17 January 2024

Israel’s Bitter Lessons From the Hamas War, Three Months In


This week marks three months of war that continues to devastate Gaza as the bodies and rubble pile up in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre. What are the lessons to be learned, so far, from a Middle East war like no other?

It is the first war, since Israel’s creation in 1948, that the Jewish state is fighting on six fronts. In addition to Gaza, there is a marked upsurge in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and other radical pro-Iran Shia groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, visiting Israeli leaders on Tuesday, expressed concern that the entire region may succumb to instability. The U.S. and Israel agree that Iran is not-so-secretly stirring up these conflicts, but the Biden Administration insists that Israel’s smartest move now would be to lower the level of combat in Gaza and to focus on an exit strategy. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared recently that the war will continue for many months.

The first lesson is that Israel is barely capable of conducting battles on all these fronts at once. Lebanon is particularly vexing, as Netanyahu’s government threatens Gaza-like destruction if Hezbollah doesn’t pull back from Israel’s border, as tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from their towns and farms in northern Israel. This stands in sharp contrast to years of boasting by the Israel Defense Forces and leaders that the IDF was capable of repelling all military challenges from any direction. There hasn’t been another disaster like Oct. 7, but the array of lethal threats suggests a worrying conclusion: that Israel is weaker than at any time in its 75-year history.

In 1967, the IDF astounded the world by defeating Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in six days—capturing the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. But in more than 90 days, it has not been able to achieve victory in Gaza; the total elimination of Hamas is a seemingly impossible goal. The Israeli military estimates that 8,000 Hamas fighters have been killed since the war began, among the more than 23,000 Gazans listed as dead by the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry. Most of Gaza’s launchers and rockets, especially the long-range ones which were reaching Tel Aviv, have also been destroyed. But Hamas is still able to fire an occasional barrage toward Israel, where almost all have been intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

Hizbullah walks a tightrope amid sharp tensions with Israel

Rym Momtaz

Hizbullah is attempting a delicate balancing act in its response to Israel, seeking to resist American deterrence, maintain pressure on Israel and achieve domestic political gains, all whilst avoiding a regional war.

Three months into the Israeli military offensive in Gaza, tension at the Israel–Lebanon border is at its highest, and the risk of war is spreading.

As the hostilities have increased, and Israel’s attacks have grown more brazen, Hizbullah’s margin of manoeuvre has become increasingly constrained. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has gone to great lengths in all four of his speeches since the Hamas-led 7 October 2023 attacks against Israel to project a sense of strategic restraint and strength. But the growing number of Israeli strikes deep inside Lebanese territory and rising Hizbullah casualties could force an unpredictable escalation.

Mounting pressure 

 In recent weeks, Israel has intensified its threats against Lebanon as the Israeli government faces growing domestic discontent over the war in Gaza, where its military has failed both to decapitate Hamas and demonstrably degrade its capabilities, as well as to free any hostages. In late 2023, South Africa lodged a case at the International Court of Justice accusing Tel Aviv of genocide.

On 6 January 2024, Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant threatened that the Israeli military could attack Beirut with the same force it has used in Gaza. And Israeli military attacks in Lebanon have grown more escalatory in intensity and geographic scope. Attacks attributed to Israel hit Hizbullah’s stronghold in the southern suburb of Beirut for the first time since their 2006 war, killing top Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri. Israel has deliberately shelled the United States-funded Lebanese Armed Forces, and Israeli attacks on civilians and journalists in south Lebanon have been condemned by human-rights groups as evidence of possible war crimes.

India Gets A Rude Awakening In Middle East – OpEd

M.K. Bhadrakumar

From the standpoint of affirming ‘solidarity’ with the regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the October 7 attack, India has swung away to the far horizon and has unceremoniously dumped the US-Israeli axis, which provided beacon light to Delhi’s West Asian policies in the past few years.

From a strategic asset, the Israeli connection is becoming a liability for the Indian government. Delhi spurned Netanyahu’s repeated entreaties to brand Hamas as a terrorist organisation — by the way, India never pointed finger at Hamas for the October 7 attack. It has resumed the traditional stance of voting against Israel in the UN General Assembly resolutions on the Palestine problem. The Netanyahu-Modi pow-vows have become infrequent.

This is a far cry from the controversial gesture by PM Modi during his ‘historic’ five-day visit to Israel in 2017 to pay homage at the tomb of the founding father of Zionism Theodor Herzl in Haifa . It is doubtful if any Indian prime minister would repeat Modi’s feat in future. With reasonable certainty, it can be said that the future of Zionism in West Asia itself looks rather bleak.

Again, for reasons that remain obscure even today, India decided to be a strong votary of the ill-fated Abraham Accords that purportedly aimed at ‘integrating’ Israel into the Arab fold but, in reality, to isolate Iran in its neighbourhood. Delhi never provided a rational explanation for such a dramatic shift in the traditional policy not to take sides in the intra-regional fratricidal strife in West Asia or identify with the US hegemony in that region.

Delhi followed up by enthusiastically lining up with a surreal venture called ‘I2U2’ which brought together India and the UAE with the US and Israel as a condominium to promote the spirit of the Abraham Accords. In an extravagant gesture, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar paid a 5-day visit to Israel to participate in ‘I2U2’.

European Sting Operations Target Suspected Hamas Operatives

Adam Rousselle
  • German authorities arrested four alleged Hamas operatives in Berlin and Rotterdam in December 2023 for allegedly plotting attacks on Jewish sites in Europe. Three additional suspects were arrested in Denmark and Netherlands.
  • The German interior ministry considers Berlin-based Majed al-Zeer to be “[Hamas’s] secret representative in Germany,” and a key European conduit for Hamas fundraising in Europe. Government attempts at charging al-Zeer have not succeeded.
  • Crackdowns on Hamas abroad risk further alienating the sizable Palestinian diaspora community in Europe, especially in Berlin. This could inspire more recruitment into Jihadist militant groups.
Europe’s ongoing probe into Hamas activities may reveal the scope of the group’s global operations. In response to a reported plot to attack European Jewish sites, this latest round of arrests and investigations in Europe is the culmination of more than a decade of efforts by German authorities to target suspected Hamas members and Hamas-affiliated charity organizations across the country. However, the extent of these efforts has been criticized by members of the German–Palestinian diaspora—the largest community of its kind in Europe. This could have lasting consequences for the militancy and radicalization of European pro-Palestinian activism moving forward.

The Sting on Suspected Hamas Operatives

The latest probe into Hamas in Europe began on November 2, when German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser announced a complete ban on the group’s activities in the country. This policy prohibits any and all internet presence or social media activity by Hamas, and permits authorities to confiscate Hamas assets upon investigation (DW, December 2, 2023). The ban also coincided with the banning of pro-Palestinian protests across much of Germany, with Berlin-area schools being given permission to ban the wearing of the traditional Palestinian scarf, or keffiyeh (Al Jazeera, November 2, 2023). Berlin has one of Europe’s largest Palestinian communities, with an estimated population of 30,000. Amid these moves, there has been growing complaints about the criminalization of Palestinian life in Germany (Al Jazeera, October 26, 2023).

The Importance of China and Pakistan’s Joint Naval Exercises

Shantanu Roy-Chaudhury

China and Pakistan held the third edition of Sea Guardian, their bilateral naval exercise, from November 11-17 in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan. This was the largest naval exercise between the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Pakistani Navy to date, and it included both land and sea phases. The exercise aimed to develop the “all-weather strategic cooperative partnership” between the two countries and enhance military cooperation. Although this is only the third edition of the Sea Guardian exercise, it was the eighth bilateral naval exercise between the two militaries, with the first occurring in 2014.

History of Sea Guardian Exercise

The Sea Guardian exercise was first held in 2020 in the Arabian Sea followed by a 2022 edition in the East China Sea off Shanghai. The 2020 exercise included Chinese participants primarily from the Southern Theater Command and the 2022 exercise from the Eastern Theater Command. Sea Guardian was not held in 2021 due to the pandemic.

The inaugural exercise aimed to explore new methods of conducting joint exercises and fostering interoperability to address common maritime issues. At the opening ceremony for the first Sea Guardian drills, Vice Admiral Asif Khaliq, who commanded the Pakistani Naval Fleet, stated that the concept of the exercise was “to provide a platform for the two navies to share information, enhance understanding and deepen their common interests.” This would then become a basis for further cooperation.

China’s ambassador to Pakistan at the time, Yao Jing, added that Sea Guardian would complement the existing Warrior exercise series between the armies of the two nations and the Shaheen (Eagle) series between their air forces.

In the broader strategic relations between China and Pakistan, the Sea Guardian exercises are one facet of a multidimensional defense relationship that spans arms and technology transfers and sustained high-level military diplomacy. With continuous political upheaval in Pakistan, the military is viewed as a stable entity for Beijing to interact with and increasing military engagements seek to enhance overall bilateral relations.

Pakistani Army Chief Faces Uphill Battle in Effort to Reset Relations with Washington

Moneeb Mir
  • Pakistan’s army chief visited the United States in December to “reset” strained relations and potentially secure American aid in the hopes of ameliorating Pakistan’s ongoing economic crisis and rising militant threat.
  • Since the 2021 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, there has been a 65 percent surge in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, resulting in over 2,500 deaths. Islamabad blames this on the Afghan Taliban’s support of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
  • Pakistan is increasingly retaliating by means of economic sanctions and the forced return of more than a million Afghan refugees. This policy could destabilize the region and force the United States to refocus its attention back to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistani army chief General Asim Munir embarked on a highly anticipated week-long trip to the United States on December 10. Munir’s inaugural visit held special importance for Pakistan, given the influential role of its military establishment in shaping the country’s affairs. On the agenda were issues ranging from trade to security, with a primary focus on resetting relations between the two countries, which have been strained since the American exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the Taliban’s subsequent takeover of Kabul (Dawn, April 2, 2022).

Security-Driven Relations

The primary objective of Munir was to garner American attention. This is felt in Islamabad to have been lacking in recent years, with the United States perceived to have “distanced” itself from Pakistan following the American withdrawal from Afghanistan (Dawn, April 2, 2022). Islamabad fears that being sidelined by the United States could hamper its prospects of stabilizing or otherwise ameliorating the country’s current economic crisis. Pakistan suffers from a poor balance of payments, a high debt-to-GDP ratio (78 percent; World Economics, 2023), high inflation (Trading Economics, accessed January 8), and continued budget deficits (ParadigmShift, August 3, 2023; Trading Economics, accessed January 8).

Rising Anti-China Sentiment in Balochistan Threatens Increased Attacks on Chinese Interests in Pakistan

Riccardo Valle, Lucas Webber

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) militant group in Pakistan opposes Chinese investment projects in Balochistan province, viewing China as complicit in Pakistani government oppression of their people. The BLA has carried out multiple attacks against Chinese nationals and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) installations since 2018.
The BLA ambushed a convoy of 23 Chinese engineers in August 2023. The group stated that it would increase attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan after 90 days unless China withdrew from Balochistan entirely.
While the BLA’s 90-day ultimatum came and passed without a major attack, competition among various Baloch militant groups could drive new attacks in early 2024 by the BLA or other allied Baloch separatist groups.

As China’s global political, economic, and security influence expands, groups ranging from al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) to the communist Philippine New People’s Party (NPP) are showing hostility toward Beijing and, in some cases, calling for the targeting of Chinese nationals and interests (Nikkei Asia, February 21, 2023). Armed separatists in the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) in Pakistan’s southern province of Balochistan—as well as militants in parts of neighboring countries, such as areas in Iran’s Sistan-ve-Balochistan Province or Kandahar Province in Afghanistan—have rapidly become the most violent anti-China guerilla force in Asia (The Economic Times, August 15, 2023). Although the BLA is fighting for Baloch secession from Pakistan, it views Beijing as Islamabad’s primary international backer and, by extension, an oppressor of the Baloch people (Global Times, April 28, 2022).

The BLA’s anti-China militant campaign hinders Islamabad’s efforts to strengthen its economy because the targets include assets and personnel belonging to the Belt and Road Initiative’s flagship regional project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which spans from the northernmost part of Pakistan down to the Arabian Sea port city of Gwadar in Balochistan (Dawn, July 8, 2023). The BLA’s stated goal is to disrupt and undermine CPEC, which alone is estimated to comprise $65 billion in Chinese investment, through a linked anti-China media and militant activity strategy (Arab News, August 14, 2023). Given the high value of CPEC, and in response to the string of attacks in the past few years, Pakistan has taken counter-measures against the BLA—sometimes in coordination with China—to protect Chinese nationals and interests (South Asia Monitor, March 1, 2021).

Why Is Sri Lanka Joining US-led Patrols in the Red Sea?

Uditha Devapriya

Speaking at an awards ceremony on January 3, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that the government would be deploying a navy vessel to the Red Sea to help defend shipping lanes. Wickremesinghe pointed out that the disruption of shipping lanes in the Red Sea would lead to increased freight charges and cargo costs, increasing import prices in the country. Arguing that this was not in Sri Lanka’s interest, he declared that the government would do what it could to contribute to stability in the region.

The announcement came as a surprise to many, not least since the president revealed it only toward the tail end of his speech. Soon after, the government launched a feasibility study for the proposal. Wickremesinghe had earlier admitted that deploying a vessel would cost the government 250 million Sri Lankan rupees ($775,000) every fortnight, while a Sri Lanka Navy spokesman stated that the Red Sea operation required clear “logistics supplies” and “a robust weapon outfit.”

Meanwhile, on social media and in the press, commentators and analysts weighed in on the proposal, many expressing skepticism and condemning the move.

The Sri Lanka Navy has since confirmed that it will be dispatching a number of vessels to the region. While no date has been finalized yet, the Navy has stated that the deployment will be in support of Operation Prosperity Guardian, the United States-led multinational initiative combating Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

The Houthis have vowed not to back down until Israel ends its attacks on Palestine. Since December, they have planned and carried out a series of drone and missile strikes on vessels in the Red Sea, which have forced cargo ships to reroute. In response, several countries, including India, have deployed vessels to the region.

Sri Lanka is the latest country to join these efforts, but its entry seems to have left more questions than answers.

'China developing tools to control foreign satellites': Kenny Huang

Namrata Biji Ahuja

On December 12, representatives of India, the United States and Taiwan met in New Delhi, for closed-door discussions on the challenge of cyberattacks on democratic systems, as the three countries are holding general elections in 2024. Eric Garcetti, the US ambassador to India, said technical collaboration was essential to safeguard cyberspace in all three countries. Kenny Huang, CEO of the Taiwan Network Information Centre under the ministry of digital affairs in Taipei, has been on the job ever since. Huang is trying to cement the collaboration between the three countries to defend against a common threat factor―China’s covert cyber warriors.

Being cross-strait neighbours, Taiwan holds the key to some secrets of China, not so well known to militaries in other countries. One such secret is the swift advancement of the People’s Liberation Army in developing advanced cyber weapons that can ‘seize control’ of enemy satellites and threaten to disrupt global communication, navigation and surveillance systems. “The consequences may extend to the manipulation or disabling of crucial infrastructure, including GPS navigation, weather monitoring, communication networks and compromising military surveillance,” said Huang in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Q What kind of cyber threat is Taiwan facing from China?

A China poses a significant cyber threat to Taiwan across its military branches. China has developed advanced cyber capabilities in the air force, navy, ground force and rocket force. These capabilities target communication systems, intelligence networks and command structures, potentially disrupting air, naval and ground operations. In the rocket force, cyber tools may aim to secure and disrupt missile defence systems. China integrates cyber capabilities into its broader military strategy, emphasising information warfare. This comprehensive approach includes both offensive cyber operations and defence against potential cyber threats. Taiwan must prioritise cyber security measures to protect against these persistent and sophisticated cyber threats from China. Enhancing defences across air, naval, ground and rocket forces is crucial for safeguarding Taiwan’s military capabilities in the face of evolving cyber challenges posed by China.

Beijing Grows Assertive As Chinese Private Military Companies ‘Come Out Of The Shadows’ – Analysis

Paul Goble

For more than a decade, China has been using its own private military companies (PMCs) to guard Chinese facilities abroad, preferring to use them rather than rely on protection from local firms or PMCs from other countries. On occasion, Beijing will employ PMCs to put pressure on governments in other countries (see EDM, March 25, 2021). Until now, it has always done so without much fanfare.

Chinese officials typically deny that PMCs play a role greater than merely defending Chinese interests. Beijing often chooses to call these entities by various other names to hide their true nature (Window on Eurasia, August 25, 2022, December 28, 2023). This approach has led Western analysts to stress the limited and defensive nature of Chinese PMCs in contrast to what they and others admit are the larger and more strategic actions of Russian and American PMCs (Voice of America, March 31, 2023; Sukhankin, “An Anatomy of the Chinese Private Security Contracting Industry,” January 3, 2023).

In the words of one Moscow commentator, Chinese PMCs have “come out of the shadows.” The analyst referred to a recent meeting in Beijing in December 2023 during which officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and officers of various Chinese security companies took part. Discussions during the event alluded to the broader role for these paramilitary forces in taking on a more assertive posture globally (Fondsk.ru, December 25, 2023).

The session in Beijing featured speakers who declared that China has no choice but to deploy even more PMCs around the world. They asserted that this is sorely needed as currently there are more than 47,000 Chinese companies employing 4.1 million people, including 1.6 million Chinese citizens, in some 190 countries. The meeting was followed by the publication of what can be described as a programmatic discussion of Chinese PMCs in the South China Morning Post (SCMP). The article suggested that Beijing plans to expand its use of PMCs to pursue broader political goals (SCMP, December 24, 2023). This public stance indicates that China feels that it can now use PMCs more openly due to the growth of Chinese power abroad and the declining influence of Russia and the United States. This, in turn, suggests that Chinese officials will deploy these entities more frequently and more broadly than in the past, allowing Beijing to defend its infrastructure on foreign soil and put additional political pressure on other countries.

The Future Of China’s Economy: War-Driven Or Centralized? – Analysis

Kung Chan and He Jun

After experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of anti-globalization sentiments, and intensified geopolitical competition, the operational environment of the global economy has significantly differed from the one during the era of globalization. This change is not limited to the international scene but is equally true to China as well. In recent years, we have observed certain systemic changes in such an environment of the Chinese economy.

For private enterprises, the challenges in business operations are increasing. The business environment too continues to deteriorate, and there is little wonder to see the weakening confidence in the future market. For foreign enterprises, the heightened geopolitical competition has raised concerns about investing in China. On one hand, there are worries about possible sanctions and restrictions from the Western world, and on the other hand, concerns exist that China might overreact in response to the West, putting pressure on foreign investments. For ordinary consumers, due to unfavorable expectations regarding economic prospects, employment, income growth, and capital markets, their confidence in consumption and investment is noticeably restrained. From the perspective of economic operation mechanisms, the goal set in the country’s Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee to “allow the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation” has not been effectively realized so far.

Entering 2024, researchers at ANBOUND believe that there is unlikely to be a significant change in the overall economic and geopolitical environments, both domestically and internationally. This implies that the operational situation and mechanisms of the Chinese economy are also unlikely to undergo the anticipated reforms and changes. Despite the hope for reforms similar to the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee, aspirations do not necessarily align with reality. Therefore, there should be an objective analysis of the operational mechanisms and institutional characteristics of the future Chinese economy.

Houthi Attacks: What Happens Next?


The longer the Gaza War goes on the greater the concern that it will escalate into something much larger. Iran is being watched most closely because it orchestrates the ‘axis of resistance’ of which Hamas is a part and could give the other members, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, a green light to raise the level of their attacks.

Most attention has focused on Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. The exchanges between the two have stopped short of full-scale hostilities, but only just. The clashes began after Hamas’s attacks on 7 October, when Hezbollah fired rockets and artillery ‘in solidarity’. It continues to do so and Israel takes out Hamas positions in Lebanon. Over the past three months nine Israeli soldiers and four civilians have been killed, while 123 have reportedly died in Lebanon, including at least 21 civilians. More than 80,000 Israelis residents have been evacuated away from the border areas.

After Wissam Tawil, a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces, was killed by an Israeli strike, Hezbollah retaliated with a drone attack on Israeli army headquarters in Safed, northern Israel, though without apparently causing damage or casualties. Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem also emphasised that the group did not want to expand the war, adding that if it was expanded by Israel ‘the response is inevitable to the maximum extent required to deter Israel.’ Lebanon is in no fit state to cope with a major confrontation. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has been pressing Israel not to add to the current regional chaos by embarking on a major war with Hezbollah.

In addition, US troops in Iraq and Syria, still there after the fight against ISIS, have been attacked by Iran-backed militias 130 times since 17 October. There have been no American fatalities but occasional injuries. These have prompted US responses, of which there have been fewer than ten so far. The most serious came on 4 January when a militia leader blamed for the attacks was killed in Baghdad.

Democracy, Good and Hard: The Red Sea Crisis Follows from Multiple Fateful Decisions

Tom Ordeman, Jr.

In the opening days of 2024, events in the Red Sea provide an object lesson in the consequences of what many would characterize as a weak or ill-advised foreign policy.

On October 7th, 2023, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), two terrorist organizations based in the Gaza Strip, breached a fortified border and attacked Israeli civilians. More than a thousand Israelis were killed, and several hundred were taken back to Gaza as hostages. Both Hamas and PIJ receive the bulk of their financial and operational support from the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is widely recognized as the leading sponsor of international terrorism.

Of course, blame for the October 7th attack, and subsequent efforts by Hamas and PIJ to exact a toll on Israel, falls entirely upon those groups and their sponsors. However, since Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Biden Administration's critics have suggested that America's failed campaign in, and botched withdrawal from, Afghanistan, and President Biden's own long-term foreign policy record, emboldened American enemies around the world. By October, domestic political pressure against a "blank check for Ukraine" was also ongoing, caused in no small part by Biden's failure to build bi-partisan consensus for his foreign policy.

In September, mere weeks before the October 7th attack, the Biden Administration arranged to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian assets held in South Korean banks as part of a controversial prisoner swap. The Biden Administration claims that negotiations involved safeguards to ensure that the money could only be used for humanitarian purposes, but at very best, this merely frees up additional funds from Iran's budget for Tehran's sustained support to terrorist groups in Gaza and elsewhere. This has been evidenced by flare-ups on Israel's northern border, where Lebanese Hezbollah - itself a subsidiary of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' infamous Quds Force - has launched multiple rocket attacks. This has triggered Israeli concerns that Hezbollah could attempt to cross the border and attempt a repeat of the Hamas/PIJ incursion. At the end of November, in a rare instance of bi-partisan cooperation, Democrats and Republicans in Congress passed a measure to freeze the $6 billion in Qatari banks, days after the Biden Administration released another $10 billion to Iran.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Review: Dreams of Empire

Dominic Green

The British explorer Ranulph Fiennes is the first person to have crossed Antarctica on foot and the only living person to have circumnavigated the planet by its poles. In 2000 he fell through the ice while walking solo to the North Pole, leaving the fingertips of his left hand severely frostbitten. When he got home, Mr. Fiennes, a veteran of the elite Special Air Service, trimmed the fingertips with a saw, saving himself £6,000 in medical expenses and, he says, considerable pain.

In 2003 Mr. Fiennes had a heart attack and a bypass operation, then completed seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. In 2009 he reached the summit of Mount Everest on the third attempt. His other feats of endurance include writing more than 30 books, including biographies of the polar pioneers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, handbooks for ultrarunners and travelers with weak hearts, and the perhaps inevitable family history “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.”

Mr. Fiennes (pronounced “Fines”) is a classic English type, the diffident hero and driven adventurer. He is the square peg who inspires irregular soldiers in inhospitable places. He crosses deserts, forests and frozen wastes, facing down danger and the limits of human endurance, death included.

The rarest such figure, combining all these characteristics of imperial legend with lasting historical significance, was T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935). Dubbed Lawrence of Arabia in his lifetime and immortalized twice over, once by himself in his 1926 memoir “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and again by Peter O’Toole in the 1962 movie “Lawrence of Arabia,” Lawrence played a crucial but thwarted role in the shaping of the modern Middle East.

A new biography of the adventurer T.E. Lawrence, Einstein’s complex genius, a political party’s transformation and more.

U.S. Strikes Give Yemen’s Houthis the Enemy They Long Sought

Stephen Kalin and Saleh al-Batati

In disrupting international shipping and drawing U.S. military strikes, Yemen’s Houthi forces are trying to complete a two-decade-long transformation from a ragtag tribal insurgency into their country’s legitimate rulers.

Washington and its allies say they have attacked dozens of Houthi targets in the past two days, including on Saturday morning against a radar site. The Houthis’ deputy information minister, Nasr al-Din Amir, reported no material losses or casualties from the latest strikes and said the targeted site was already defunct.

The strikes are the latest signs that conflict stemming from the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza is widening across the Middle East, with the Red Sea as a new flashpoint between Washington and the various Iran-backed groups arrayed across the region.

Houthi rebels said they remained undeterred after a U.S.-led coalition launched strikes intended to reduce the Iran-backed group’s attacks on ships in the Red Sea. WSJ’s Stephen Kalin explains how the strikes could threaten a broader conflict. Satellite Images: Maxar Technologies

The Houthis, aligned with Iran but with a looser connection than the likes of Lebanese Hezbollah, have proved a surprisingly resilient force. They emerged emboldened and well-armed from a long conflict with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, who intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 after the rebels seized the capital, San’a, launching thousands of airstrikes and sending in ground troops. Iran ramped up its supply of arms and training to the Houthis during the war, bringing them into general alignment with the regime in Tehran.

Now, dozens of attacks on commercial ships transiting the Red Sea—and a defiant response to American-British airstrikes that began this week—have enabled the Houthis to show solidarity with the Palestinians during Israel’s war in Gaza and cast themselves as an international player. A road map aimed at a lasting peace in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia brokered with the Houthis last year in United Nations-backed talks, now appears in jeopardy.

Yemen is a war worth fighting


Finally, we’ve found the kind of Middle Eastern war we should be fighting. Still, that doesn’t mean we’ll win.

Let’s start with the first proposition: that this is the right war. Strip away everything else and what do we have? A cheaply-armed, Iranian backed militia in control of one half of a very poor country imposing itself into our domestic affairs. By targeting container ships travelling through the Red Sea en route to the Suez Canal and Europe, the Houthis are destabilising Western economies at a time they can least afford it. As one senior Western figure put it to me: “We’ve got to stop the plucky little fuckers.”

There is, then, a refreshing simplicity to this military action. At heart we are asserting our power. We, the West, remain powerful and our interests are being affected by those with less power. And so we act. This is not naive neoconservatism, it’s hard-edged paleoconservatism — and the better for it. Lord Salisbury could be overseeing the policy.

For most of this century, Western foreign policy has been devoid of such clear, understandable logic, gripped by dreams of enlightened hegemony. We spent billions toppling regimes and trying to build new states and cultures in their place. And we failed. Then came the years of austerity, where we convinced ourselves that we could maintain global order on the cheap through the magic of development spending. In Britain, the apotheosis of this fallacious foreign policy was David Cameron’s austerity-era Strategic Defence and Security Review.

In hindsight, the first two decades of this century — bookended by President Putin’s rise to power on December 31, 1999, and Joe Biden’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 — mark a catastrophic failure. Two military defeats, the destabilisation of whole regions, the rise of Isis, the slashing of our military capacity. In its place a new but much older doctrine has arrived: do not spend billions of pounds we haven’t got nation-building in places where we have little material interest; do stand up to threats to international shipping and oil prices which affect our people at home.

What’s Driving the Houthis?

Ari Heistein & Jason Brodsky

When the Houthis began launching drones, rockets, and missiles at Israel and maritime traffic in the Red Sea, it was natural to ask what the group sought to achieve. After all, Yemen has no tangible interests in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, nor does it stand to reap any material benefit from harassing international shipping. As the U.S.-led coalition responds to Houthi attacks—a back-and-forth that could last for some time—designing an effective strategy to restore deterrence requires understanding the adversary's motives.

As it stands, the Houthis are well-positioned to attain five overlapping objectives in their intervention on behalf of Hamas as Israel fights to dislodge it from Gaza following the October 7 attacks. Iran has also secured numerous achievements via the Houthis as it wages its own multifront and multidimensional conflict.

First, the Houthis are seeking quick wins in the international arena during a dismal time in the domestic arena. Economic misery is not an aberration but a characteristic of the Houthi regime: they levy burdensome taxes and shakedowns to extort any remnants of the economy that remains in Yemen, while the lack of any credible justice system would make it impossible for anyone abroad to consider investing or doing business in Yemen. Many Yemenis harbor growing resentment of a regime that appoints its family members and cronies to top positions while the situation of the average Yemeni continues to decline.

To make matters worse, the group disrupts and skims off of international efforts to help the most vulnerable Yemenis. In light of the group's decimation of Yemen's already weak economy and minimal diplomatic power, the Houthis' best bet for inspiring Yemeni loyalty to the regime (or at least non-opposition) was to direct its military power against the widely unpopular Israel.

Second, the Houthis may have sought to provoke responses from the international community, like the airstrikes launched on January 11, to justify the continued misery of Yemenis. This may seem counterintuitive to most Westerners, but it makes perfect sense according to Houthi logic. If the group cannot deliver improved quality of life, then they will need to create new explanations for why Yemenis must endure poverty even during a ceasefire with the Saudi-led coalition.

Will the Strikes on the Houthis Make any Difference?

James Holmes

In all likelihood, the author of Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control, a fixture in the strategic canon, would be a confirmed skeptic that the strikes will accomplish anything decisive against the rebels.

For Wylie, the goal of military strategy is control—chiefly control of physical space. And he maintains that it takes soldiers or marines on the ground, not aviators or seaborne rocketeers, to seize control of physical space. He proclaims that, in the end, “the man on the scene with a gun” is the arbiter of victory. The soldier toting superior firepower determines who wins.

So decisive results against the Houthis seem fanciful, barring an amphibious offensive, an unappealing if not unthinkable option for coalition magnates. Hence Wylie’s likely skepticism toward the venture were he among the quick today.

What did the coalition leadership intend yesterday’s strikes to accomplish? According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the strikes will “disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade in one of the world’s most critical waterways. Today’s coalition action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will bear further costs if they do not end their illegal attacks.” The key phrases being disrupt and degrade, clear message, and further costs.

And what Secretary Austin says makes sense on its face. Martial sage Carl von Clausewitz contends that there are three ways to prevail over an antagonist on the battlefield. Imposing unbearable costs is one of them. A rational foe ought to capitulate if convinced it can’t afford to achieve its military goals, or if it doesn’t care enough about its goals to pay the necessary price. Degrade its warmaking capacity enough and its leadership ought to give in. Austin seems to bestride solid ground from a Clausewitzian standpoint.

U.S. Military Strikes Another Houthi-Controlled Site

John Gambrell & Tara Copp , Aamer Madhani

The U.S. military early Saturday struck another Houthi-controlled site in Yemen that it had determined was putting commercial vessels in the Red Sea at risk, a day after the U.S. and Britain launched multiple airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels.

Associated Press journalists in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, heard one loud explosion.

U.S. Central Command said the “follow-on action” early Saturday local time against a Houthi radar site was conducted by the Navy destroyer USS Carney using Tomahawk land attack missiles.

The first day of strikes Friday hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets. President Joe Biden had warned Friday that the Houthis could face further strikes.

The latest strike came after the U.S. Navy on Friday warned American-flagged vessels to steer clear of areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for the next 72 hours after the initial airstrikes. The warning came as Yemen’s Houthis vowed fierce retaliation, further raising the prospect of a wider conflict in a region already beset by Israel’s war in Gaza.

U.S. military and White House officials said they expected the Houthis to try to strike back.

The U.S.-led bombardment — launched in response to a recent campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the vital Red Sea — killed at least five people and wounded six, the Houthis said. The U.S. said the strikes, in two waves, took aim at targets in 28 different locations across Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo) A map showing Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. 

Iran’s Strategy of Proxy Encirclement

Michael Hochberg and Leonard Hochberg

There are two prevailing interpretations of the recent Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The first interpretation is that these are proxy attacks, sponsored by Iran, aimed at undermining freedom of the seas and the American-led international rules-based order. By disrupting shipping and trade flows, Iran gets to extract a price from the West for supporting Israel against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, their proxies in Gaza. Certainly the relevant weapons are being provided by Iran, which suggests that Iran sees strategic benefits in these attacks.

Iran’s autocratic allies and sponsors also benefit: The Chinese, who originated much of this missile technology, certainly cannot be unhappy to see American and allied naval resources tied up in the Red Sea, when they might otherwise be in the Taiwan straits and the South China Sea. They’ll also be delighted to have an opportunity to test missile and drone technology in a live-fire scenario against American convoy defenses. And Russia, of course, benefits both from American resources being diverted from the Ukraine conflict and from the increased oil prices that emerge from chaos in the shipping lanes. But here Chinese and Russian interests diverge: The Chinese are highly dependent on hydrocarbons from Iran and other Persian Gulf states. This Chinese reliance on maritime commerce goes a long way toward explaining why Iranian missiles are being used to shut down the Bab al-Mandeb, but not the Straits of Hormuz.

The second interpretation of these attacks rests on the desire to harm Israel by disrupting shipping to and from Israeli ports. While the Houthis may well desire to attack Israel as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, their local fight for territory and influence in Yemen, against Saudi proxies, is surely their first priority. Firing missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia, and at international shipping invites reprisals from powerful Western enemies.

There is a third interpretation that brings the situation into clearer focus: Prior to the events of October 7th, 2023, an alliance between Israel and the Arab states, against Iran, was emerging. The Gulf states desperately need Israeli technology, expertise, and capital in order to move their economies off of a hydrocarbon base. Israel is potentially a significant exporter of LNG, following discoveries in the Leviathan natural gas oil field, which aligns Israeli economic interests with other energy exporters. Hamas, an Iranian proxy, shattered that emerging alliance.

Analytical material on the security situation in Ukraine as of January 2024, with a forecast of the development of events for the spring campaign."

Vlad Dut

The objective of this study is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the security situation in Ukraine across various domains: in the air (ACC), on land (LCC), at sea (MCC), in cyberspace (Cyber), and in space (Space). The aim is to fully understand the current situation and predict its medium-term development within the framework of applying NATO principles.

An additional task involves identifying the 'Centre of Gravity (COG),' a crucial aspect that often receives insufficient attention in contemporary operational planning and combat strategies.

The aim of this study is to conduct a critical evaluation of the current security situation in the most threatening areas of the front to achieve a realistic understanding and to propose measures for its improvement. Acquiring a thorough awareness of the situation during the period of russian aggression is crucial for identifying correct priorities in neutralizing the enemy's offensive potential by the military-political leadership of Ukraine. This approach also allows for consideration of the genuine challenges faced by the civilian population.


1. The security situation in the regions of Ukraine in the air(ACC), on land(LCC), at sea(MCC), in cyber(Cyber) and outer space(Space).

2. Center of gravity (COG) according to Carl von Clausewitz. The current COG of the russian occupation forces.

3. Current critical gaps in the Defense Forces of Ukraine and their likely solutions.

4. Conclusion.

The security situation in Ukraine is marked by a high degree of complexity, leading to an inaccurate assessment of medium and long-term risks. This miscalculation reached a critical juncture by the end of December 2023.

Reflecting on Ukraine's defensive and offensive actions throughout 2023, it is evident that the anticipated outcomes, established as objectives the previous year, were not fully realized. Unwarranted expectations resulted from a combination of consequences and miscalculations at both the political and military levels within Ukraine and, to a significant extent, among our allies, notably the USA[1].

Why 2024 is the Voldemort of years

Ian Bremmer

2024. Politically it’s the Voldemort of years. The annus horribilis. The year that must not be named. I’d love to sugarcoat it, but I can’t: From a global political risk perspective, this is the most dangerous and uncertain year I’ve covered in my lifetime.

As we write in Eurasia Group’s 2024 Top Risks report, three wars will dominate world affairs: Russia vs. Ukraine, now in its third year; Israel vs. Hamas, now in its third month; and the United States vs. itself, ready to kick off at any moment.

Russia vs. Ukraine … is getting worse. Russia now has the battlefield initiative and a material advantage, while Ukraine stands to lose significant international interest and support. For the United States, in particular, it’s become a distant second (and increasingly third or lower) policy priority, despite hundreds of thousands of casualties and millions of displaced Ukrainians.

Battlefield difficulties, diminishing Western support, and domestic political infighting will leave Ukrainians feeling increasingly desperate, making Kyiv more risk-tolerant and the conflict more likely to escalate. While Russia has no way to “win,” Ukraine will be de facto partitioned this year and could “lose” the war as early as 2025.

Israel vs. Hamas … is getting worse. Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks jolted the Middle East out of its complacency, and there’s no obvious way to end the fighting that has ensued. While no country wants a regional war to erupt, the powder is dry, and the number of players carrying matches – Israel’s war cabinet, Hezbollah, the Houthis, Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq – makes the risk of escalation high. The current fighting in Gaza is accordingly likely to be only the first phase in an expanding conflict this year.

Impact of the Russia–Ukraine War on National Cyber Planning: A Survey of Ten Countries

Greg Austin & Natallia Khaniejo

This survey of ten countries shows how radically they have reacted to the unprecedented cyber operations of the Russia–Ukraine war. The report also flags important lessons about the strategic character of cyber operations in modern war.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has involved the most extensive and continuous use of hostile cyber operations by one state against another in history. What has the world learnt about cyber power as a result? This paper explores how ten countries – Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – have responded to the war in the cyber domain. The paper delineates five main takeaways:
  • The blurring of boundaries between competition, crisis and war in cyberspace requires a continuity of cyber defence.
  • National cyber security should be among a state’s top priorities in policy focus and budget allocations.
  • Cyber security can only be achieved by proactive measures informed by the principles of ‘active defence’ and ‘defence in depth’.
  • National cyber defence depends on effective partnerships between governments and the private sector as well as alliances with like-minded countries.
  • Influence operations are a growing and significant challenge in cyberspace, with most of the states surveyed introducing new measures to enhance societal resilience against such operations.

Open-Source AI Is Uniquely Dangerous


When people think of AI applications these days, they likely think of “closed-source” AI applications like OpenAI’s ChatGPT—where the system’s software is securely held by its maker and a limited set of vetted partners. Everyday users interact with these systems through a Web interface like a chatbot, and business users can access an application programming interface (API) which allows them to embed the AI system in their own applications or workflows. Crucially, these uses allow the company that owns the model to provide access to it as a service, while keeping the underlying software secure. Less well understood by the public is the rapid and uncontrolled release of powerful unsecured (sometimes called open-source) AI systems.

OpenAI’s brand name adds to the confusion. While the company was originally founded to produce open-source AI systems, its leaders determined in 2019 that it was too dangerous to continue releasing its GPT systems’ source code and model weights (the numerical representations of relationships between the nodes in its artificial neural network) to the public. OpenAI worried because these text-generating AI systems can be used to generate massive amounts of well-written but misleading or toxic content.

Companies including Meta (my former employer) have moved in the opposite direction, choosing to release powerful unsecured AI systems in the name of democratizing access to AI. Other examples of companies releasing unsecured AI systems include Stability AI, Hugging Face, Mistral, EleutherAI, and the Technology Innovation Institute. These companies and like-minded advocacy groups have made limited progress in obtaining exemptions for some unsecured models in the European Union’s AI Act, which is designed to reduce the risks of powerful AI systems. They may push for similar exemptions in the United States via the public comment period recently set forth in the White House’s AI Executive Order.

Data as Ammunition: Hyper-Personalized Warfare in the Digital Age

Brian Michelson

Weaponized data is the new ammunition in the coming era of hyper-personalized warfare. The ability to gather, process, and weaponize vast amounts of data on individuals is already a reality, and with every click, like, purchase, and online transaction, we have the potential to improve the information an adversary has on each of us. Fed by this vast amount of data, improving artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will enable state and non-state adversaries to tailor large-scale digital operations to a level not previously seen.

While this phenomenon will have many unanticipated results, two trends bear especially close watching: the increasing ability of adversaries to use highly personalized digital attacks against servicemembers, their families, and their friends and the ability of adversaries to conduct large-scale psychological warfare at the individual level.

Targeting high-value military leaders has long been a common practice in war. From the 1943 precision strike on Admiral Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Combined Japanese Fleet, in Papua New Guinea to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force, at the Baghdad International Airport in 2020, deliberate attacks on individuals have had a significant effect on military conflicts. While past operations have taken considerable time, energy, and resources to conduct, the most significant limiting factor has often been accurate intelligence on the individuals themselves.

Yet, we now live in an age in which we have abundant information that can be quickly turned into intelligence. Cell phone data is ubiquitous, even in combat zones, as we have seen in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Less obvious is how enormous amounts of data is generated on, and by, service members during a peacetime environment.

Commercially available data, numerous and massive data breaches of government, commercial, and health care sites, social media, military discount registrations, facial recognition of publicly available photographs, Alexa, Siri, GPS tracking, and other sources all combine to offer a trove of data on servicemembers, and by extension, their families, and friends.