16 January 2024

Navigating Troubled Waters: Understanding the Impact of Houthi Attacks (Part II)

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Apart from the hijacking of the Galaxy Leader, the Houthis’ attempts to target other ships have failed due to the efforts of US Naval Power.

The Houthi forces, with support from Iran, have asserted responsibility for multiple significant attacks on strategic energy facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier Houthi Attacks: The Houthis have been carrying out attacks against their adversaries for a long time.

The Houthi forces, with support from Iran, have asserted responsibility for multiple significant attacks on strategic energy facilities in Saudi Arabia. Their military capabilities, a combination of conventional and non-conventional weapons obtained from Iran and seized during the 2014 coup in Yemen, have been enhanced with assistance from the Axis of Resistance. These capabilities have enabled them to target locations as far as 900 km to 1,300 km away, including Riyadh, Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, and Abu Dhabi.

In 2016, the Houthis struck the Emirati troop-transport catamaran HSV-2 Swift and tried to attack the USS Mason (DDG-87), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, leading the United States to fire Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) against Houthi targets. The Houthis employed Iranian-made anti-ship missiles in these attacks.

Climate movement splinters as activists target Israel


Ever since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack and Israel’s counteroffensive, prominent climate activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and Fridays for Future have led anti-Israel protests, attempting to align the Palestinian cause with the global climate cause. But this messaging is deeply flawed, and as a 24-year-old Jewish climate commentator, I fear it could seriously divide and impede the climate movement.

My heart breaks for the thousands of innocent Gazans and Israelis who have been killed and the hundreds of Israeli hostages still in captivity. I believe both sides’ governments stoked tensions, failed their constituents, and need new peace-oriented leadership. I also believe Israel is our native homeland as Jews, has the right to exist, and is the most special place on Earth. And when Greta Thunberg leads “crush Zionism” chants at climate rallies, and protesters disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade shouting “liberation for Palestine and planet,” I worry the climate movement now blindly opposes Israel, and anyone like me who has a more nuanced perspective.

Climate activists have every right to support other causes. But many have taken it a step further, using skewed facts to infect the mainstream climate cause with an anti-Israel bent. This phenomenon weakens the movement’s credibility, gets in the way of its mission to mitigate climate change, and discourages those of us with differing views on Israel-Hamas from supporting it.

Anti-Israel climate activists have attempted to connect the two issues by suggesting that Israeli attacks in Gaza are actually about stealing Palestinian fossil fuels, citing news that Israel awarded 12 offshore gas exploration licenses on Oct. 29. This accusation grossly minimizes Israel’s true goal of bringing hostages home, and can be disproven by one glance at a map. The exploration leases are located about 80 miles west of Haifa in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea — nowhere near any Palestinian territory. One would have to believe Palestinians own everything from the river to 80 miles beyond the sea to call these resources Palestinian. If activists believe all resources in Israel belong to Palestinians, that’s their prerogative, but claiming “Israel is stealing Palestinian gas” without context misleads readers into believing these leases are in Gaza or the West Bank. This is deliberately deceptive, and erodes trust in the broader climate movement.

National interests and regional turmoil: The Gulf states’ view on Gaza and the Red Sea

Cinzia Bianco & Camille Lons

Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, the Gulf states have collectively expressed strong criticism of Israel and its close ally, the United States, and called for an immediate ceasefire. Their stance gives a rare impression of unity and suggests that these regional middle powers could play a decisive role in finding a political solution to the conflict. But behind the public diplomacy, the Gulf states are divided on how to achieve a ceasefire and how Palestine should be governed after the war. They are also hesitant to risk their own national interests to launch the political initiatives required. And in recent weeks, the Gulf states’ attention has rapidly shifted from Gaza to the risk of confrontation in other regional theatres and including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and, most importantly, the Red Sea.

The Gulf states’ position on Israel has not always been so critical. In recent years, the Gulf capitals had gradually sidelined the Palestinian issue to allow for US-backed Arab-Israeli normalisation. But Israel’s offensive in Gaza has sparked an unprecedented wave of public mobilisation in the Gulf and brought the Palestinian cause back to the centre of Arab politics. In part, such public outcry pushed the Gulf states to take a strong diplomatic position against Israel, while making some wary of a mobilised population – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have strictly controlled protests and displays of Palestinian symbols, from flags to keffiyehs.

But behind the Gulf states’ calls for a ceasefire and strong condemnation of Israel and the US, there is a noticeable lack of initiative to even substantiate a ceasefire agreement, and most Gulf states find themselves in an extremely uneasy position. For the UAE and Bahrain, their inability to play a substantiative role in appeasing the conflict exposed their lack of leverage towards Tel Aviv on the Palestinian issue, in spite of their normalisation with Israel. And while Hamas’ popularity has exploded in the Arab street, the Gulf states would be happy to see Hamas militarily defeated and some of them, such as the UAE, openly describe it as a terrorist organisation. More importantly, despite strong rhetorical support for the Palestinian cause, no Gulf state seems ready to put at risks their national interests to pressure the warring sides into a ceasefire.

Israel’s war on Palestine and the global upsurge against it


Hundreds of millions of people across the world have been deeply moved by the atrocity of the Israeli war on Palestine. Millions have attended marches and protests, many of them participating in such demonstrations for the first time in their lives.

Social media, in almost all the world’s languages, are saturated with memes and posts about this or that terrible action. Some people focus on the Israeli attack on Palestinian children, others on the illegal targeting of Gaza’s health infrastructure, and yet others point to the annihilation of at least 400 families (more than 10 people in each family killed).

The focus of attention does not seem to be diminishing. Holidays in December went by, but the intensity of the protests and the posts remained steady. No attempt by social-media companies to turn the algorithm against the Palestinians succeeded, no attempt to ban the protests – even the display of the Palestinian flag – worked.

Accusations of anti-Semitism fell flat and demands for the condemnation of Hamas were dismissed. This is a new mood, a new kind of attitude toward the Palestinian struggle.

Never before in the 75 previous years has there been such sustained attention to the cause of the Palestinians and of Israeli brutality. Israel has launched eight bombing campaigns on Gaza since 2006. And Israel has built up an entire illegal structure against the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank (an apartheid wall, settlements, checkpoints).

When Palestinians have tried to resist, whether through civic action or armed struggle, they have faced immense violence from the Israeli military. Ever since social media have been available, images from Palestine have circulated, including of the use of white phosphorus against civilians in Gaza, and including the arrest and murder of Palestinian children across the Occupied Palestine Territory.

But none of the previous acts of violence evoked the kind of response from around the world as this violence that began in October 2023.

Conflict Resolution is not Always Possible

Yoav J. Tenembaum

The Day after 10/7 and the Gaza War in Historical Perspective

There is a widespread notion that international conflicts are usually susceptible to peaceful resolution. If only the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed, with good will and perseverance, international conflicts can be solved peacefully. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

There are many protracted, ongoing conflicts in the international system. For instance, Britain and Argentina are engaged in an international conflict over the Falklands-Malvinas Islands in the South Atlantic since 1833, and India and Pakistan are at loggerheads over the status of Kashmir since 1947.

In order for an international conflict to be solved peacefully, the two sides involved have to recognize the right to exist of the other. Certainly, mutual recognition is not a guarantee for solving an international conflict. Britain, and Argentina, as well as India and Pakistan, recognize each other, but are still involved in conflict. Rather, mutual recognition is a prerequisite for solving peacefully an international conflict.

Peace between Egypt and Israel, for example, became possible only after the Egyptians consented to recognize openly and explicitly Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state in 1977. The ensuing negotiations revolved around boundaries, security measures and the delineation of a diplomatic framework to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To be sure, prior to 1977, Egypt and Israel had reached two interim agreements in the wake of the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 thanks to the mediating efforts of the United States Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Thus, the conflict between Egypt and Israel moderated even before Egypt was ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist. In this context, one should distinguish between an explicit and an implicit recognition. By signing these two interim agreements, Egypt implicitly recognized Israel as a sovereign entity, but it did not recognize its right to exist as such. Only when Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, paid an official visit to Israel in November 1977, did he announce openly and explicitly that Egypt welcomed Israel as an integral part of the region with which it wished to live in peace. Official, de jure recognition occurred when a peace agreement was signed in Washington D.C. in March 1979.

The U.S. nudges Israel toward an off-ramp from war

David Ignatius

An Arab proverb warns that you should “think of the going out before you enter.” That’s proving painfully true for Israel in the Gaza war, where it still doesn’t have a coherent exit strategy.

Israel wants a decisive defeat of Hamas to prevent it from ever again mounting a horrific terrorist attack like the one on Oct. 7. But that’s still a somewhat distant goal after three months — with Hamas dug into an underground city beneath Gaza shielded by Israeli hostages and the international community demanding a cease-fire to save Palestinian civilians.

The Biden administration is trying to help Israel mark a pathway out of the conflict by working with its key moderate Arab allies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is completing a tour of the region in which he’s receiving pledges of support to rebuild Gaza, postwar, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt — on condition that Israel agree to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

An exit ramp is clearly marked. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so far refuses to make the required commitment to a Palestinian state. So the U.S.-engineered endgame is stalled. Blinken has wooed the Arabs, but he can’t seem to budge Netanyahu whose wariness reflects the views of many Israelis who are still traumatized by Oct. 7 and dread Palestinian sovereignty.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, keeps working to prevent Gaza from spiraling into a wider war — and that’s getting harder, too. President Biden & Co. talked Israel out of attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon immediately after Oct. 7. But Hezbollah rockets have turned northern Israel into a string of evacuated ghost towns, and Israeli officials say flatly that if Hezbollah doesn’t create a buffer zone along the border, Israel will mount an all-out attack to drive it back.

The Making of ‘Terroristan’: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Pashtun Nationalism

Naveen Khan

Online and print spaces are replete with commentaries on terrorism in Afghanistan-Pakistan. However, it is worth exploring where this worrying issue arose from. The focus here is particularly on the poorest, least educated and most under-developed region: the Pakistan-controlled ex-Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)—now merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This will elucidate the root cause of Islamist radicalism and terrorism in the geo-strategically vital Pashtun region.

Most ‘knowledge’ produced about Pashtuns since colonial times has been one-sided and political. In the British era, this knowledge stereotyped them as a ‘martial’, ‘savage’ people, rather than reflecting their experiences of lying at the entry point of foreign invaders into India, resisting incursions into their land, and thus forcibly becoming used to wars.

Post-British too, much of the knowledge generated about the Pashtuns has not portrayed them as a mostly disadvantaged ethnic minority in Pakistan. Instead, it has linked their ethnicity to Islamist terrorism as a cause-effect relationship of the Pashtuns helping the jihadists under their social code, Pashtunwali.

Both the above unidimensional narratives reflect the truth of the French theorist Michel Foucault’s ‘power/knowledge’ theory. He believed that knowledge and power are connected. The dominant knowledge is that of the powerful who possess the means of producing and disseminating the knowledge that suits their interests. As it is repeated everywhere, people widely believe it to be ‘correct,’ and this perpetuates the power of the powerful. On the other hand, the knowledge of the powerless, however, factually correct, gets marginalized.

The ex-FATA before the merger until 2018 were called ‘ilaqa ghair’, meaning lawless or foreign territory. They comprised seven ‘agencies’, namely, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan, as well as six ‘Frontier Regions (FRs)’: FR-Peshawar, FR-Kohat, FR-Bannu, FR-Lakki Marwat, FR-Tank and FR-Dera Ismail Khan.

China's scientific research ships threat in Indian Ocean region? What China said on US think tank report

The report by the US think tank on the military uses of Chinese scientific research in the Indian Ocean, gives ammunition to countries trying to create a 'China threat' narrative, said Chinese state media.The CSIS study traced data over four years of deployments by nominally Chinese civilian oceanographic and energy research ships. (Image for representation: Reuters)

Chinese state media warned on Friday that a report by a prominent US think tank on the military uses of Chinese scientific research across the Indian Ocean gave "ammunition" to countries bent on concocting threats from China.

The report this week by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) "comes at a time when some countries need to manufacture a 'China threat' narrative in the Indian Ocean region and provides them with ammunition", the state-controlled tabloid Global Times said in an editorial.

"The timing of this report is delicate," given that the Maldives and China are upgrading ties after the election of President Mohamed Muizzu, while Sri Lanka recently suspended foreign research vessels, including from China, from visiting its ports.

The CSIS study traced data over four years of deployments by nominally Chinese civilian oceanographic and energy research ships, concluding that the work would in part serve the Chinese navy's needs to project power into the region.

Detailed knowledge of ocean depths, currents and temperature was vital to China's growing submarine operations, the study said.

Center-State Dichotomy: India’s Response To The Influx Of Myanmar Refugees – Analysis

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

Refugees are an inevitable consequence of conflict, and countries exposed by position or policy rarely escape the collateral damage of war. India is no exception. Strange then, given the long history of refugee movement from neighbouring states, that the best New Delhi has come up with in terms of the policy is an anti-refugee stance, especially regarding the Rohingya refugees and the Kuki-Chin-Zo tribes people from Myanmar. However, that position has faced multiple challenges from the population in the states, who live along the international border.

Anti-Rohingya Operations

On 20 December, the Jammu and Kashmir police launched a major crackdown in five Jammu districts (Jammu, Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch and Rajouri) against people allegedly providing shelter to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar or helping them get government documents. Nearly 40 people were picked up for questioning, following which some were arrested. Since 2021, the local leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been at the forefront of anti-Rohingya agitation, forcing the police to undertake such periodic raids. This hasn’t led to a decrease in the number of Rohingya in these districts, but it has subjected them to regular harassment.

Similar drives against the Rohingya, deemed as ‘illegal foreigners,’ have taken place in other states as well. While rights organisations have described these measures as further victimizing those already victims, the poor refugees, several accounts have sought to paint them as threats to national security, being supposedly terrorist sympathisers and criminals. In November 2023, the Union Home Minister praised the Prime Minister for stopping Rohingya refugees from entering India. This is strange because thousands of ‘illegal’ Rohingya still reside in the country, and on one instance of possible bureaucratic lapse, the government had decided to move some of them to officially constructed apartments in the national capital, Delhi. Nevertheless, the government’s public policy remains opposed to their presence.

India’s Great Jobs Challenge


NEW DELHI – India seems to be everyone’s favorite growth story nowadays. Despite valid concerns about the accuracy of official statistics, the Indian economy is projected to expand by 6.3% in 2024 – an undeniably remarkable feat given that its GDP exceeds $4.1 trillion. While it remains a lower-middle-income country with a per capita income under $3,000 (at market exchange rates), India’s rapid growth suggests that its economic potential may be greater than expected.

But any optimism about India’s economic prospects must be tempered by its inability to address two related challenges. The first is the unequal distribution of the benefits of rapid economic growth, which have accrued predominantly to the top 10-20% of income earners.

India’s failure to release any consumption figures since 2011-12 has made it difficult to produce reliable estimates of potential increases in inequality and poverty. Such estimates rely heavily on consumer expenditure surveys, typically conducted every five years. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped the 2017-18 survey because the findings did not align with its preferred narrative. The government has refused to conduct subsequent surveys, even though up-to-date data are vital for informed policymaking.

Moreover, the decennial census, which was meant to be completed in 2021, has been postponed indefinitely. Consequently, neither the government nor citizens know how many people there are in India, where they live, or their living conditions and employment status. Nevertheless, various indicators suggest that the incomes of top earners have increased sharply while the wages of most workers, especially those in the bottom half of the distribution, have stagnated or declined.

The second major challenge facing India is that rapid GDP growth has not created enough jobs to accommodate its youthful population. With tens of millions of highly educated young people joining the workforce every year, unmet expectations and growing social unrest threaten to turn the country’s much-anticipated “demographic dividend” into a disaster.

Russia, China Test ‘Un-Hackable’ Quantum Communications 4,000 KM Away, Ask India To Join Project

Parth Satam

Russia and China have established a groundbreaking satellite-based quantum communications system as a stepping stone for the more extensive geopolitical pursuit of covering friendly, Global South countries.

It was enabled by the Chinese Mozi satellite. This experiment successfully transmitted a message from a ground-receiving station in China linked to another Russian facility nearly 4,000 km away.

Alexey Fedorov revealed the successful experiment conducted last year in a paper in mid-December. Fedorov is a part of Russia’s National University of Science and Technology, the Russian Quantum Center (RQC).

A goal was to prove the hack-proof capability of quantum communication, which uses cryptography to encode data in single photons.

The revelation follows previous reports about Russian and Chinese plans to share satellite intelligence and data, part of their broader space cooperation program.

Interestingly, India too was invited to be a part of the project in July last year on the sidelines of a meeting of the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRICS) grouping. Reports said the offer to New Delhi was based on the prevalence of credible research into quantum technology here, presumably making it an ideal candidate.

China in 2024: More Challenges to International Order

Antonio Graceffo

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), now the world’s second-largest economy and the third most powerful military, aims, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, to establish itself as the global hegemon, surpassing the U.S. economically, militarily, and diplomatically by 2049.

During Xi Jinping’s tenure, especially since the commencement of his unprecedented third term, the PRC has grown increasingly assertive, posing a threat to the national security and foreign policy objectives not only of the United States but also of countries worldwide. The 2023 Threat Assessment by the US Intelligence Community indicates that China possesses the capability to challenge the current international paradigm in various regions and across multiple domains.

As per assessments from the U.S. intelligence community and other experts, the China threat in 2024 encompasses economic coercion, the spread of propaganda and misinformation, election interference, support for terrorism, territorial disputes, and the potential for war over Taiwan.

The Homeland Threat Assessment for 2024 by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicates that “we expect the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will continue to use predatory economic practices to advantage its firms and industries over ours.” While the assessment is centered on the U.S., its repercussions are global. DHS foresees the PRC “continue to manipulate markets, employ economic espionage and coercive economic tools, and seek to illicitly acquire our technologies and intellectual property.” This economic coercion extends globally, affecting countries participating in initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS, the Global Security Initiative, the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Additionally, China’s influence is felt through advisory roles and dialogue partnerships in other regional trade agreements and groupings, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Employing a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy, along with its civil-military fusion, Beijing is progressively integrating its expanding military capabilities with economic, technological, and diplomatic influence. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) leverages its crucial position in global supply chains, coupled with its role as a significant trade and investment partner, to influence other nations to align with its vision for reshaping the international order. This encompasses reinforcing its territorial claims over land, sea, and air space, coercing other nations to acknowledge the one-China policy, and recognizing Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

What killed US–China engagement?

Joseph S. Nye

When Chinese President Xi Jinping met with US President Joe Biden last November, some interpreted it as a return to engagement. In fact, it heralded only a minor détente, not a major change in policy.

The United States’ engagement with the People’s Republic of China began with Richard Nixon in 1972 and was expanded by Bill Clinton. Since then, critics have described US policy as naive, owing to its failure to understand the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term objectives. Underpinning the policy was the prediction, from modernisation theory, that economic growth would propel China down the same liberalising path as other Confucian societies like South Korea and Taiwan. Xi, however, has made China more closed and autocratic.

Still, America’s engagement policy always had a realistic dimension. While Nixon wanted to engage China to balance the Soviet threat, Clinton made sure that engagement accompanied a reaffirmation of the US–Japan security treaty for the post–Cold War era. Those who accuse Clinton of naivety ignore that this hedge came first, and that the US–Japan alliance remains a robust and fundamental element of the balance of power in Asia today.

To be sure, there was some artlessness, such as when Clinton dismissed China’s efforts to control the internet by joking that it would be like ‘trying to nail jello to the wall’. In fact, China’s ‘great firewall’ of state censorship has worked quite well. Similarly, there’s now broad agreement that China should have been punished more for its failure to comply with World Trade Organization rules, especially considering that it owes its WTO accession to the US.

Myanmar insurgents virtue signaling to China


The unprecedented “Operation 1027” resistance offensive launched in late October 2023 continues to make advances on Myanmar military positions in northern Shan State.

Hundreds of ruling State Administration Council (SAC) bases have fallen or been abandoned to the rolling onslaught of the Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BA) comprised of the insurgent Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA).

The major towns of Hsenwi and Kutkai, both north of the main SAC-controlled (for now) city of Lashio, have fallen along with Namshan and Namtu.

The Kokang enclave capital of Laukkai has been recaptured after 15 years, and in a flourish of civil war theater, the towns of Hopang and Panglong have been “taken” by the alliance and handed over to Myanmar’s largest non-state armed group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

Today’s report of a “cease-fire” brokered by China between the SAC and 3BA may take the momentum out of the offensive, or like similar talks in recent weeks, do little to shape events on the ground in northern Shan state and hardly impact on armed conflict in so many other areas of Myanmar, especially as fighting rages in Rakhine state and the Karenni and Sagaing regions.

Yet in many respects, Operation 1027 has already achieved many of the long-standing aims of the MNDAA, as outlined in a recent New Year public message from its commander Lieutenant General Peng Deren, who is also the General Secretary of the group’s “political wing”, known as the Myanmar National Justice Party (MNJP).

Can China Swing Taiwan’s Elections?

Kenton Thibaut

Taiwan has long been the central target of China’s influence and information operations. As part of its quest to compel the island to unify with the mainland, Beijing has now spent decades trying to swing Taiwanese voters away from candidates skeptical of the mainland and toward ones more friendly. Three days before the 2000 presidential vote, for example, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji hinted that the island risked a Chinese invasion if it elected Chen Shui-bian, who had a history of pushing for Taiwan to declare independence. In 2008, when the moderate Ma Ying-Jeou was favored to win the election, China shifted away from overt threats and toward economic inducements, negotiating directly with Taiwanese fruit farmers (traditionally opponents of Ma’s party) to reduce Chinese tariffs. In 2015, when the less pro-Beijing Tsai Ing-wen was ahead in the polls, China hit her party’s website with phishing attacks and malicious code. And during the 2018 municipal elections, China used hundreds of content farms to churn out digital disinformation designed to hurt candidates Beijing saw as less friendly.

As Taiwan gears up for its January presidential contest, it has again been subjected to a deluge of online and offline influence efforts from Beijing, which hopes to kick Tsai and her incumbent Democratic People’s Party (DPP) from power and replace them with the more pro-Beijing Kuomintang (KMT). China is placing a special emphasis on using local proxies in Taiwan—including pro-mainland Taiwanese media companies, paid influencers, and co-opted political elites—to amplify partisan narratives that stoke division in Taiwanese society and erode faith in the island’s political system. Compared with troll factories and crude spam, local proxies make it harder for Taiwanese voters and officials to separate Chinese influence from genuine domestic debate.

4 ways China is trying to interfere in Taiwan’s presidential election

Lily Kuo, Pei-Lin Wu, Vic Chiang and Joseph Menn

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Floating high-altitude balloons over the island, funding pro-Beijing social media influencers, and hosting local officials on lavish trips to China: These are among the tactics Beijing is accused of deploying to influence Taiwan’s presidential election to be held on Saturday.

For years, Taiwan — which Beijing claims is an “inalienable” part of China — has been the target of Chinese influence campaigns aimed at convincing citizens that coming under Chinese Communist Party rule is their best option. Those efforts have come to the fore ahead of what is expected to be the closest presidential and legislative race for the island democracy in decades.

China Evaluates Russia’s Use of Hypersonic ‘Daggers’ in the Ukraine War

Lyle Goldstein and Nathan Waechter

In shaping patterns of future warfare, there is little doubt that militaries across the world will be seeking to absorb the key lessons of the Russia-Ukraine War, ranging from the employment of tanks to the use of anti-ship cruise missiles and the ubiquitous drones. For the Chinese military, these lessons might even assume a greater importance, since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) both lacks major, recent combat experience, and has also leaned heavily on Russian weapons and doctrine for its rapid modernization over the last few decades.

Chinese media coverage of the war in Ukraine has been extensive. The close nature of the China-Russia “quasi-alliance” means that Chinese military analysts have not engaged in the ruthless critiques of Russian military performance that have been commonplace in the West. Yet, Chinese military analyses are still probing deeply for lessons to understand the shape of modern warfare. They have taken particular interest in the U.S. employment of novel weapons and strategies.

To fully grasp the scope and depth of these Chinese analyses it is important to take assessments from a full range of Chinese military media, which is more extensive than is often appreciated in the West. These articles are generally associated with research institutes that are directly involved in the Chinese military industrial complex.

This exclusive series for The Diplomat will represent the first systematic attempt by Western analysts to evaluate these Chinese assessments of the war in Ukraine across the full spectrum of warfare, including the land, sea, air and space, and information domains. Read the rest of the series here.

The Houthis won’t back down after US and UK strikes on Yemen

Farea Al-Muslimi

US and UK air strikes on Yemen on 11 and 12 January were characterized by the Biden administration as ‘a clear message’ that the US will not ‘allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation’ in the Red Sea. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the strikes as ‘limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence’.

The air strikes come after the Houthis ignored calls to end their assaults, including a private formal letter delivered to the group leadership by the UK on behalf of the international community (according to various senior Houthi leaders).

The US/ UK strikes are presumably intended as the only possible bad choice to pressure the Houthis to end their hostile activity. But these strikes are largely symbolic, mostly a response to pressure from local actors, shipping firms and other interests who have seen costs rise during the last months of Houthi attacks. One shipping company has already expressed its approval for the operation.

The questions are what actual effect will these air strikes have on Houthi operations, how will the Houthis respond, and what broader impact will the events have on the region?

Houthi capabilities

The air strikes are highly unlikely to have a significant impact on Houthi military capabilities, especially their maritime operations.

The Houthis are far more savvy, prepared, and well-equipped than many Western commentators realize.

The Houthis are far more savvy, prepared, and well-equipped than many Western commentators realize. They are highly experienced in waging war after years of brutal conflict, involving direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia and a lot of supporting and capacity building from Iran through the years.

Middle East braces for chaos as Iran and West square up


Western warplanes and guided missiles roared through the skies over Yemen in the early hours of Friday in a dramatic response to the worsening crisis engulfing the region, where the U.S. and its allies are facing a direct confrontation with Iranian-backed militants.

The strikes against Houthi fighters are a response to weeks of fighting in the Red Sea, where the group has attempted to attack or hijack dozens of civilian cargo ships and tankers in what it calls retribution for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. Washington launched the massive aerial bombardment of the group’s military stores and drone launch sites in partnership with British forces, and with the support of a growing coalition that includes Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Bahrain.

Tensions between Tehran and the West have boiled over in the weeks since its ally, Hamas, launched its October 7 attack on Israel, while Hezbollah, the military group that controls much of southern Lebanon, has stepped up rocket launches across the border. Along with Hamas and Hezbollah, the Houthis form part of the Iranian-led ‘Axis of Resistance’ opposed to both the U.S. and Israel.

Now, the prospect of a full-blown conflict in one of the most politically fragile and strategically important parts of the world is spooking security analysts and energy markets alike.

Escalation fears

Houthi leaders responded to the strikes, which saw American and British forces hit more than 60 targets in 16 locations, with characteristic bravado. They warned the U.S. and U.K. will “have to prepare to pay a heavy price and bear all the dire consequences” for what they called a “blatant aggression.”

“We will confront America, kneel it down, and burn its battleships and all its bases and everyone who cooperates with it, no matter what the cost,” threatened Abdulsalam Jahaf, a member of the group’s security council.

The long war: Israel won’t cease firing until Iran’s Hezbollah does

Clifford D. May 

The war Hamas launched against Israel on Oct. 7 is unlikely to end soon.

Hamas is still firing missiles. It still has snipers in schools and mosques and trigger-pullers blending in with civilians on Gaza’s streets.

Its two top military commanders, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, are believed to have surrounded themselves with hostages deep in the elaborate tunnel network constructed over the years since the Israelis withdrew from Gaza.

But Israel is changing the way it fights. The first phase was an air campaign targeting buildings in which — and under which — Hamas had command-and-control centers and armories.

In the second phase, Israeli infantry engaged in grueling urban combat.

The third phase is to be less intense. Elite units will conduct special operations. More tunnels will be destroyed. Attempts to rescue hostages will continue.

The goal remains unchanged: to cripple Hamas’ military and governing capabilities.

One senior Hamas leader was killed last week, but not in Gaza. Salih al-Arouri was conducting a meeting in a high-rise building in a Beirut suburb. According to the Lebanon24 news website, a missile eliminated him and his deputies. No one else in the building was hurt.

While Jerusalem has not claimed responsibility, David Barnea, chief of the Mossad, Israel‘s national intelligence agency, has pledged that all those involved in planning or carrying out the atrocities of Oct. 7 will face justice.

How the US, UK bombing of Yemen might help the Houthis

Justin Salhani

Beirut, Lebanon – Yemen’s Houthis will not be deterred by United States-led attacks on them in retaliation for their targeting of Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea, and could in fact be emboldened further, say analysts.

On Thursday night, the US and the United Kingdom bombed multiple sites in Yemen that Washington said were Houthi facilities, a day after they shot down missiles fired by the Yemeni group in the Red Sea. The bombings are the first time during this war that the US or its allies have attacked Yemeni territory.

But the Houthis could gain from a raised regional and domestic profile, as the world’s sole superpower takes on a group that is not internationally recognised as the government of Yemen despite controlling large parts of the country, say experts.

On January 10, the US and the UK repelled 21 drones and missiles in the Houthis’ largest operation yet on Red Sea traffic. And the United Nations Security Council, with the world’s most powerful nations, focused on the attacks on Red Sea ships, in a resolution that condemned the Houthis – but also underscored their growing influence as a force to reckon with.

“The Houthis actually won that confrontation the day they started it,” Abdulghani al-Iryani, a senior researcher with the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, told Al Jazeera.
Popular within Yemen

Within Yemen, Ansar Allah, the formal name of the Houthi group, controls the west, including the Bab al-Mandeb strait that leads into the Red Sea, and is fighting for territory against the internationally recognised government of Yemen and its domestic allies.

Hit the Houthis Hard

Matthew Continetti

Since last November, Houthi terrorists operating from enclaves in northern Yemen have launched 27 attacks on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea. The Houthis have fired drone swarms, cruise missiles, and anti-ship missiles. The Houthis have pirated ships. They have endangered lives, disrupted international trade flows, and raised the cost of shipping a container from Asia to northern Europe by 173 percent. And until January 11, they paid no price.

Inspired, financed, and trained by the Iranian revolutionary regime, the Houthis have given America the bird. They flout any pretense of international law. Despite propaganda to the contrary, the Houthis are not a legitimate state actor. They have no serious grievance or ideological cause. Their claim to act in solidarity with Palestinians is a crock. Even if they were sincere, it wouldn't justify their onslaught. The Houthis are a terrorist gang, and if they are not stopped, then the toll they exact in blood and treasure will grow.

How to stop them? First, tell President Biden that his strategy to contain the Houthis hasn't been working. Last year, when this latest wave of violence began, Biden and his national security team did nothing but order U.S. naval assets to intercept the Houthi barrages. The Houthis kept firing.

Then, in mid-December, the United States announced that an international coalition would protect commercial transport. Toward the end of the year, the Treasury Department sanctioned one of the Houthis' Iranian fixers. Neither the display of multilateralism nor the financial threat stopped the Houthis. On New Year's Eve, U.S. forces destroyed four Houthi small boats attempting to hijack a container ship. This act of self-defense also failed to restore deterrence.

Victory Is Ukraine’s Only True Path to Peace

Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Andriy Yermak

For Ukraine, December 14 was a tale of two cities. In Brussels, the European Union’s leaders took the historic decision to open talks with Ukraine about joining the organization. For millions of Ukrainians, it was a moment of hope for a brighter future after enduring years of war and hardship. The message was clear: Ukraine belongs at the heart of Europe.

This vision of Ukraine’s future could not have been more different than the one being described by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on the same day. Responding to pre-screened questions from journalists and handpicked citizens, Putin insisted during a televised press conference that Russia’s political and military aims had not changed since the beginning of the war. Russia has no interest in peace, he made clear, only the subjugation of Ukraine. Putin’s stage-managed affair broadcast the reality of modern-day Russia: a regime built not on democratic legitimacy but on lies and militaristic nationalism, and a government that relies on external conflict to deflect attention from internal failings.

As Putin pushes for a long war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is working for a sustainable peace. Because the consequences of Russia’s invasion have been global—from spiking energy costs to food shortages—Ukrainian officials have been working with counterparts from more than 80 countries to deliver on Ukraine’s “peace formula,” a 10-point plan first proposed by Zelensky in November 2022. On January 14, national security advisers for the leaders of these countries will gather for the fourth time in Davos, Switzerland, to continue elaborating a framework for a lasting and comprehensive peace. We believe that all civilized countries of the world shall support this endeavor.

As long as Putin is in charge, Russia will always threaten not just Ukraine but also the security of all of Europe. It is therefore vital for the democratic world to ensure that a free and independent Ukraine prevails. To do so, it should put in place the security architecture needed to deter a militaristic and imperialistic Russia. If Putin sees the West making strong commitments to Ukraine—through military assistance, accession to the EU, and membership in NATO—he will finally understand that he cannot outlast Kyiv. Only then is there a possibility of a sustainable peace.

ISRO Exploring Opto Quantum Communication for Secure Satellite Networks

In a groundbreaking announcement at IIT Bombay’s Techfest, ISRO Chairman Dr. S. Somanath unveiled India’s ambitious journey into the realm of quantum communication. He revealed ISRO’s work on Opto Quantum Communication Architecture, specifically focusing on the development of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) using a protocol known as Decoy BB84. This marks a significant step towards building secure and unbreakable communication networks for satellites and beyond.

QKD leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to establish unhackable communication channels. Unlike traditional encryption methods that rely on complex mathematical algorithms, QKD uses the inherent randomness of quantum particles – photons in this case – to generate a secret key shared only between the sender and receiver. Any attempt to intercept the key would inevitably disturb the quantum state of the photons, alerting the parties involved to a potential eavesdropping attempt.

The Right Way to Regulate AI

Alondra Nelson

Artificial intelligence “is unlike anything Congress has dealt with before,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said in June 2023. The pace at which AI developers are producing new systems—and those systems’ potential to transform human life—means that the U.S. government should start “from scratch,” he declared, when considering how to regulate and govern AI. Legislators, however, have defied his wishes. Following OpenAI’s late 2022 unveiling of ChatGPT, proposals for how to encourage safe AI development have proliferated faster than new chatbots are being rushed to market. In March 2023, Democratic legislators proposed moratoriums on some uses of AI in surveillance. The next month, a group of bipartisan lawmakers floated a bill to prohibit autonomous AI systems from deploying nuclear weapons. In June, Schumer debuted his own AI agenda, and then in September, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced a bill for AI governance promoting oversight, transparency, and data privacy.

The race to regulate is partly a response to the platitude that government may simply be too sluggish, too brittle, and too outmoded to keep up with fleet-footed new technologies. Industry leaders frequently complain that government is too slow to respond productively to developments in Silicon Valley, using this line of argument to justify objections to putting guardrails around new technologies. Responding to this critique, some government proposals encourage expeditious AI development. But other bills try to rein in AI and protect against dangerous use cases and incursions into citizens’ privacy and freedoms: the Algorithmic Accountability Act that House Democrats proposed in September 2023, for instance, mandates risk assessments before technologies are deployed. Some proposals even seek to accelerate and put the brakes on AI development at the same time.

Myanmar’s Military Junta Is Losing Power


BANGKOK – As autocratic leaders gain influence, if not power, in more countries than proponents of democracy care to count, Myanmar is a remarkable exception: its military junta appears untenable. In fact, Myanmar’s people are putting their lives on the line to break the generals’ grip on power and reclaim their future.

After nearly a half-century of military dictatorship, starting in 1962, a decade of political liberalization, economic reform, and development progress followed, lasting from 2011 until 2021. But Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power from Myanmar’s re-elected civilian government on February 1, 2021, triggering a civil war in which young people, ethnic-minority armies, civilian leaders, and a defiant population have been fighting the regime. More recently, resistance forces – waging what they now call a “revolution” – have scored a series of battlefield victories, turning the tide of the conflict.

But it is one thing to defeat Myanmar’s military; it is quite another to reconstitute a viable pluralistic state with popular legitimacy in an ethnically fractious country. Moreover, Myanmar’s deadly internal conflict could drag on for months as the military makes its last stand around major cities and towns, including the capital of Nay Pyi Taw, relying on air power, armor, and artillery to survive.

The junta appears more vulnerable than ever. The formerly 500,000-strong military currently stands at around 150,000 troops or fewer and is severely overstretched. Widely known as one of the world’s most battle-hardened armed forces, having fought for decades against militias raised by autonomy-seeking ethnic minorities, the military picked the wrong target this time. To subdue national protests in the weeks following the coup, government soldiers turned their guns on their own people, indiscriminately killing hundreds of ordinary Burmese. Popular anger swelled.