7th, the Houthi movement has carried out a number of activities ostensibly aimed at pressuring Israel to cease its assault on Gaza, including public mobilization within Yemen, drone and missile attacks on Israel, and attacks on international commercial vessels. These actions, which have made the Houthis one of the most active Iran-backed groups responding to the situation in Gaza, have raised questions regarding the movement’s capabilities, motive and potential next moves.

In fact, many of the Houthis’ recent actions against Israel conform to long-running patterns in the group’s behavior, although their seizure of a civilian vessel in international waters is a new escalation that raises questions over how far they are willing to go in their support of Palestine. Motivated by a mix of domestic political advantage, international alliances, and ideological disposition, so far the Houthis’ intervention in the Gaza crisis has fulfilled a number of important objectives for the group, and it is unlikely to end so long as the Israeli attack on Gaza continues.

What Needs to Happen When the Fighting Stops in Gaza

Daniel Kurtzer

On the day after Israel’s stunning victory in the June 1967 war, Yitzhak Rabin reportedly wrote about the need to “turn the fruits of this war into peace.” Rabin, who as chief of staff had masterminded the strategy and tactics that made the Israel Defense Forces so remarkably successful, understood that a conflict that ends without peace is merely an interregnum until the next war breaks out. Israeli and American policy makers should heed this lesson as they think about the day after the war against Hamas in Gaza.

Significant differences already exist among the key parties. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks of taking on a long-term security responsibility in Gaza, and has seemingly ruled out the return of the Palestinian Authority to govern the territory. American President Joe Biden rejects any extended Israeli presence and argues for resuming efforts to create a two-state peace settlement. The U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, wants a revitalized Palestinian Authority to resume control over Gaza. The PA’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, agrees with Blinken but argues that this can happen only in the context of a broader deal. These leaders might find a way to paper over their disagreements in the immediate aftermath of the war, but missing is a common vision for how to transform the fighting’s outcome, which will probably see Hamas’s military capabilities and political ambitions sharply curtailed, into some more durable arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians.

When thinking about the day after, we need to be mindful that actions now will affect options later. Israel’s stated intention to destroy Hamas—an unlikely prospect—suggests continued fighting, a worsening situation on the ground, and even more civilian casualties. Hamas’s survival strategy is to hang on and emerge as intact as possible when the fighting stops. These war aims, as mutually exclusive as they are, could amount to the same result: a very prolonged conflict. That makes the task of bringing the fighting to an end all the more urgent, once Israel has severely degraded Hamas’s capabilities.

A year of war: 2023 sees worst-ever Israel-Hamas combat as Russian attacks on Ukraine grind on


A boy, his face coated in fresh blood, screams as rescuers try to pull him out of the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. A bruised, elderly Israeli hostage is taken away by Hamas in a golf cart as a man clutching a machine gun sits behind her, smiling. A 10-year-old girl cries next to the body of her brother as he is buried near Kyiv, Ukraine.

This year as in years past, The Associated Press was there up close to document the world’s conflicts and their toll on civilians.

From the Israel-Hamas war to Russia’s grinding battles against Ukraine, 2023 has shown the dangers of armed conflicts breaking out into region-wide combat. But behind their long shadows, the world faces strife in countries stretching both the globe and the alphabet from Afghanistan all the way to Yemen.

Coups and violence across Africa upended life in nations there. Myanmar in Southeast Asia faces what some experts describe as a slow-burning civil war. Drug-trade-fueled violence continues in Central and South America.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remain suspicious of each other. North Korea’s atomic arsenal continues to grow. And Iran now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Israeli Troops Raid Hamas Top Leader Sinwar’s Vacation Home, Finding Weapons and Tunnels Inside

Yelena Dzhanova

Israeli forces say they found tunnels and weapons inside a vacation home that belongs to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, according to a report.

The Times of Israel reported that soldiers with the Israel Defense Forces conducted a raid on Sinwar’s vacation home, in addition to the vacation homes of other Hamas leaders.

“We found weapons, tunnels inside vacation homes of senior Hamas officials,” Col. Elad Tzuri said, according to the Times of Israel. “We see a lot of tunnel shafts here, still encountering the enemy but gaining operational control of the area,” he adds.

Yahya Sinwar attends the opening of a new mosque in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 24, 2017.

Sinwar is the Hamas leader Israeli forces have been citing as the mastermind behind the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel.

As the conflict between Hamas and Israel continues to escalate, Israeli leaders have been calling for and promising Sinwar’s death.

"Yahya Sinwar, the ruler of the Gaza Strip, decided on this horrible attack, and therefore he and the entire system under him are doomed,” the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said just days after the Hamas-led attack. “We will attack them, we will dismantle them, dismantle their system."

Afghanistan Left out of Global Climate Change Conversation

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

On September 23, 2020, then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, speaking to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, identified “five sources of unrest”’ in Afghanistan. Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, haphazard industrialization, rampant inequality, and the violence perpetrated by the Taliban, Ghani identified climate change as a source of violence and suffering in Afghanistan. Terming Afghanistan as the 17th worst-affected country, recurrently ravaged by seasonal floods and drought, Ghani called for “regional solutions based on international models” to address the problem of climate change.

Since then, a lot has changed in Afghanistan’s political landscape. However, what has remained constant, and has possibly worsened, is the human suffering brought about by climate change and administrative breakdown. Worse still, apathy by the international community is making matters unendurable.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, in 2019, the last year the index has data for, Afghanistan was ranked sixth among countries most affected by climate impacts. According to the climate change projections for Afghanistan, developed by Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2015, by 2100 the country will see a strong increase in mean annual temperature coupled with an overall decrease in water availability, impacting the country’s diverse ecosystems. Approximately 80 percent of Afghanistan’s population relies directly on the natural resource base for their livelihoods. These climatic changes can therefore seriously disrupt the foundation of the country’s food security, economy, and stability.

China is subtly increasing military pressure on Taiwan. Here's how

Emily Feng

There is an ominous new normal in the Taiwan Strait, the narrow strip of water between Taiwan and China.

Beijing has long considered self-governed Taiwan as part of China and has threatened to force it to "unify" with the mainland.

But over the past year, Beijing has been stepping up military pressure on Taiwan, while stopping short of an outright invasion. China has been sending ships and planes to encircle Taiwan and mounting more sophisticated military drills simulating a blockade of the island. In September, Taiwan's defense ministry counted a record number of Chinese fighter planes — 103 warplanes to be exact — flying in airspace around Taiwan in just one day.

Security experts call this "gray zone" tactics, a strategy of intimidation and daily harassment designed to gradually wear Taiwan down, without drawing the United States and its Asian allies, like Japan and South Korea, into a wider conflict.

Here's what you need to know about China's gray zone tactics.

Daily military incursions are increasing around Taiwan

Taiwan's Constitution, enacted in 1947 by its former Chinese Nationalist rulers who fought a civil war with China's Communist forces, still officially recognizes the authorities in Taipei as the legitimate government representing not just Taiwan, but also mainland China and some nearby territories.

And now, decades after its transitioning to a democracy in the 1990s, Taiwan still maintains an "air defense identification zone," or ADIZ, that's monitored by its military and reaches far into China's borders. The ADIZ is an informal area Taiwan's defense ministry monitors but is not an official, internationally recognized boundary and is far larger than Taiwan's territorial air space as defined by international law.

Biden’s Flawed Myanmar Policy


As the Israel-Hamas war rages, the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza is grabbing headlines – as well it should. But another armed conflict, in Myanmar, is also causing mass suffering, with more than two million people internally displaced and over a million more streaming into neighboring Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. And it is attracting far less international attention.

This is not to say that outside forces are not engaged in the conflict in Myanmar. On the contrary, the United States seems to view supporting the rebel and pro-democracy groups attempting to overthrow the military junta – which returned to power in a February 2021 coup – as a kind of moral test. But its approach is doing Myanmar little good.

After the military overthrew Myanmar’s nascent civilian government – to which it had begun ceding power barely six years earlier – US President Joe Biden’s administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions, which it has since ratcheted up. But, so far, the sanctions have left Myanmar’s military elites relatively unscathed, even as they have unraveled the economic progress made over the last decade and inflicted misery on ordinary citizens.

The Biden administration has also deepened engagement with the so-called National Unity Government that was formed as an alternative to the junta. Though the US, like the rest of the world, has refrained from formally recognizing the shadow government, this has not stopped the Biden administration from providing “non-lethal aid” to its notional army, the People’s Defense Force, as well as to ethnic insurgent organizations and pro-democracy groups, under the BURMA Act. And the US has a history of interpreting “non-lethal” rather loosely. Non-lethal support for Syrian rebels, for example, included enhancing their operational capabilities on the battlefield.

Political Risks Loom Over Sri Lanka’s Economic Stabilization

Ganeshan Wignaraja

Sri Lanka’s economy showed signs of stabilisation in 2023 after the worst economic and political crisis since its independence in 1948. An acute balance of payments crisis caused lower- and middle-income Sri Lankans to pre-emptively default on foreign debt, which exceeded US$50 billion in April 2022. A crippling economic contraction, spiralling inflation, shortages of food and fuel and financial uncertainty followed.

The remarkable change during 2023 can be traced to decisive policies by President Ranil Wickremasinghe’s new government, formed in July 2022, after mass protests forced then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.

The Wickremasinghe government implemented stabilisation measures — namely hiking interest rates to control inflation, removing fuel subsidies, raising taxes and passing a law to improve the independence and accountability of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. The government also conducted external debt restructuring talks with creditors, intensified discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on an economic bailout, sought Indian aid and engaged in free trade agreement-led Asian regionalism.

These efforts made a difference. The Sri Lankan economy is stabilising despite major challenges that remain. Inflation fell from a peak of 70 per cent in September 2022 to 3.4 per cent in November 2023. Foreign exchange liquidity pressures eased, with usable foreign reserves rising from only US$20 million in April 2022 to US$2 billion in October 2023. Waiting lines for essential goods have disappeared.

In March 2023, the IMF Board approved a tough Extended Fund Facility worth US$2.9 billion over 48 months, which emphasises revenue-based fiscal consolidation and governance reforms. The first review by the IMF Board on 12 December 2023 rated ‘Sri Lanka’s performance as satisfactory’ meaning that total IMF disbursement will be US$670 million (22 per cent) in 2023. The IMF facility unlocked additional funding from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for social protection, financial sector development and infrastructure development.

Collapsing foreign direct investment might not be all bad for China’s economy

David Lubin

On the face of it, China is facing something of a crisis when it comes to the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

For more than a year, the net flow of FDI into China has been increasingly negative. Data released last month by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange indicate that during the year to September 2023, a net outflow of more than $140 billion of long-term investment left China, or just under 1 per cent of China’s GDP. A decade ago, by contrast, China was attracting net inflows of FDI to the tune of around 2 per cent of GDP.

In the three months to September, foreign firms withdrew $12 billion of capital from the country, the first time that’s happened in a generation.

Chinese firms are investing more abroad than foreign firms are investing in China, and foreign firms now seem unwilling to invest in China at all. In the three months to September, foreign firms withdrew $12 billion of capital from the country, the first time that’s happened in a generation.

What all this is saying is that long-term capital – precisely the kind of capital Beijing needs to boost the economy’s productive potential and shore up confidence among China’s gloomy corporates – seems to be voting with its feet.

And it’s not just FDI that seems to have had a change of heart about China. Since August this year, international investors have withdrawn some $25 billion from the market for China’s ‘A’ shares, namely those that are denominated in renminbi and listed in Shanghai or Shenzhen.

Houthi attacks pose a major threat to global trad


Houthi attacks on commercial shipping vehicles in the Red Sea have now reached a critical point, with many global shipping companies stopping their vessels from moving through the area. The decision was first taken by Danish shipping giant Maersk and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd, now followed by French company CMA CGM. The companies decided to cease passage through the Red Sea after the container ship MSC Palatium III was attacked by a Houthi suicide drone on Friday.

The situation in the Red Sea has been escalating for some time. Last month the Houthis, who control most of Yemen and are backed by Iran, seized the ship Galaxy Leader and imprisoned the crew. The Houthis said they would be targeting any ship linked to Israel in an act of support for Hamas. Since then, it appears that the group has broadened its net and is now trying to disrupt global shipping flows.

The Biden administration has been keen not to highlight the problems in the Red Sea, recognising that doing so would risk pulling the United States into what could become a regional conflict in the Middle East. The administration has also been ignoring increasingly frequent targeting of American bases in the region: recent reports suggest that since 17 October there have been 92 such attacks.

But the attacks on ships now clearly threaten to throw sand in the gears of global trade. The Bab al-Mandab chokepoint in the Red Sea accounts for 10% of global seaborne oil flows and also a large amount of liquefied natural gas. The alternative route, which involves sailing around the entire African continent, adds 40% to the voyage’s distance.

5 effective practices for small unit leaders

Uncle Walkie

Small unit leaders such as fire team leaders and squad leaders have tremendous influence within an organization. They have the potential to greatly impact the effectiveness and morale of a unit. It is common to attain this responsibility early in one’s military career. For example, someone who enters the Marine Corps at age 18 can find themselves as a fire team leader (in charge of a four-man team) by age 20, and a squad leader (in charge of a 13-man squad) by age 22. Learning how to be a good leader requires humility and setting the example.

Listed below are 5 effective practices for a small unit leader:

1. Chow issue

Master Sgt. Kevin Cartino, 1st Combat Camera Squadron first sergeant, shows off the meal ready-to-eat he was given during an information operations scenario during exercise Scorpion Lens, Fort Jackson, South Carolina,

Few people really enjoy MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat), but making the most of a situation, everyone does have their favorite. When it comes time to draw and issue chow, an effective leader will do so with as much fairness as possible. The technique to do so entails the leader not looking at which MRE he gives to his people or takes for himself.

Armenia cold-shoulders Russia and post-Soviet security umbrella

Paddy Belton

Armenia has snubbed a Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CTSO) assembly meeting, in a further sign that the country is moving away from Russia’s security umbrella.

The decision not to take part in the December 19 meeting follows Yerevan’s absence from the post-Soviet military alliance’s summit in Minsk last month.

Armenia was one of the six founding members of the CSTO in 1992, which emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Union. It is based on an agreement that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Armenia has expressed an intention to move closer to the Europe Union.

Nana Shakhnazaryan, a geopolitical analyst based in London, said after the apparent end of its recent conflict with Azerbaijan: “Armenia has been searching, and with varying degrees of success, finding alternative security partners – including with France and India.”

Shakhnazaryan said the chief threat to Armenia may not be Russia but “other regional actors benefiting from Armenia being more vulnerable than ever, given Russia’s admonishment”.

Its Government “is actively distancing itself from Russia and creating opportunities with new partners”, she added.

Russia and “state-run media outlets like TASS and RÍA are taking notice” of Armenia’s search for external support, Shakhnazaryan said.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said Armenia’s Government is trying “to sit on two chairs” and so risks falling somewhere between the West and Russia.

Zelensky's Miserable Christmas

Ellie Cook

As Kyiv stares down a new year offering up little possibility of an end to its war with Russia, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky has reason to feel less than festive as the world prepares to celebrate Christmas.

Fresh from a visit to the U.S. that failed to unlock new military aid after a Congressional stalemate, Zelensky is likely looking towards what 2024 will hold for a Ukraine fast approaching two years of grueling conflict.

There are clear concerns for Kyiv. Russia has been creeping around the Donetsk town of Avdiivka, Ukraine's NATO allies are running out of ammunition stocks they can ship to the front lines and dissenting Republican voices in the U.S. are increasingly asking whether these supplies should be heading there. Through it all, Ukraine has to keep shooting down Russia's seemingly never-ending waves of Shahed drones.

It's a tall order for a country battling harsh winter conditions as well as Russia's onslaught.

Will Avdiivka fall?

Ukraine has fought hard against Russia's efforts to encircle the Donetsk town of Avdiivka, but Moscow has inched further around the industrial settlement almost every day. Russia launched its offensive on the town on October 10, sparking some of the heaviest and bloodiest fighting of the war so far.

And Russia is not faltering in its attempts to surround Avdiivka, the Ukrainian General Staff reveal each day in operational updates. Ukrainian forces had "successfully repelled" 57 Russian attacks in the areas around the Avdiivka section of the front line the previous day, Ukraine's military said on Thursday.

Private sector investment can help turn the tide in Ukraine


As Russia’s war against Ukraine grinds on, Ukrainians need U.S. security assistance to preserve security in Europe and beyond. The world is rightly watching to see whether Congress will stand up for democracy and send additional aid.

But although the focus is on Congress, there is something interesting happening under the radar: private Americans and non-profit organizations are stepping in to fill key gaps by providing non-lethal aid in the form of reconnaissance drones, vehicles, medical gear, and even training.

This type of aid, paired with continued critical support from the U.S. government and NATO, can help determine whether the Ukrainians emerge victorious against Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

Though Ukraine’s counteroffensive may be making slower progress than many hoped, the Ukrainians have the advantage and are indeed pressing the offensive. This war is not a stalemate or in deadlock. The front lines have simply shifted, and operations both on land and sea have changed as winter begins.

The Ukrainian Navy, for instance, has regained nearly complete control of the Northwestern Black Sea, pushing the Russian Navy east and southeast. It is sinking Russian maritime forces and will continue to do so as long as it has access to drones. On land, Ukrainian forces have pushed forward enough to begin using short range artillery fire into the land bridge to Crimea. The tides are shifting, and soon Russia will have no option but to retreat.

While support for Ukraine may appear to be waning in Congress, the same cannot be said for public opinion. Just last month, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that over 60 percent of Americans support providing economic assistance as well as additional arms and military supplies to the Ukrainian government. It should come as no surprise that Americans are passionate about defending American ideals, such as democracy and freedom, elsewhere around the globe.

Nagorno-Karabakh: Eurasia’s Forgotten Conflict

Mark Temnycky

Last week, representatives from the Armenian and Azerbaijani governments met to discuss the delimitation of their borders, where they debated the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The event was the latest development in what appears to be the end of the over three-decade conflict between the two countries.

Since the late 1980s, Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. To date, thousands have died in the conflict, and many more have been injured. Over the past few decades, numerous ceasefires have been implemented, and negotiations between the two countries have been ongoing. But several ceasefire violations occurred, the fighting continued, and peace talks have constantly failed. More recently, the United States and the European Union attempted to de-escalate the conflict by providing humanitarian and financial assistance. This aid, however, came to no avail, and the conflict continued. Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey brokered a ceasefire in 2020 during a renewed skirmish between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Eventually, this ceasefire was also broken, and Russia and Turkey could not lead Armenian and Azerbaijani officials to new negotiations.

Given the international community’s continued inability to achieve a peaceful resolution, the Azerbaijanis finally took matters into their own hands. First, the Azerbaijani forces established a blockade over the Lachin corridor, a pathway that connects Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. For nearly a year, Armenians in the region had limited access to food, medicine, and fuel. There were also reports that there were shortages in the region and that Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh were going hungry. Then, Azerbaijani forces launched a brutal attack on the region. After a brief period of fighting, the Azerbaijanis announced that they had taken control of the territory, and thousands of Armenians began to flee the region. Now, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians are displaced.

Russian ‘conquest’ of Ukraine on the table if US, allied military aid falters


Ending the flow of US and European military supplies to Ukraine would so damage Kyiv’s war effort that a Russian “conquest” of Ukraine is “by no means impossible,” according to a leading US military think tank.

A report from the Institute for the Study of War, published Thursday, says a Russian victory could also have profound repercussions for European security, leading “a battered but triumphant Russian army right up to NATO’s border from the Black Sea to the Arctic Ocean.”

Leaning on evidence from US intelligence that estimates 90 percent of the portion of the Russian army that entered Ukraine at the start of the war in February 2022 has been destroyed, the report explains that still those heavy “manpower losses” on the Russian side have been replaced. Meanwhile, Moscow is enjoying new-found industrial success by ramping up weapons production “to make good their material losses at a rate much faster than their pre-war capacity had permitted.”

A Russian victory would bring with it a much more formidable Russian Army, strengthened by considerable combat experience in Ukraine and “considerably larger” than that of the force established before the war.

Additionally, the authors expect Russia’s economy to “gradually recover as sanctions inevitably erode” and Moscow to finds ways around those that remain.

“Over time it [Russia] will replace its equipment and rebuild its coherence, drawing on a wealth of hard-won experience fighting mechanized warfare,” the document states. “It will bring with it advanced air defense systems that only American stealth aircraft — badly needed to deter and confront China — can reliably penetrate.”

OpenAI outlines AI safety plan, allowing board to reverse decisions

Artificial intelligence company OpenAI laid out a framework to address safety in its most advanced models, including allowing the board to reverse safety decisions, according to a plan published on its website Monday.

Microsoft-backed OpenAI will only deploy its latest technology if it is deemed safe in specific areas such as cybersecurity and nuclear threats. The company is also creating an advisory group to review safety reports and send them to the company’s executives and board. While executives will make decisions, the board can reverse those decisions.

Since ChatGPT’s launch a year ago, the potential dangers of AI have been top of mind for both AI researchers and the general public. Generative AI technology has dazzled users with its ability to write poetry and essays, but also sparked safety concerns with its potential to spread disinformation and manipulate humans.

In April, a group of AI industry leaders and experts signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-4, citing potential risks to society. A May Reuters/Ipsos poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the possible negative effects of AI and 61% believe it could threaten civilization.

Illicit content on Elon Musk’s X draws EU investigation

Adam Satariano

The European Union announced a formal investigation Monday into X, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk, accusing it of failing to counter illicit content and disinformation, a lack of transparency about advertising and “deceptive” design practices.

The inquiry is perhaps the most substantial regulatory move to date against X since it scaled back its content moderation policies after Musk bought the service, formerly known as Twitter, last year. The company’s new policies have led to a rise in incendiary content on the platform, according to researchers, causing brands to scale back advertising.

In going after X, the EU is for the first time using the authority gained after last year’s passage of the Digital Services Act. The law gives regulators vast new powers to force social media companies to police their platforms for hate speech, misinformation and other divisive content. Other services covered by the new law include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive branch, had signaled its intention to look more closely at X’s business practices. In October, regulators initiated a preliminary inquiry into the spread of “terrorist and violent content and hate speech” on X after the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“The evidence we currently have is enough to formally open a proceeding against X,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president overseeing digital policy, said in a statement. “The commission will carefully investigate X’s compliance with the DSA, to ensure European citizens are safeguarded online.”

Space, Missile Defense, and Irregular Warfare

Dr. Robert Redding

Those of us of a certain age grew up thinking that the first space battles would be between units of astronauts with lasers. However, November of 2023 saw the demonstration of Israel’s cutting-edge missile defense capabilities, when it intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen with the Arrow missile defense system. This event highlights the ever-evolving landscape of irregular warfare and the significance of nation-states being prepared to fully use capstone capabilities, which were originally developed to defend against other nation-states, in safeguarding their citizens from irregular threats posed by non-state actors. This demonstrates the dual realities of irregular warfare: nations not only engage in such conflicts to gain strategic advantages over their adversaries, but they must also defend against the same tactics when used against them. For instance, Iran's deployment of proxies equipped with advanced weapons likely demands a conventional, rather than irregular, response.

The Arrow Missile Defense System

The Arrow missile defense system, developed jointly by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Boeing, stands as a testament to Israel's commitment to ensuring its national security in the face of constant regional threats. The Arrow system comprises multiple components, including the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 interceptors. These systems are designed to detect, track, and destroy a wide range of incoming threats – including short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missiles – as a critical part of Israel’s integrated air and missile defense system.

The Arrow 2 interceptor is primarily tasked with defending against short and medium-range ballistic missiles, while the Arrow 3 interceptor is designed to intercept longer-range missiles and can operate at altitudes reaching beyond the Earth's atmosphere. It is this unique capability of the Arrow 3 system that played a pivotal role in defeating the Houthi missile attack.