31 January 2024

Where Is Hamas Getting Its Weapons? Increasingly, From Israel.

Maria Abi-Habib and Sheera Frenkel

Israeli military and intelligence officials have concluded that a significant number of weapons used by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attacks and in the war in Gaza came from an unlikely source: the Israeli military itself.

For years, analysts have pointed to underground smuggling routes to explain how Hamas stayed so heavily armed despite an Israeli military blockade of the Gaza Strip. But recent intelligence has shown the extent to which Hamas has been able to build many of its rockets and anti-tank weaponry out of the thousands of munitions that failed to detonate when Israel lobbed them into Gaza, according to weapons experts and Israeli and Western intelligence officials. Hamas is also arming its fighters with weapons stolen from Israeli military bases.

Intelligence gathered during months of fighting revealed that, just as the Israeli authorities misjudged Hamas’s intentions before Oct. 7, they also underestimated its ability to obtain arms.

What is clear now is that the very weapons that Israeli forces have used to enforce a blockade of Gaza over the past 17 years are now being used against them. Israeli and American military explosives have enabled Hamas to shower Israel with rockets and, for the first time, invade Israeli towns from Gaza.

“Unexploded ordnance is a main source of explosives for Hamas,” said Michael Cardash, the former deputy head of the Israeli National Police Bomb Disposal Division and an Israeli police consultant. “They are cutting open bombs from Israel, artillery bombs from Israel, and a lot of them are being used, of course, and repurposed for their explosives and rockets.”

Israel cannot afford to stop the war in Gaza - opinion


As the war in Gaza continues, impatience appears to be gaining momentum within the Israeli body politic, and voices calling for its end are increasingly heard. Those who support ending the war rely on three arguments: social/moral, security/utility, and political/democratic.

The growing concern for the fate of the hostages is at the core of the social/moral argument for stopping the war. There is an understandable, all-too-human desire for their return “now” and “at any cost.” Since Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has conditioned the hostages’ release on a full halt of military operations, some feel that “there is no choice” but to end the war. The noble feeling of solidarity pushes us to do what seems most important: to save lives, literally.

There is also the security/utility argument: is Israel being dragged into the Gaza quicksand, where the continuing war exacts an ever-increasing price without achieving the strategic advantages that justify it? It seems that Israelis are afraid of this: according to the JPPI Israeli Society Index, at the onset of the fighting, 78% were certain of victory, but now it is just 61%.

The growing skepticism of victory is tied to the assessment that continued fighting will claim the blood of even more IDF soldiers, fragment Israeli “togetherness,” delay reconstruction in the Negev and the north, punish the national economy, and diminish political support for Israel around the world.

And now the political/democratic argument: the societal firestorm caused by the judicial reform, which brought us to the brink of civil war, and the security earthquake caused by the Hamas invasion, have dramatically altered the reality in which the state functions. This change summons Israelis to the voting booth to reaffirm their support for the current leadership or to replace it.

Armenia Plans to Use Iranian Ports to Reach India

John C. K. Daly

Executive Summary:
  • Iran has granted Armenia access to its Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports to facilitate Yerevan’s trade access to India.
  • The proposed east-west transit route will serve as a supplemental component of the International North-South Transport Corridor in facilitating greater regional trade.
  • Armenia has increasingly turned to India for defense cooperation and arms purchases in the wake of Yerevan’s falling out with Moscow.
On January 3, Mehdi Sobhani, the Iranian ambassador to Armenia, announced that Armenian ships could freely use Iran’s Chabahar and Bandar Abbas ports (Arminfo, January 3). Yerevan has been moving toward signing formal economic agreements with Tehran to use Iranian seaports for its arms trade with India. This development is a further sign of Armenia’s estrangement from former protector Russia following military clashes with Azerbaijan last year (see EDM,February 9, September 20, 2023. Both New Delhi and Tehran strongly support Armenian aspirations to assist in the development and use of Iran’s ports. Compensating for Yerevan’s downgrade of defense and armaments agreements with Moscow, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “We view the security of Armenia as the security of Iran” (Caucasus Watch, February 22, 2023). The growth of trilateral cooperation among Armenia, India, and Iran looks to improve regional transit infrastructure and elevate each country’s influence in the South Caucasus (see EDM, June 21, 2023).

Armenian-Indian rapprochement dates back to Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s trip to Armenia in October 2021. That marked the first visit of an Indian foreign minister to Yerevan in the three decades since the Soviet Union’s collapse (Firstpost, January 5). Jaishankar’s visit built upon an earlier meeting held on September 26, 2019, between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York. There, Modi requested Armenia’s assistance in finalizing a trade arrangement with the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), of which Armenia is a member (Asia News International, September 26, 2019).

India Mulls an End to Myanmar Free Movement Border Zone

Luke Hunt

India intends to scrap a free movement zone across it’s border with Myanmar after repatriating about 150 soldiers who crossed the frontier amid heavy fighting launched by the rebel Arakan Army in the north, where the junta is struggling to hold its ground.

The zone had provided a safe area for people fleeing the fighting, which has escalated sharply since October, but Indian Home Minister Amit Shah has proposed an end to the zone, to be enforced by the construction of a fence along the 1,631-kilometer border.

During a visit to the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Shah said his government had “decided to fence the entire open India-Myanmar border,” adding that is “going to end this facility,” according to Times of India.

The announcement followed the repatriation of 151 soldiers through an airlift organized by the Myanmar military out of the Mizoram Lawngtlai district, including nine who had been wounded, four critically.

Gen. Manoj Pande told a press conference earlier this month that a further 416 Myanmar soldiers had been repatriated after anti-junta forces seized control of key towns and military bases near the Indo-Myanmar border, alongside Myanmar citizens who sought refuge in Mizoram.

The free movement zone is largely uninhabited but enables relatives and locals from either side with passport and visa-free access within 16 kilometers of both sides of a border that cuts across the Himalayan mountains and through heavily forested lowlands.

No timeframe has been set for the construction of the fence, though India has also fenced more than 2,000 kilometers of its border with Pakistan and a further 3,100 kilometers with Bangladesh.

India’s Military Modernisation: Role and Impact of France


France and India have developed a high level of convergence on a wide range of issues, spanning from regional to global. With their close and friendly relations traditionally tracing back decades, the two actors entered into a Strategic Partnership in 1998 and ever since have collaborated in areas of sustainable growth, climate change, cyber governance, etc with defence and security relations being a principal pillar of their partnership. As the twenty-first century began, the strategic partnership between India and France grew even stronger and expanded to encompass various areas, including defence acquisitions, civil nuclear collaboration, and space exploration.

The joint efforts of India and France in security relations extend beyond military ties to also include domains of maritime, space and civil nuclear areas (Carin & Mehlenbacher, 2010). With the two actors entering into their third decade of strategic partnership, it is important to note that several high-level summits and bilateral political visits continue to take place as New Delhi and Paris strengthen their mutual cooperation in areas such as defence, security, cyber-security, digital economy, space security, and also the European Union.

Defence cooperation has now become a fundamental aspect of the Indo-French Strategic Partnership. Both nations have an annual Ministerial level Defence dialogue that has been in place since 2018. Additionally, all the three security services participate in periodic defence exercises, such as Exercise Shakti (Army), Exercise Garuda (Air Force) and Exercise Varuna (Navy). The French-led La Pérouse exercise in April 2021 also witnessed participation and engagement by the Indian Navy. Their partnership further includes staff courses, training programs, and other joint activities. In 2016, an inter-governmental agreement was signed by the Indian Government with the Government of France to purchase 36 Rafale multi-role fighter aircraft from Dassault Aviation. All the aircraft have been delivered to India, and the formal induction ceremony for the first five was held in September 2020, attended by French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.

The France-India Dalliance: Operationalizing Strategic Autonomy in the Indian Ocean

Olivier Blarel and Nicolas Blarel

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Delhi on January 26, 2024, as guest of honor at India’s Republic Day – six months after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent Bastille Day, July 14, in Paris – is a new opportunity for the two countries to reaffirm the robustness of the strategic partnership between France and India.

The proximity between the two countries has been based to a large extent on a shared preference for a multipolar international order, in which France and India would strive to shape rather than passively accept global transformations. It is in this context that Macron’s regular emphasis that France is “allied, but not aligned” echoes the concept of “multi-alignment” regularly promoted by India. Historically, Paris and New Delhi have often emphasized their comparable quests for strategic autonomy, which is generally defined as the ability to make decisions independently of external pressures. This synergy has been a driving force for strategic convergence and cooperation.

However, two important bilateral visits in less than six months and a growing uncertain geopolitical context also raise expectations for concrete strategic collaboration on the key security challenges of the day. One area of strong operational cooperation that deserves more public attention and could be the next horizon of the France-India partnership is maritime security in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean.

For the past decade, the Indo-Pacific has provided a supportive framework for the French-Indian partnership. France has a direct interest in the stability of the Indian Ocean, through its overseas territories in the south of the Indian Ocean and its military bases in the north, in Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This has led to prolific bilateral cooperation, guided by the Joint Strategic Vision for the Indian Ocean, adopted in 2018. Paris and New Delhi have simultaneously been strengthening their cooperation with common partners, through trilateral formats, and notably with the UAE and Australia. In July, the two countries adopted an ambitious 2047 roadmap to mark the occasion of the centenary of the bilateral relationship.

Will BRICS Expansion Finally End Western Economic and Geopolitical Dominance?

Dr Andrew G. Ross

Following the conclusion of the 2023 BRICS meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the official summit declaration announced that in January 2024 the BRICS group of emerging market economies would undertake in the words of the Chinese President an ‘historic’ expansion and admit five new member countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (Argentina was also invited to join, but it’s new President Javier Milei declined the offer). While the term BRIC first came to fruition via the work of Jim O’Neill in 2001 the official creation and formalization of the BRIC bloc by its four founding members: Brazil, Russia, India and China, did not take place until 2009, followed by the admission of South Africa in 2010. As a group of high growth emerging economies, even before its recent expansion, the group accounted for 26% of global GDP and 40.8% of the global population. However, as important as the BRICS countries are economically, by their own admission the BRICS grouping is more than an economic forum, in that they commit themselves to the creation of a “more representative, fairer international order, a reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system.” Exactly what representative, fairer, and reformed translates as for the BRICS grouping is unclear, but it is often interpreted to mean that the BRICS will act as a counterweight or indeed a means to ultimately supersede Western dominance economically and politically. It is important, therefore, to reflect upon the recent expansion of the BRICS group and the implications and likely challenges for future global governance, economics, and geopolitics given the BRICS grouping is likely to expand its membership further in the years ahead.

From an economic perspective the new membership will generate an additional $2.6 trillion in GDP terms representing an overall BRICS economy of $28.5 trillion and 28.1% of global output. Yet, while a significant economic grouping, by comparison G7 countries continue to dominate global output, accounting for 43.2% of global GDP.

However, if forecasts are correct the size and therefore importance of the G7 economies will reduce over the coming decades, while many of the BRICS economies are projected to grow significantly. This is particularly the case in relation to new members such as Egypt and Ethiopia who are projected to grow by 635% and 1,170% respectively in GDP terms by 2050.

Pakistan’s Lukewarm February Election—Just Another Sign of South and Southeast Asia’s Democratic Failure

Joshua Kurlantzick

Earlier this month, I wrote about how Bangladesh’s long-ruling Awami League won a significant election “victory,” dominating the vote and taking most of the parliamentary seats. However, most independent observers did not consider the vote free or fair. In recent years, Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League have jailed, harassed, and otherwise intimidated nearly all forms of opposition, including the leading rival political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP boycotted the election, claiming it would not be free and fair, which it was not. Sheikh Hasina has firmly established herself as another one of South and Southeast Asia’s elected autocrats. The region, which experienced a more democratic period in the 1990s and 2000s, has since regressed. Now, it has become dominated by outright autocracies, hybrid regimes, and flawed democracies, with very few exceptions like tiny Timor-Leste.

Bangladesh is hardly alone in holding highly flawed elections. While Thailand’s election last year was deemed free and fair on election day, the party that won the most votes, Move Forward, was prevented from forming a government. This obstruction was driven by unelected senators appointed by the military after a coup in 2014. The constitution, drafted by the military, established this unelected senate to prevent any party posing a significant challenge to the royalist-military establishment from assuming power. Instead, a coalition government was formed without Move Forward, which is now in opposition in parliament and is being harassed judicially on various fronts.

As I noted in a new CFR In Brief, the upcoming elections in Indonesia, the most populous and influential state in Southeast Asia, will certainly be free and fair on election day. Yet, they will also mark the culmination of years of democratic regression in what was once the shining example of democracy in the region. Despite assuming office as a supposed reformer, President Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, has established a family dynasty through unseemly maneuvering and overseen backsliding on rights and freedoms. He has also nurtured the possibility that his defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, who historically offered contempt for rights and democracy, will be the country’s next president. Prabowo leads the polls by a large margin and could rule as a strongman in office.

Engaging With the Taliban Doesn’t Work

Lauryn Oates

The status of women’s rights has steadily and predictably eroded under Taliban rule, in this second experiment by the terrorist group to remold Afghanistan to their puritanical vision of a society where women have no rights or freedoms. Girls have been banned from attending school past grade six since the group regained power in 2021, and women have been banned from higher education since December 2022. The country remains in an economic freefall, suicides among women and girls are occurring at alarming rates, and Afghans continue to try flee the country in great numbers, despite the considerable risks and challenges in doing so.

The Taliban’s gender apartheid state, its human rights abuses, and its failure to form an inclusive government have meant that no country in the world has recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s seat at the United Nations is still held by a representative from the previous regime, as are many of its embassies abroad. Near universal condemnation, the loss of investment and trade partners besides its standing in the international community, and consistently negative press have not deterred the Taliban.

Understandably, the situation requires a policy shift. But warming up to the Taliban is not the right move. On the contrary, it sends a dangerous message that their behavior is working and grants them the respect of engagement, which they have not earned.

In November, Rangina Hamidi, a former Afghan education minister now residing in the United States, called for increased engagement with the Taliban “while adapting to the restrictions on education, in particular by using madrassas as an alternative route to education and learning.”

Madrassas are religious schools that typically provide mainly religious instruction with a rudimentary education in a limited number of other subjects, like literacy and math. They are no substitute for full, equitable access to public education at every level for girls. In fact, madrassa-based education for boys and girls alike is cause for concern. Their record on learning outcomes is poor, and their potential to be a vehicle for mass indoctrination into the ideology of religious terrorism is high. As one Afghan teachers wrote, “Crafted in accordance with the Taliban’s uniquely strict interpretation of Islamic law, the regime’s draft madrassa curricula for men and women alike aim not to foster education, but rather to give rise to a new generation of jihadists.”

Bhutan’s Long Journey Into the World Trade Organization

Ladislav Charouz

A Buddhist kingdom where GDP has been replaced by an index of Gross National Happiness: This is one of the images Bhutan cultivates abroad. For almost a quarter of a century, the reclusive mountain nation has blown hot and cold on its accession to the World Trade Organization, a proxy for the country’s wavering integration with the outside world.

Bhutan first applied to the WTO in 1999. However, accession proceedings lost steam as various government officials clashed over the matter. While supporters of WTO membership cited the potential gains of trade liberalization, prominent detractors feared WTO rules would not gel with the country’s happiness index.

Now it seems that the deadlock has finally been broken. Karma Dorji, Bhutan’s outgoing minister of industry, commerce and employment, announced last April that the government had at long last approved the country’s WTO accession, and expressed hope that the process could be completed by the end of 2023. Due to insufficient standards, he said, the government has earmarked 100 million Ngultrum (around $1.2 million) to develop labs and testing facilities. It will also support the construction of dry ports, waterways, and other infrastructure to heighten Bhutan’s connectivity in anticipation of increased trade.

Despite the opposition’s win in this January’s elections, it is not thought that the incoming government will reverse course. Both the victorious People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), which will be the opposition in Parliament, focused on Bhutan’s gloomy economic outlook during their campaigns. According to World Bank data, Bhutan’s GDP has grown at an average of 1.7 percent over the past five years, and the country faces a mass exodus among skyrocketing youth unemployment. As such, joining the WTO might provide a way for the PDP to deliver on its campaign promise to double the country’s GDP, multiply its rates of foreign direct investment, and create thousands of new jobs.

Besides, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk remains the decisive voice in Bhutanese politics, and it is inconceivable that the revitalization of WTO accession talks could have been decided without his approval.

The Myanmar Junta: Live by the Gun, Die by the Gun?

Rahman Yaacob

In October 2023, three ethnic-based armed opposition groups launched Operation 1027, a joint military campaign against the Myanmar junta. Since then, a large swathe of junta-held territory has fallen into the hands of the opposition forces. The fallen territories include important border crossings, several towns and major population centers, and even military bases.

If the current trend on the battlefield continues, barring external diplomatic or military intervention the junta will likely collapse in front of a gun barrel.

Myanmar’s military faces issues in terms of both quantity and quality. A recent study by the United States Institute of Peace suggested that the junta military personnel numbered around 150,000, with 70,000 of them being combat soldiers. This is a far cry from the conventional estimate of about 356,000 troops.

Traditionally, a troop-to-population ratio of 20 to 1,000 is seen as necessary for an effective counterinsurgency campaign. With Myanmar’s population at more than 53 million, the junta would need more than 1 million personnel on its payroll to meet that threshold. Another study suggests a lower troop-to-population ratio of 2.8 to 1,000 for successful counterinsurgency campaigns. In this case, the junta would have to deploy nearly 150,000 troops to succeed. It’s questionable whether they have that many troops at their disposal.

The numbers game is critical for any regime to survive an insurgency campaign. A sufficient number of troops is necessary to capture the insurgents’ territory, hold onto the ground, and provide security for rebuilding efforts. The junta’s 70,000 combat troops are insufficient to deal with the ongoing insurgency, much less to organize an effective and coordinated counteroffensive to recapture lost territories.

China success, Western failure in revolutionary Myanmar


Myanmar all but fell from the international conscience in 2023, with the world subsumed by the Ukraine war, conflict in the Middle East and the dumpster fire of domestic American politics Myanmar, which competed with Sudan for most neglected conflict, was further marginalized by misconceptions that its post-coup civil war had settled into a grinding post-coup stalemate.

That dramatically changed with Operation 1027 in late October, when ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) overran multiple military outposts in the country’s north, seizing big depots of weapons and sending State Administration Council (SAC) military troops into retreat. The lighting attacks renewed global media interest in the conflict while shaking diplomats from their natural state of torpor.

The year ended with overly optimistic predictions of an imminent resistance victory by the Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BA) as fighting spread further in Arakan, Karenni, Sagaing and Chin states and regions. 1027 clearly demonstrated that Myanmar’s struggle against a new era of military rule is not a stalemate and is gaining not losing momentum in various areas of the country.

In contrast to the battlefield, international action was consistently ineffectual. There was hope in 2021 that the world would help: it didn’t. 2022 was a period of anger against the United Nations (UN) and feeble efforts of international engagement.

But 2023 was a year of gritty self-reliance, determination and confidence, liberated from any expectation the world was coming to help the revolution. Many younger revolutionaries welcome Western humanitarian assistance and sanctions but realize that is all that will be offered. Revolutionary Myanmar needs to do it alone.

China’s Preference for Hard Power Is Creating Major Headaches for Beijing

Guy C. Charlton and Xiang Gao

The Taiwanese presidential election on January 13, won by Vice President Lai Ching-te (or William Lai) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was hardly welcomed by China. The Chinese government had actively opposed the DPP. It has been accused, not for the first time, of electoral interference in favor of its preferred candidates.

After the election, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “Whatever changes take place in Taiwan, the basic fact that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China will not change.” The statement reiterated the One China principle and re-affirmed Beijing’s opposition to “‘Taiwan independence’ separatism.” Punctuating its position, Beijing condemned foreign leaders who extended congratulations to Lai, and welcomed Nauru into an official relationship as the Pacific island state severed ties with Taiwan just two days after the election.

While the response of the Chinese Foreign Ministry was expected and Nauru’s de-recognition of Taiwan not unexpected, the Taiwanese election points toward a larger problem with Chinese foreign policy over the past decade. Broadly speaking, there has been a shift away from a relatively sanguine view of China’s peaceful rise, where Beijing’s power and influence was perceived as a common good across the international community, to a more nuanced and cynical perception of Chinese objectives.

The first perception is firmly associated with the discourse regarding China’s peaceful rise and the idea of “responsible power” as exemplified by President Hu Jintao’s call in 2005 for “common security and prosperity” and a “harmonious world” at the plenary meeting of the United Nations Summit. From this perspective, China’s increased influence and material power would benefit the globe and provide a non-Western perspective and economic heft to tilt the international political economy more toward the Global South. But that image has fractured amid China’s increasing willingness to use its material power to pursue its own interests – to the detriment of both individual states and the international order.

The U.S. wants China to play a larger role in the Middle East

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

China's clout is growing in the Middle East, where the U.S. wants Beijing's help to stop the war in Gaza from turning into a larger regional conflict.

Why it matters: Beijing's leverage with Tehran, a key backer of Hamas and Houthi rebels in Yemen, means China could play a unique role as regional peacemaker.
  • The U.S. is concerned about China's sway in the region, but needs that influence now as Washington's efforts to reduce violence haven't worked.
Driving the news: National security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Friday and Saturday in Thailand to discuss the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.
  • The meeting's goal is to "maintain strategic communication and responsibly manage the relationship" in keeping with the commitments made at APEC in November, the White House said in a statement on Thursday evening.
What's happening: Key shipping routes through the Red Sea have been brought to a standstill in recent weeks by attacks on ships by Houthi rebels in Yemen in protest of Israel's ongoing military operation against Hamas in Gaza.
  • The Houthis are continuing the attacks despite U.S.-led coalition strikes, raising fears of a broader conflict even more.
  • Beijing has a close relationship with Iran, which is shut off from much of the global economy due to U.S. sanctions and is dependent on trade links and oil sales to China.

The chaos behind Iran’s grand strategy

Source Link

Reporting from Israel at the end of last year stirred various emotions in me, not least a constant feeling of mild claustrophobia. Not from the Hamas rockets that incrementally forced me to duck into bomb shelters, nor from the colossal Israeli response I heard thundering overhead. Rather, wherever I travelled, be it to Gaza’s fringes in the south or the Lebanese border in the north, I felt surrounded by Iran.

Right now, Iranian proxies — from Hamas to Hezbollah to its flunkies in Syria, as well as the Houthis — are attacking Israel and its interests. Iran has also kicked off against Pakistan, with the two spending recent weeks lobbing missiles and accusations at each other. It is, some might argue, illogical behaviour. Iran is regarded as generally belligerent, and it is. But as Iranians never tire of telling me, they have not invaded a country or started any wars for centuries. And Iran’s leadership is most certainly not illogical. So why all the violence?

All foreign policy is a product of domestic factors; the internal always creates the external. You cannot understand Brexit without understanding the conflicting personalities that fuelled it. And you cannot understand Iranian behaviour in the Middle East (and beyond) without understanding its corrupt, faction-ridden revolutionary dictatorship, and the degree to which these factors shape its foreign policy. At its core, Iran’s foreign policy rests on a doctrine of “forward defence”. Loosely speaking, it seeks to fight abroad so it doesn’t have to do so at home. It bases this strategy on two things: long-range ballistic missiles and proxy warfare using local groups. And it has proved successful ever since it was conceived in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.

I have always considered those eight years to be the Islamic Republic’s War of Independence. So much of its identity was forged then. All nations are shaped by the accretive wisdom of their history and the unchanging determinants of geography (even if they often ignore one or both). For the Islamic Republic, much of what drives its policy was learned through its experience of being a revolutionary state that had to fight for its existence throughout almost all of its first decade. In particular, the War of the Cities in 1984, during which Iran found itself repeatedly struck by long-range Iraqi missiles with no ability to respond in kind, burned the need for a ballistic missile capability into Iran’s leaders. Now, 40 years later, missiles sit at the centre of Iranian deterrence and state pride. The second thing that the war taught Iran was the value of using proxy forces to fight your enemies. And key to that was a man named Qasem Soleimani.

US Army reshapes its mechanised force for future decades

John Hill

Throughout the International Armoured Vehicles conference, hosted by Defence iQ in January 2024 at Twickenham Stadium, London, the US Army revealed it will undergo an extensive cultural shift in the way its land forces operate.

Ultimately, their plan hinges on “unburdening our soliders” for the next several decades, said one spokesperson.

This will involve greater digitalisation and a common systems architecture, both of which will serve to bolster the performance of its land systems over the long term through spiral development enhancements.

The XM30 – the last IFV build?

Following the announcement of the new XM30 mechanised infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) in June 2023, it was suggested that the Army will focus on a modular approach to sustaining the system.

Of course, the the necessity to rebuild will not go away entirely as maintenance, repair and overhaul is unavoidable. Nevertheless, a modular approach offers a cost-saving iterative development process that will integrate new capabilties.

The Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) programme – designated the XM30 – illustrates the Army’s plan of action.

This future IFV is due to replace the enduring Bradley armoured fighting vehicle, now more than forty-years-old. It is used to transport infantry on the battlefield as well as provide support to dismounted troops.

At the time XM30 was announced last year, Douglas R. Bush, assistant secretary of the Army, acquisition, logistics and technology stated:



Seventy-five years ago, as both the Cold War and aviation technology were ramping up, the newly formed United States Air Force wanted to show the world the reach of its air arsenal. The recent development of functional mid-air refueling techniques by the British allowed Strategic Air Command’s commander General Curtis LeMay to demonstrate to both friends and foes that long-haul bombing missions of almost unlimited length and duration were now possible.

On February 26, 1949, Lucky Lady II, a SAC B-50A bomber commanded by Captain James Gallagher, took off from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, in an attempt to become the first airplane to fly nonstop around the world. Gallagher’s expanded crew of 14 included three pilots who rotated in four- to six-hour shifts, while an extra fuel tank located in the bomb bay increased the airplane’s range.

Four mid-air refuelings from KB-29M tankers—over the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Hawaii—allowed Lucky Lady II to stay aloft for 23,452 miles over 94 hours and one minute before returning to Carswell on March 2. The day after Lucky Lady II landed, the New York Times commented, “Wings have brought us far since Magellan’s ship Vittoria took about 1,000 days to make the first circumnavigation in 1519-22.” (That was four days for Lucky Lady II versus two years and nine months for Magellan.) Gallagher and his crew were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the flight won that year’s Mackay Trophy.

Heady days indeed—but there was a cost. Overshadowed amid the celebration was the fact that the third refueling tanker had encountered storms on its return route and had crashed over the Philippines on March 1. All nine servicemen aboard lost their lives.

American STEM Education Needs an Overhaul

Robert Bellafior

In a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” It reflects a sensible recognition that education inherently involves securing a nation’s most fundamental interests—its security and prosperity.

Today, as America faces potential new global conflicts, the first generation of Adams’s curriculum will need one major addition to ensure U.S. security aimed at military and economic competition: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. While the dream that every student has the potential to be the next brilliant scientist may be a costly indulgence, the reality is that there is an insufficient number of individuals studying STEM fields to maintain the United States’ forefront position in technological innovation in the years ahead.

A recent survey by the Science & Technology Action Committee underscores this concern. In polling STEM-related workers—encompassing science, technology, engineering, and math, along with education, health care, business, military, and national security—76 percent of respondents believed that the United States either lost its global leadership in science and technology or is currently in the process of doing so. Three-fifths of respondents believe China will attain global science and technology dominance within five years. Respondents identified several obstacles to sustaining U.S. leadership in these fields, including foreign interference in research, bureaucratic red tape, the absence of a comprehensive national science and technology strategy, and inadequate funding for research and development. However, according to respondents, the primary culprit is K-12 STEM education.

Armenia and Azerbaijan Address Concerns Over Territorial Integrity

Vasif Huseynov

Executive Summary:
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has proposed a new constitution to address matters of external security and territorial integrity, which continue to hold up peace negotiations between Baku and Yerevan.
  • Azerbaijan and Armenia have expressed the necessity of unambiguously recognizing one another’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in establishing a lasting peace in the South Caucasus.
  • Differences in how Baku and Yerevan see the security and administration of the Zangezur Corridor could derail the peace process.
On January 19, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called for a new constitution in a meeting with senior officials from the Armenian Ministry of Justice. Pashinyan asserted that Armenia needs “a new constitution, not constitutional changes,” adding that the new foundational document would make the country “more competitive and viable in the new geopolitical and regional environment” (Azatutyun.am, January 19). He highlighted that the new constitution would maintain the present parliamentary system and underscored “external security” and “internationally recognized sovereign territory” as the main issues to be addressed. Mutual respect for one another’s territorial integrity remains a sticking point in peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. If Yerevan proceeds with Pashinyan’s proposal, the new constitution would eliminate certain hurdles to signing a peace treaty with Baku.

Pashinyan’s plan is widely believed to be related to the normalization of Armenian relations with Azerbaijan and Türkiye. Azerbaijani officials and experts often argue that the current Armenian constitution contains territorial claims against Baku and Ankara. In 2021, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev referred to this as one of the main challenges to peace efforts in the South Caucasus. In an interview with a Turkish media channel, Aliyev declared, “There is a territorial claim against Türkiye in the Constitution of Armenia. They should abandon that. They need to revise and re-adopt their constitution. … They must give up their claims against Türkiye and Azerbaijan” (President.az, September 28, 2021).

Russia’s War Against Ukraine: Lessons Learned in 2023 and 2024 Outlook

Hlib Parfonov

Executive Summary:
  • Delays in weapons deliveries, disproportionate political pressure, and problems with command, control, and communications plagued Ukraine’s 2023 counteroffensive from the start.
  • Ukrainian forces’ ability to wage a successful 2024 campaign largely rests on Kyiv’s efforts to mobilize more military-age men to reinforce the frontlines as well as the timely and sufficient supply of Western aid.
  • In 2024, Ukraine will need more support for maintaining—or in some cases attaining—relative parity with Russian airpower, manpower, and firepower.
  • Ukraine analyzed Russian operations around Soledar, Bakhmut, and Vuhledar to inform defensive fortifications and preparations for future counteroffensives, gaining a better understanding of Russia’s use of small infantry groups and light arms.
  • Analysis of the 2023 counteroffensive revealed that Ukraine’s military leaders failed to adjust their goals in accordance with shortages in armored vehicles, long-range capabilities, demining equipment, and personnel.
  • Recent reports that Moscow is signaling to the West that it is open to negotiations is nothing more than a Kremlin campaign to sow discord and weaken the resolve of Ukraine’s Western partners.
  • The Kremlin continues to build up its forces in Ukraine with the intention to launch future offensives, as the total number of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory has increased by almost 100,000 since May 2023.
The two-year mark of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is fast approaching. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has stalled in the south. Russia has seemingly retaken the initiative on the battlefield, launching a series of offensive operations in the Avdiivka, Kupyansk, Bakhmut, and Mariinka directions that have resulted in heavy casualties (Ukrinform, December 14). Ukrainian forces, nevertheless, continue to make progress in the Black Sea, with a series of successful drone attacks on the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Sevastopol headquarters and sinking more than 20 Russian naval vessels (see EDM, September 26, November 15, 2023, January 17; Kyiv Independent, December 28). 

The United States Is A Colonial Empire, And An Extremely Successful One – Analysis

Ryan McMaken

For those who remember their high school textbooks, the issue of America’s imperial history is very clear cut. American imperialism, the textbooks told us, was that fairly brief period in American history that lasted from 1898 to 1945. This was the period during which the United States acquired a number of overseas territories, including the Philippines and Puerto Rico, among others. The era of imperialism, we are told, ended in 1945 when the Philippines was finally granted full independence from Washington. Even more dubious—the textbook writers tell us—is the idea that the US is or has been a colonial empire. After all, American citizens did not set up any colonies in the Philippines or in Puerto Rico in the way that British migrants populated Virginia or New England.

For those familiar with military conquest in North America during the nineteenth century, however, it seems a bit odd that so many historians have agreed that the American empire did not begin until 1898. After all, if an empire is an expansionist state that annexes territories and rules over the inhabitants found there, the Mexicans and Apaches—to name just two conquered groups—will likely disagree with the textbooks.

Indeed, the colonial and imperial status of many polities over time and place has been hotly debated. For example, some scholars claim Ireland was never a colony of the United Kingdom.1 Nor can many scholars decide if Siberia was part of a colonial Russian empire.2 In the minds of many, Washington’s imperial acquisitions are similarly ambiguous.

Yet, any frank assessment of American political history should lead us to conclude that yes, the United States was very much a colonial empire throughout most of its history. What is different about the United States, however, is that it has been a fabulously successful colonial power. It is so successful, in fact, that the territories that used to be obvious colonies have ceased to have a distinct identity incompatible with the metropole’s preferred political and cultural institutions. Those former colonies have now been fully merged into the metropole itself. Thus, commonly used definitions of “colony” or “colonialism” no longer describe these conquered territories in the twenty-first century. The methods by which these areas were acquired, however, were clearly methods of colonial imperialism. Ironically, the very success of American colonization efforts has hidden the empire in the mists of the past.

The Geopolitics of World War III

Michael Hochberg & Leonard Hochberg


On January 2, 2024, Foreign Minister Israel Katz proclaimed “We’re in the middle of World War III against Iran [led] radical Islam, whose tentacles are already in Europe.” He claimed that Israel, in engaging in a war against Hamas and other Iranian proxies, was defending “everyone.” Although his rhetoric may seem overblown to many in the United States and Europe, it should not be dismissed out of hand. Sometimes, regional conflicts, such as the Japanese conquest of Manchuria of 1931-32 or the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, foreshadow dangers that are more geographically extensive and militarily intense. Do the barbaric events of October 7, 2023, and the Israeli military campaign in Gaza prefigure a broader, global armed conflict? Or is this merely a local conflict, one that is likely unresolvable short of one side or the other engaging in genocide or ethnic cleansing?

We have written this paper in a specific context. Over thirty months ago we made a geopolitical prediction regarding the emergence of a global conflict with four fronts. However, social scientists rarely test their theories by predicting future political events. Who wants to be characterized as a Jonah or a Cassandra? As one eminent strategist argued, the future of war (in detail) is unknowable. And, with perhaps one notable exception, social scientists rarely engage, on a routine basis, in disprovable prediction. Without predictive tools, social scientists and strategists must rely on intuition, a knowledge of history, and good theories—all of which are often in short supply.

A Four-Front Global War?

On the anniversary of D-day, June 6, 2021, The Hill posted our paper, “Could the United States Fight a Four Front War? Not Today.” We predicted that several autocratic powers would launch “simultaneous challenges” designed to diminish the power and influence of the United States. These seemingly distinct conflicts, when viewed from the perspective of Halford Mackinder’s Heartland thesis, should be perceived as separate fronts of a single war by autocratic, territorial powers – either in close cooperation or piggybacking on one or another’s challenge to the established order – on the dominance of the United States and its maritime partners and allies situated along the Eurasian littoral. We argued that the United States should rebuild its naval capacity, and by implication its military industrial capacity more generally. Specifically, we wrote: “If we are to avoid a multi-front war, the United States must be ready to fight and win conventional conflicts in several places simultaneously and must invest in strengthening our allies’ ability to defend themselves.”

The Demise Of The Electric Vehicle: A Whodunnit With A Shocking Twist – OpEd

John Klar

The nation’s recent deep freeze stranded many expensive electric vehicles (EVs) with drained batteries, often in front of charging stations equally disabled by the cold. Warmer areas like California, where some 39% of EV car owners reside, do not abuse their batteries with the harsh seasonal winters that threaten many regions of the nation and world. Electric vehicle sales were quite chilly even before the arctic blast, despite price drops and government subsidies. The cold weather troubles reveal why the market for this vaunted technology may continue to cool.

Car Conspiracy

The 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” explored the possibility that government and industry forces conspired to ensure the failure of the prototype electric vehicle of the mid-1990s: the General Motors EV1. EVs may have been viewed as a threat to oil or automaker profits, but automakers claimed the failure of the vehicles to succeed was primarily attributable to a lack of consumer demand. Current public displays of the sharp drop in efficiency of electric batteries in frigid environments will not boost popularity, instead offering yet one more reason for consumers to prefer the traditional gasoline engine.

EVs are relatively expensive, and many remain skeptical that charging stations and electric grids can support them – even in warmer temps. Growing awareness of the pollution generated in the mining of lithium and other materials in EV battery and vehicle manufacturing (and the eventual disposal of non-recyclable batteries) undermines the environment-sparing messaging used to justify the hefty price tag. And then there is “range anxiety.”

Range Anxiety

Range anxiety refers to the understandable concern of consumers that EVs lack the ability of gas-powered cars to travel long distances reliably. Indeed, concerns about vehicles that could, at that time, travel less than 100 miles per charge were likely part of the lack of consumer appeal for GM’s EV1 in the 1990s. Today’s models approach the three-hundred-mile range – until it gets too cold. Car batteries lose energy much faster when the thermometer plummets and the increased energy requirement to keep the driver and passengers warm certainly doesn’t help. It is estimated that sub-freezing temps can reduce EV range by 40% when the heater is on.

Italy watchdog says OpenAI’s ChatGPT breaches privacy rules

Italy’s data protection authority said on Monday it told OpenAI that its artificial intelligence chatbot application ChatGPT breaches data protection rules.

The Italian watchdog, known as Garante – one of the European Union’s most proactive in assessing AI platform compliance with the bloc’s data privacy regime – last year briefly banned ChatGPT over the alleged breach of EU privacy rules.

At the time, the regulator also launched a probe, which has now concluded that there are elements indicating one or more potential data privacy violations, it said in a statement.

The Garante said Microsoft-backed OpenAI had 30 days to present defence arguments, and added that its investigation would take into account the work done by a European task force made up of national privacy watchdogs.

Italy was the first West European country to curb ChatGPT, whose rapid development has attracted attention from lawmakers and regulators.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in 2018, any given company found in breach of the rules faces fines of up to 4% of the company’s global turnover.

In December, EU lawmakers and governments agreed provisional terms for regulating AI systems like ChatGPT, taking a step closer to setting rules governing the technology.

Navy looking to increase cyber partnerships with foreign nations


The Navy wants to increase its collaboration in the cyber domain with allies and other international partners to improve interoperability and the sharing of tactics.

The department’s first cyber strategy, released in November, calls for greater cooperation between the organization and foreign countries.

“We will engage with Allied and friendly nations to exchange best practices, share appropriate information, and coordinate our efforts in cyberspace,” it states.

Officials noted that there is a lot to be gained, in terms of tactics and tools, through greater partnership.

“We share our tools, we share the intelligence — and so the better integrated we are, the more successful we will be. A big part of this, again, is learning from each other. We learn as much from them as they learned from us,” Scott St. Pierre, the Department of the Navy’s acting principal cyber advisor, told reporters during a media call Friday. “Our allied coalition partners bring intelligence, they bring unique ways of looking at both defensive cyber operations as well as offensive cyber operations.”

Officials in the past have noted that in many cases, allies and partners may have certain capabilities, access and even authorities that are not immediately available to the U.S. Teaming up with these nations to understand capabilities, accesses and targets improves operations because in some cases these countries can act when the U.S. might not be able to.

St. Pierre noted that this push for greater international cooperation is in line with efforts by U.S. Cyber Command.

30 January 2024

Oct. 7 Was Worse Than a Terror Attack. It Was a Pogrom.


Eyal Barad was in the safe room of his home in Nir Oz for more than 12 hours on Oct. 7 while Palestinians went on a rampage of his Gaza envelope kibbutz, eventually kidnapping or murdering more than a quarter of its residents.

Every so often, Barad, 40, was forced to cover his 6-year-old daughter’s mouth with his hand to stifle her squeals. The little girl, who is autistic, thought the whole thing was a game. Most of the time, though, Barad was glued to his phone, watching the live feed of a camera he had recently installed outside his home to monitor speeding cars. Images from the feed, which I obtained, show Palestinian women and children—some appearing as young as 8 years old—taking part in the horror of that day.

Survivors’ accounts, video evidence, and the interrogation recordings of apprehended Palestinians paint a damning picture of the complicity of Gazan civilians both in the Oct. 7 attack, in which more than 1,200 people were murdered and 240 people were abducted to Gaza, and its aftermath. It is one that has sparked a debate in Israel that challenges the inclination to draw distinctions between ordinary Palestinian civilians of Gaza—often referred to in Israel as bilti me’uravim (uninvolved)—and their terror leaders. For many, Oct. 7 reeked of something that Jews have been familiar with for centuries; a phenomenon where not just a vanguard, but a society at large participates in the ritual slaughter of Jews.

Around 700 Palestinians stormed Barad’s kibbutz of Nir Oz—less than a five-minute drive from Gaza—that day, CCTV footage shows. The overwhelming majority of those, estimated by Eran Smilansky, a member of the kibbutz’s security squad, to be around 550, were civilians. They were largely unarmed and not in uniform. Some of those civilians carried out wholesale acts of terror themselves, including rape and abduction—and in some cases, the eventual sale of hostages to Hamas—while others abetted the terrorists. Others still simply took advantage of the porous border to loot Israeli homes and farms, including stealing hundreds of thousands of shekels in agricultural equipment.

How a Group of Israel-Linked Hackers Has Pushed the Limits of Cyberwar


About eight minutes after 3 am on June 27, 2022, inside the Khouzestan steel mill near Iran's western coastline on the Persian Gulf, a massive lid lowered onto a vat of glowing, molten metal. Based on footage from a surveillance camera inside the plant, the giant vessel was several times taller than the two workers in gray uniforms and hardhats standing nearby, likely large enough to carry well over a hundred tons of liquid steel heated to several thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

In the video, the two workers walk out of frame. The clip jump-cuts forward 10 minutes. Then suddenly, the giant ladle is moving, swinging steadily toward the camera. A fraction of a second later, burning embers fly in all directions, fire and smoke fill the factory, and incandescent, liquid steel can be seen pouring freely out of the bottom of the vat onto the plant floor.

Written across the bottom of the video is a kind of disclaimer from Predatory Sparrow, the group of hackers who took credit for this cyber-induced mayhem and posted the video clip to their channel on the messaging service Telegram: “As you can see in this video,” it reads, “this cyberattack has been carried out carefully so to protect innocent individuals.”

A close watch of the video, in fact, reveals something like the opposite: Eight seconds after the steel mill catastrophe begins, two workers can be seen running out from underneath the ladle assembly, through the shower of embers, just feet away from the torrent of flaming liquid metal. “If they were closer to the ladle egress point, they would have been cooked,” says Paul Smith, the chief technology officer of industrial-focused cybersecurity firm SCADAfence, who analyzed the attack. “Imagine getting hit by 1,300-degrees-Celsius molten steel. That's instant death.”

The Khouzestan steel mill sabotage represents one of only a handful of examples in history of a cyberattack with physically destructive effects. But for Predatory Sparrow, it was just a part of a years-long career of digital intrusions that includes several of the most aggressive offensive hacking incidents ever documented. In the years before and after that attack—which targeted three Iranian steelworks, though only one intrusion successfully caused physical destruction—Predatory Sparrow crippled the country's railway system computers and disrupted payment systems across the majority of Iran's gas station pumps not once but twice, including in an attack last month that once again disabled point-of-sale systems at more than 4,000 gas stations, creating a nationwide fuel shortage.