21 January 2024

Ex-Netanyahu Aide Predicts How Long Israel's 'Cleaning' of Gaza Will Last

David Brennan

Israel's war on Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the devastated Gaza Strip will not end any time soon, according to a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even if the operation does transition to a less intense phase over the coming months.

Yaakov Amidror, who served as Netanyahu's national security adviser from 2011 to 2013, told Newsweek during a Jerusalem Press Club briefing on Thursday that Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip will continue through 2024.

"It will not be ended within the year," Amidror explained. "A year from now I believe that Gaza will be 'cleaning up,' and we can pull out our forces and come in only if someone begins to build a threat against Israel."

"The year 2024 will be dedicated to cleaning Gaza," Amidror added. "It will mean—every day—raids into Gaza by our forces." Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and intelligence services strike groups, he said, will look to "destroy" targets linked to top Hamas leaders and the group's infrastructure, such as weapons depots and tunnels.

This picture taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli military on January 8, 2024, shows soldiers during operations in al-Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Israeli leaders have vowed to annihilate the organization.

How the War in Gaza Revived the Axis of Resistance

Narges Bajoghli and Vali Nasr

On January 12, the United Kingdom and the United States launched military strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen. These attacks were a response to the group’s assaults on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, which have disrupted global trade. The Houthis’ actions briefly made them the most prominent members of a military coalition that has become increasingly active across the region following the assassination of Saleh al-Arouri and other Hamas leaders in Beirut on January 2. For following their deaths, Hezbollah’s commander, Hassan Nasrallah vowed retribution and declared that the fight against Israel required nothing less than an “axis of resistance.” In the hours that followed Nasrallah’s pledge, his words were spliced into slickly produced videos and spread widely. Then the axis attacked. Hezbollah pounded Israel’s Meron air surveillance base with 62 rockets; the Iraq-based Islamic Resistance group sent drones to attack U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq and targeted the Israeli city of Haifa with a long-range cruise missile; the Houthis struck in the Red Sea; and Iran captured an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

Although both Western and regional countries claim that they do not want the war in the Gaza Strip to become a regional conflagration, Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and other members of the axis are playing a very different game. They are patiently and methodically consolidating an alliance of forces across a regional battlefield. It started with Iran and Hezbollah, but it is rapidly evolving into something larger than its parts. Its other members include the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. The formation of this axis presents a direct challenge to the regional order that the West has created and defended in the Middle East for decades. It also—as Iranian and Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea demonstrate—presents a threat to global trade and energy supplies.

Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 demonstrated the axis’s capabilities and influence, which extend beyond the Palestinian territories to encompass Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. The West sees Tehran as the mastermind behind this network, and there is no doubt that the axis of resistance reflects Iran’s strategic outlook. Indeed, its Revolutionary Guards have provided the axis’s members with lethal military capabilities and coordinating support. But Tehran is not the puppet master, and the axis’s coherence and regional role reflects far more than Iran’s dictates.

Arms, Oil And Confronting Tehran: A Unique Azerbaijan-Israel Partnership – Analysis

Matija Šerić

In the last three decades, relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State of Israel have been developing more and more intensively. Relations have reached the level of strategic partnership. Some analysts describe the alliance between Baku and Tel Aviv with the simple phrase “oil for weapons”.

However, although such a view is correct, it is deficient and does not describe the full depth of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations in the historical, cultural and political sense. Reducing the unique partnership of a Muslim and Jewish state to just weapons and oil is sacrilegious because it is a unique political phenomenon that shows that Muslim states can also cultivate friendship with Israel.

Historical context

Azeri-Jewish relations have a long history that goes back to the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people 2700 years ago. Unlike other Muslim-majority countries where they were exposed to persecution, Jews in Azerbaijan have lived in peace throughout history. The country of Azerbaijan is historically known for its multi-ethnic spirit even though it is predominantly Muslim and Shiite. The history of peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Jews can be seen most vividly in the example of the Red Village, an ancient Jewish settlement in the Quba province of Azerbaijan. It was created by the Azerbaijani ruler Fatali Khan in the 18th century to protect Jews fleeing Persia.

Although many Azerbaijani Jews migrated to Israel after the collapse of the USSR, they did not forget their roots. This was clearly seen during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020, when thousands of Azerbaijani Jews took to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv waving Azerbaijani flags. It is a unique example of Jews giving support to a country they migrated from other than the US. When that country is Muslim, then it is an even more unique case. While Jews who left Syria or Iraq are nostalgic for their old homeland but have no intention of visiting it, Azerbaijani Jews return to ancient homeland as tourists during annual vacation.

2024 military strength rankings: US most powerful, India at 4th position behind China

India has maintained its position as the fourth strongest military globally, with the United States being named the most powerful followed by Russia and China, according to the Global Firepower rankings.

According to GFP’s assessment, India holds a Power Index (PwrIndx) score of 0.1023. (A score of 0.0000 is considered ‘perfect’). The US holds a Power Index score of 0.0699, Russia 0.0702 and China 0. 0706.

A total of 145 countries were assessed on the basis of their global military prowess for the Global Firepower’s 2024 Military Strength Rankings.

India’s neighbour Pakistan has been ranked ninth and Italy takes the 10th position. South Korea, the United Kingdom, Japan and Turkey also feature in the top 10 list.

The rankings for the index are reached after judging the countries on several parameters, including military resources, natural resources, industry and geographical features and available manpower.

On their assessment methodology, Global Firepower said on their website: “Our formula allows for smaller, more technologically-advanced, nations to compete with larger, lesser-developed powers and special modifiers, in the form of bonuses and penalties, are applied to further refine the list which is compiled annually.”

China Routinely Underestimates India’s Concerns About Its Border

Manjari Chatterjee Miller and Clare Harris

On December 9, 2022, hundreds of Indian and Chinese troops clashed along their disputed border. This recent encounter is emblematic of the continuing tensions between the two nations. Not only does the skirmish itself reflect the increasing strain on the China-India bilateral relationship, but the news coverage in China also demonstrates a critical misjudgment of the depth of India’s concerns about China and its strategic priorities.

The territories along the China-India border have been a point of contention for both nations since their war in 1962. While the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates the disputed territories, it is not an international boundary, and neither country agrees on its alignment. The bilateral relationship dipped to a new low in June 2020 when a major conflict between Chinese and Indian troops in the Galwan Valley, located along the western sector of the LAC, took the lives of twenty Indian soldiers and four Chinese soldiers. Despite seventeen rounds of military corps commander-level talks, there has been no breakthrough. The December clashes near Tawang in the eastern sector of the LAC saw troops fighting for the first time in over a year, marking another setback for the relationship.

Soon after this clash, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar claimed that China did not observe standing agreements not to amass force in border areas and has tried to unilaterally change the LAC. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh stated that Chinese military forces have been increasingly claiming territories long under India’s control. He said that while India always aims to maintain cordial relations with its neighbors, it is militarily capable of protecting its territorial integrity and will do so if necessary. However, as evident by examining state-controlled as well as autonomous Chinese news media, China neither grasps the extent of India’s concern nor its perceptions about the border issue.

Pakistani Strike in Iran Shows Tehran’s Projection of Power Has Limits

Saeed Shah and Benoit Faucon

Iran’s military tested and found a limit to its ability to project power this week as Pakistan responded to a missile attack with the first publicly acknowledged airstrike on Iranian territory in decades.

The Pakistani retaliation followed Iran’s first direct attacks in neighboring countries since Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began in October.

Pakistan Carries Out Retaliatory Strikes in Iran, as Both Sides Say They Don’t Want Escalation


Pakistan’s military carried out targeted strikes against militant hideouts in Iran on Thursday, responding to an attack by Tehran a day earlier in a rare escalation of tensions that both sides signaled they don’t want to see get worse.

Pakistan carried out morning strikes against “terrorist hideouts” in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The move followed Iran’s strikes against Jaish al-Adl, a separatist group based in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

“This action is a manifestation of Pakistan’s unflinching resolve to protect and defend its national security against all threats,” the foreign ministry said in a statement explaining its retaliatory actions. As many as nine foreigners were killed in the strike, including four children, were killed, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

The tit-for-tat response is the most significant escalation between the two neighbors, both allies of China who have had strained relations in the past. While the strikes come at a time of rising turmoil in the Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war, Pakistani and Iranian officials also moved to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian phoned his Pakistani counterpart on Wednesday in an apparent move to ease tensions, even as Islamabad insisted it had the right to respond to the “illegal act” by Tehran.

“Both sides right now will try to de-escalate while saving face, and the Chinese must be getting involved because they have close ties with both sides,” Jean-Loup Samaan, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore.

‘Dialogue and Cooperation’

Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq cut short a trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday to help manage the crisis. That came after Pakistan downgraded its diplomatic ties by recalling its envoy to Tehran and asking the Iranian ambassador not to return to Islamabad.

Pakistan Attacks Iran—What We Know

Brendan Cole

Pakistan has launched missile strikes into Iran less than two days after Tehran said it had attacked terrorist targets in its neighbor.

Islamabad said Thursday's strikes had hit "terrorist hideouts" in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province, whose deputy governor Alireza Marhamati said killed three women and four children. "At 4:30 a.m. explosions were heard in a border village," Marhamati told state television. Another explosion took place near the city of Saravan, but there were no casualties, he added.

Pakistan said the strikes were part of an operation called "Marg Bar Sarmachar," which loosely translates to "death to the guerrilla fighters," and that a "number" of militants had been killed "in highly coordinated and specifically targeted precision military strikes."

Pakistani police officer stands guard outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on January 18, 2024. Pakistan said it attacked militant targets in Iran, after Tehran launched attacks on Pakistani territory earlier this week.

An unnamed Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters that Islamabad had conducted the strikes with military aircraft to target militants in the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), which seeks independence for Pakistan's Balochistan province and is waging an armed insurgency against the Pakistani state.

Pakistan Can Keep Imran Khan Out of Power, but It Can’t Keep His Popularity Down


It’s not been a great couple of years for Pakistan’s Imran Khan. Since his ouster as Prime Minister in an April 2022 no-confidence vote, the cricketer-turned-politician has been shot, hit with over 180 charges ranging from rioting to terrorism, and jailed in a fetid nine-by-11-foot cell following an Aug. 5 corruption conviction for allegedly selling state gifts. As Pakistan approaches fresh elections on Feb. 8, the 71-year-old’s chances of a comeback appear gossamer thin, despite retaining broad public support.

Pakistan’s military kingmakers are using every trick at their disposal to sideline the nation’s most popular politician and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Over recent months, thousands of PTI workers have been arrested, dozens of party leaders resigned following lengthy interrogations, Khan’s name was banned from mainstream media, and constituency boundary lines were redrawn to allegedly benefit his opponents. Khan’s own nomination papers have also been rejected.

“Elections are being held but I’ve got serious doubts whether real democracy or democratic principles are being followed,” says Samina Yasmeen, director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia.

And now Khan won’t even have his cricket bat.

On Monday, Khan’s PTI party was banned from using its iconic cricket bat logo on ballot papers, significantly hampering its chances amongst an electorate which is up to 40% illiterate. Most crucially, it effectively bans the PTI as a party and means its candidates will likely have to stand as independents, who will reportedly use a range of symbols ranging from a rollercoaster to a goat. “The election symbol is an integral component of fair elections,” Raoof Hasan, PTI’s principal spokesman and a former special assistant to Khan, tells TIME. “It’s rendering the party toothless.”

It’s Time to Confront the Taliban’s Corruption

David J. Kramer, Natalie Gonnella-Platts, and Jessica Ludwig

The United States cannot afford to neglect the intense suffering and exploitation of the population of Afghanistan since the Taliban seized the state over two years ago.

The Taliban’s extremism, misogyny, and brutality are actively undermining Afghanistan’s prospects for peace and stability. Fundamental to this vicious pursuit of power is the strategic use of corruption and kleptocracy to cement loyalty among the Taliban’s ranks, punish Afghans who refuse to comply, and, most especially, line leaders’ own pockets.

Although international leverage has changed, the United States and the global community must take a more definitive role in confronting the Taliban’s atrocities. The revenue streams the Taliban use to reward themselves represent the biggest untapped pressure point that the United States and the global community can target, as the George W. Bush Institute stated in a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia last week.

The Bush Institute remains steadfast in our solidarity with and support for the Afghan people, especially women and children, and we urge Congress and the administration to work together to hold the Taliban accountable.

For 20 years, brave Afghans partnered with the United States and our allies in the pursuit of peace and stability for all. Like people around the world, Afghans simply want to live in freedom and create a brighter future for their families and communities.

Corruption has featured prominently throughout Afghanistan’s history and was a significant contributing factor to the rapid collapse of democracy in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban should be measured against their own claims that they would eliminate corruption.

Taiwan reports first major Chinese military activity after election

Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina

Taiwan's defence ministry said it detected 18 Chinese air force planes operating around Taiwan and carrying out "joint combat readiness patrols" with Chinese warships on Wednesday, the first large-scale military activity after the Taiwanese election.

China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has over the past four years regularly sent warplanes and warships into the skies and waters around the island as it seeks to assert sovereignty claims that the Taipei government rejects.

Taiwan voted for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Lai Ching-te as its next president on Saturday, a man Beijing has repeatedly blasted as a dangerous separatist and bringer of war.

Taiwan's defence ministry said that starting around 7:50 p.m. (1150 GMT) on Wednesday it had detected 18 aircraft including Su-30 fighters operating off northern and central Taiwan and to the island's southwest.

Eleven of those aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait's median line, or areas close by, working with Chinese warships to carry out "joint combat readiness patrols", the ministry added.

The strait's median line once served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, but Chinese planes now regularly fly over it. China says it does not recognise the line's existence.

Taiwan sent its own forces to monitor, its defence ministry said.

"The security and prosperity of the Taiwan Strait region are closely related to global development and stability, and are obligations and responsibilities that all parties in the region must share," it said in a statement.

"The military will continue to strengthen its self-defence capabilities in accordance with enemy threats and self-defence needs, and respond to regional threats."

The Past, Present, and Future of Legal Empowerment in Bangladesh

Manzoor Hasan and Arafat Reza

Legal empowerment has garnered considerable attention globally in recent years as a valuable tool in addressing the justice gap, where over 5 billion people currently have unmet legal needs. Legal empowerment can be defined as a collective expression of initiatives that can enhance the ability of people, especially the vulnerable and marginalized, to know, use, and shape the law for protecting their entitlements and rights.

Although the term legal empowerment emerged only at the beginning of the 21st century, it encompasses activities that non-state actors around the world have reportedly been employing since as early as the 1950s. This article explores the history of legal empowerment in Bangladesh post-1971. It will also highlight the factors that influenced the movement since 1972.

When Bangladesh emerged from the war of liberation in 1971, there was very little room for state and non-state actors to focus on anything other than rehabilitation and reconstruction after the decades of systemic discrimination and exploitation that the country faced prior to its independence. The assassination of the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in 1975 and the military-backed government that followed negatively impacted legal empowerment activities during the 1970s.

Nevertheless, some relevant initiatives were undertaken during the 1970s. For instance, an incredibly progressive constitution was drafted shortly after 1971. The law banning abortion was temporarily suspended, keeping in mind that many women around the country were raped by Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators during the war in 1971, and a 10 percent quota for women in government and non-government jobs was introduced. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, a rights organization led by women, presented a 16-point demand memorandum to the government, seeking equal rights for women in divorce and inheritance, along with legal measures to eradicate dowry and polygamy, among other things.

What Role Did China Play In Rebel Group’s Victory In Northern Myanmar? – Analysis

Song Danyang

When the Three Brotherhood Alliance of rebel groups in Myanmar started a campaign against junta forces in the northern part of the country they chose a slogan designed to win support from a fourth potential ally: China.

“Wipe out the scammers, rescue our compatriots,” the group declared in the message.

China, which shares a border with Kokang, a region in Shan state in northern Myanmar, had expressed increasing frustration with organized crime rings that had been allowed to operate in the area by junta-aligned forces. An estimated 120,000 people are being held in Myanmar against their will. Chinese nationals have both been trafficked by these groups and fleeced by them.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – which along with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army make up the Alliance – had tried and failed twice before to retake the region. This time, however, Kokang’s capital of Laukkai fell into rebel hands on Jan. 4.

Since then, China has played a clear role in mediating a truce between the two sides. But the initial success of the rebel campaign has led analysts to speculate that it had, in fact, received Chinese backing.

China’s leaders may have sought to kill “two birds with one stone,” according to Deng Yuwen, a political commentator and former journalist – strengthening China’s position in the region while removing the destabilizing threat presented by the scam compounds.

“The Chinese government can use the scamming operations as a way to secretly support local forces … and control the area that way,” Deng said.

Central Asia’s Middle Corridor Expansion: Opportunity For China And Iran – Analysis

Felix K. Chang

The sustained attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels since November 2023 have given a fresh boost to a budding Central Asian trade network known as the “Middle Corridor” and, in so doing, created an opportunity for China and Iran, as shippers have been forced to consider alternative routes for their cargoes.

Only a month earlier, in October 2023, representatives from Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan met to discuss how they could hasten the development of the Middle Corridor’s second major conduit, called the “Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan route.” During the same month, an Iranian minister spoke about the benefits of a third transit-trade route, a spur to connect the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan route to Iran. Such transit-trade routes are valuable because they speed the flow of goods across national borders, and thus stimulate economic growth.

As it was originally conceived in the late 2000s, the Middle Corridor’s main transit-trade route ran from Europe—through Turkey, the Caucasus Mountains, the Caspian Sea, and Kazakhstan—to China. The countries along the path of that route referred to it as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). Since then, they have worked to make it a viable alternative to Eurasia’s other major east-west trade routes—the Trans-Siberian railway in Russia (or the “Northern Corridor”) and the Indian Ocean (or the “Southern Corridor”). Though more work remains to be done on the TITR, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine shone an international spotlight on it. Suddenly, Europe sought a new overland trade route to East Asia that bypassed Russia, and the Middle Corridor fit that bill.

Capitalizing on the interest, Middle Corridor countries have tried to hasten their development of other transit-trade routes. Of those, the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan route has made the most progress. Surely, it would help the two countries to develop economically and reduce their reliance on Russia. But the potential addition of a transit-trade spur from the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan route to Iran (and possibly to the Gulf) could make China and Iran the biggest beneficiaries of the wider scheme. The combination of the two transit-trade routes could offer Iran an economic lifeline and a closer link to China, its most important great-power ally. By the same token, the combination of those routes could enable China to expand its trade footprint and its influence in Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps more important for Beijing, it could help China to overcome its “Malacca Dilemma” and thus better position itself in its rivalry with the United States.

The First Rule of Cluster Munitions: Don’t Talk about Cluster Munitions

John Nagl and Dan Rice

On January 10, 2024, the Congressional Research Service published a thorough 91-page document “Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense- Issues for Congress”. The report covers the past, present and future of the Competition between Russia, China and the United States. The report includes grand strategy, geopolitics, nuclear weapons, deterrence, conventional weapons, research & development, acquisitions, and supply chain issues; it provides a framework by which the Congress can set priorities and allocate resources for our national defense.

The two words that are conspicuously absent from this entire document: “Cluster Munitions.”

Referencing one of the greatest movies from the 20th Century, “Fight Club”, the first rule of cluster munitions must be “Never talk about ‘cluster munitions.” This study repeats the word “deter” 90 times, Russia 370 times, China 344, Ukraine 152 times, conventional 33 times, and cyber 24 times. But artillery is named only once, and “Cluster Munitions” were mentioned ZERO times.

This narrative needs to change if we are to successfully deter Russia and China. Artillery has long been the #1 killer on land battlefields, as it is in Ukraine. While aircraft carriers, fighters, UAVs, cyber, electronic warfare, and hypersonic missiles are of course important, the Ukraine war brings into focus the importance of artillery, and especially cluster munitions, for the future deterrence of our enemies in a land war.

Cluster munitions were one of the main pillars of our Air-Land Battle defense plan against a massive Russian army with significant fire superiority in artillery, and deterrence worked from 1945-1991, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed. But cluster munitions have disappeared from the literature on great power deterrence.

The reason likely dates to 2008, when a group of well-meaning but naïve leaders started the Cluster Munitions Convention in Olso, Norway. The resulting Convention weakened the West and set the stage for a Russian invasion of Ukraine. It did nothing to hurt the aggressor nations, who did not sign the Convention and have no intention of adhering to it, but the democracies that complied with it lost their best weapons to defend against an invasion.

China’s Big Gamble in the South China Sea

Hung Tran

The first few weeks of 2024 have already seen a serious escalation of tension between China and the Philippines in their sovereignty dispute over the Second Thomas Shoal – situated 105 nautical miles west of Palawan, Philippines, and about 600 nautical miles from Hainan, China. Since the fall of 2023, there have been several run-ins between the two countries’ vessels, including collisions and China Coast Guard vessels shooting water cannons at Philippine ships – while China and the Philippines-U.S. alliance have conducted naval patrols and military drills in the area.

If the current trends continues, future run-ins could lead to fatalities on either side, possibly elevating the dispute to a level where the United States may feel the pressure to come to the Philippines’ defense. Washington has promised to honor the Mutual Defense Treaty to assist Philippine vessels if they come under attack anywhere in the South China Sea.

And the scene is set not only for continuation but escalation of close encounters. The Philippines’ national budget for 2024 included about $1.8 million earmarked for the building of a permanent structure on Second Thomas Shoal, the site of the marooned and deteriorating ship BRP Sierra Madre, to serve as a base for the country’s small contingent of marines and a shelter for its fishermen.

More recently, the Philippines’ military chief announced new plans to fortify as many as nine land features in the region. If implemented, these measures will reinforce the Philippines’ sovereignty over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), as denoted by a United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016.

Having artificially built up and fortified seven islands in the Spratly archipelago to assert its sovereignty claims to around 90 percent of the South China Sea, China appreciates the importance of having permanent bases on reefs and shoals. Beijing will try its best to prevent the Philippines from doing the same on Second Thomas Shoal and ultimately seeks to dislodge Philippine marines from the Sierra Madre.

What the Navy is learning from its fight in the Red Sea

Geoff Ziezulewicz

Thirteen years ago, the current head of the Navy’s surface fleet was captaining the destroyer Carney.

Even in 2010, airborne drones were a threat for which his ship had tactics and munitions at the ready, Vice Adm. Brendan McLane, now the head of Naval Surface Forces, told reporters earlier this month.

“We had a specific tactic to go after it, with a specific munition that we could shoot out our gun,” McLane said.

Fast forward to the present day and McLane has watched his former warship Carney, along with fellow destroyers Gravely, Laboon, Mason and Thomas Hudner, shoot down dozens of attack drones and missiles in the Red Sea in recent months.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched attacks at commercial vessels transiting the vital economic waterway, and sometimes at Navy warships themselves. The attacks have come on a regular basis since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s subsequent operations to clear the militant group from the Gaza Strip.

The Navy destroyer Laboon at work in the Red Sea in December. 

The Carney and other warships have been at the spear’s tip for intercepting these attacks, shooting down scores of Houthi air attack drones in the process.

And while it remains to be seen whether last week’s U.S.-led bombing of Houthi sites in Yemen will cause the rebels to meaningfully relent, current Navy leaders and analysts agree: The volume of intercepts in the Red Sea is without modern precedent for the Navy, and the surface fleet is quickly learning from the encounters.

Future Nuclear Success Requires Regulation Modernization

Jeff Luse

From a multilateral agreement to triple global nuclear energy production at COP28 to the powering on of dormant reactors worldwide, 2023 was undoubtedly the year of nuclear power. However, without meaningful regulatory reforms, the year’s success could be an anomaly rather than the norm going forward.

The embrace of nuclear energy was seen internationally and in the United States, where regulators approved the nation’s first advanced reactor design, and a newly built reactor came online for the first time in over thirty years. Despite nuclear power’s progress, the industry still faces stringent and outdated regulations that threaten momentum for the energy source in 2024. Lawmakers must address these impediments and reduce barriers to allow nuclear power to thrive in the new year.

In addition to impressive breakthroughs from the private sector, Congress has also shown its support for nuclear power, culminating with the passage of the ADVANCE Act. Sponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the ADVANCE Act takes several steps to bolster American nuclear energy generation by capping licensing fees for developers, streamlining permits for coal to nuclear projects, and expanding the nuclear workforce.

Despite the positive steps this bill and others like it take to ease burdens for nuclear power, the industry still faces a stringent regulatory system that slows innovation and increases project costs.

One of the most prominent examples is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reactor licensing process. Under the current NRC structure, advanced reactor developers must adhere to regulations based on the technology of large light water reactors. This is problematic for several reasons. Advanced reactors differ from their larger counterparts; they are smaller, employ different passive safety features, and sometimes run on spent fuel. Still, the commission applies the same broken and inefficient licensing process, often at the expense of innovation and progress.

Transforming the military for the AI age requires ‘a certain ruthlessness,’ say US, UK experts


Drone warfare in Ukraine shows that low-cost unmanned systems are already revolutionizing warfare. China is on the march in high-tech weapons and artificial intelligence. So it’s growing too late for the US and UK to make a gradual “managed transition” to the new technologies, warns a newly released report.

Instead, argue a team of experts from the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the Arlington, Va., Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), the two nations need determined military and civilian leaders to impose at least some “immediate transformational change” on the armed services from the top down.

“Realising a well-defined organisational vision can also require a certain ruthlessness,” the RUSI-SCSP report says. “It is deceptively easy to launch AI pilot programmes with impressive results, but fiendishly difficult to deliver scaled final results.”

In other words, deploying enough of the new technologies to win a major war will require diverting an ever-larger share of limited budgets from a small number of high-cost “legacy” systems — manned aircraft, surface ships and so on — to larger swarms of relatively expendable unmanned sensors, attack drones and networked AIs. That won’t happen without adroit and often sharp-elbowed politicking, the report says: “Buy-in will depend either on the cooperation of the owners of legacy assets or on their being effectively sidelined.”

The RUSI-SCSP report takes care not to explicitly criticize current policies at the US Department of Defense or the British Ministry of Defense. But it comes at a time when the Pentagon’s flagship initiative to advance low-cost unmanned weapons, Replicator, is under fire in Congress and industry for being vague and underfunded. The brainchild of Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, Replicator explicitly limits itself to accelerating projects submitted by the armed services, not imposing new ideas from the top down.

3D Battlefield printing in Ukraine

Wilson Jones

The war in Ukraine has seen the first widespread application of 3D printing on the battlefield, primarily by Ukrainian forces.

Militaries worldwide, especially in the US, Europe, China, and India, have closely monitored these developments. The US and China’s large military investments give them an edge in further leveraging military 3D printing developments, although Europe’s proximity to Ukraine, which enabled the training of Ukrainian forces in military 3D printing applications within Poland and other regional hubs, also offers a distinct competitive advantage.

3D printing in the military context has the potential to reduce supply lines in critical circumstances. As Ukraine has received military donations from many different nations, it operates a uniquely diverse fleet of platforms and capabilities. Ukraine’s fleet consists of more than 40 different armoured platforms, ranging from older models inherited from the Soviet Union to newer Western tanks and armoured fighting vehicles. General inconsistencies in the accessibility of spare parts and critical components across the fleet pose a major challenge to Ukrainian force readiness and maintenance operations.

DEI Destroys Excellence, Military Cohesion at Service Academies

Bruce Fleming

Applicants who self-identified as a member of a race the Academy wished to privilege—at the time I was on the Admissions Board it was African American, Hispanic, and Native American—were briefed separately to the committee not by a white member but by a minority Navy lieutenant. Briefings (a minute and forty seconds per applicant, no more) ran through a number of factors quite quickly and offered a recommendation that we had been told was appropriate: “qualified” for USNA if grades A/B for white applicants (but not minorities, who needed only C grades), 600 score in each part of the SAT for white applicants (but about 550 for minorities who come to USNA without remediation), and Whole Person Multiple (points given for grades/tests, school leadership positions, and sports) of at least 55,000 for whites, no bottom for minorities.

This is aside from the fact that 20 percent of the class could be sent to the remedial, taxpayer-supported prep school for a year, also with no minimum for scores. Other possible recommendations included a year at a civilian prep school that the Naval Academy Foundation pays for, where they also do a thirteenth year (the profile for this was white lacrosse players, not black football players), and USNA “pool,” a sort of wait list for nonrecruited whites, who typically weren’t tracked to NAPS or Foundation schools. The athletic department offered its list of recruits that were invariably deemed “qualified” no matter how low in scores, because many if not most to go to NAPS and only a few to USNA directly.

Race in America is a complex question that we have no silver bullet for. We’d like to see everybody playing happily in the academic sandbox together, as well as elsewhere in society at large. However, in academic institutions with limited places, we have a problem—especially at an institution touted for academic rigor and that taxpayers fund for one specific job. Blacks, on average, consistently score lower than whites (who score lower than Asians) on standardized tests. The choices are simple. If you want students who look a certain way but tend to score lower than others, you accept the lower scores and stop talking about your standards. Or you go with the class that can meet these standards and stop talking about the way they look. The Naval Academy tries to square the circle by both bragging about its standards and letting in half the class to lower standards. No wonder they were furious that I pointed this out. All educational institutions have this problem to some degree; the academies are just worse than others. And in 2023, the Supreme Court said we’re legal in doing so, whereas all others are not.

B-21 Raider Flight Testing Now Underway

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The U.S. Air Force's first B-21 Raider stealth bomber is now conducting test flights from Edwards Air Force Base in California. This marks an important step forward in the development of this highly advanced aircraft, which just flew for the first time last November.

An Air Force official confirmed to The War Zone that the initial B-21, one of six pre-production examples the service plans to acquire, flew a sortie from Edwards today. That same individual said that this was not the aircraft's first flight from that base, but declined to say when that milestone was reached or how many times it has flown in total. The bomber, which is nicknamed Cerberus, first arrived at Edwards at the conclusion its maiden flight from Northrop Grumman's facilities at the Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, California on November 10, 2023.

The USAF, and Edwards AFB in particular, have been very tight lipped about any B-21 activities, including the aircraft's arrival there that went without any public fanfare.

The first pre-production B-21 Raider at Plant 42 ahead of its first flight. 

"Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wing’s B-21 Combined Test Force to provide survivable, long-range, penetrating strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners," the Air Force official also told The War Zone.

The Black Sea is now the center of gravity for the Ukraine War


The Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz once wrote that “the talent of the strategist is to identify the decisive point and to concentrate everything on it.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky began the new year by stressing this point in an interview with the Economist, emphasizing that Crimea and the Black Sea would become the focus of Ukrainian forces. Isolating Crimea and degrading Russia’s military forces there “is extremely important for us, because it’s the way for us to reduce the number of attacks from that region,” Zelensky said.

While Ukraine may have failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough on land in 2023, the war at sea was a resounding success. Ukraine was able to inflict major punishment on the Russian Black Sea Fleet thanks to a relentless sea and air campaign, using a combination of sea drones and British-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles, forcing the Russians to retreat into their naval bastion in Sevastopol. After the recent destruction of the Novocherkassk landing ship in late December, British Defense Minister Grant Shapps lauded the success of this campaign by announcing that Russia has lost 20 percent of its Black Sea Fleet in just the past four months.

Ukraine has effectively halted the Russian naval blockade of Odesa and renewed its exports of grain and other raw materials from its strategic Black Sea port. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink announced that “400 ships carrying 13 million tons of cargo have passed through the Black Sea Humanitarian Corridor since August. This is a significant achievement as Ukraine continues to feed the world.”

The next step in the Black Sea is for the West to help Kyiv target Crimea — illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 — and sever Russia’s logistical lifeline to its forces operating in southern Ukraine. Two retired American generals have repeatedly stressed the urgency of helping Ukraine accomplish this goal. According to Ben Hodges, former Commanding General U.S. Army Europe, Crimea is “the decisive terrain of the war.” Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe Philip Breedlove echoed this by emphasizing, “If we enable Ukraine to be able to strike Crimea — pervasively, persistently and precisely —Russia will be forced to rethink its posture there. Strike them all, strike them repeatedly, and destroy them in detail,” he told me.

Big Tech is preying on children for profit, and Congress needs to stop it


Our children are up against a lot in their lives, as they learn to navigate the world around them. I contend that their most powerful foe is Big Tech.

Children are being marketed to, preyed upon and used for profit by technology companies.

Research from the Parents Television and Media Council, where I am vice president, reveals that Hollywood is marketing television shows with explicit adult content to young teens through social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram, which are popular with 13 to 17-year-olds. We are talking about programs such as “Euphoria,” “Sex Education” and “PEN15,” which carry TV-MA ratings and are not for children or teens. Social media is being used to get around parents and directly to children with this content.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, continues to be revealed by media outlets, whistleblowers and lawsuits as fueling child sexual exploitation, providing a platform for pedophiles, and enabling sexually explicit and other harmful content that targets teens, especially teen girls. Meta has been sued by the District of Columbia and 41 states, which claim its products are addictive and potentially harmful to children and their mental health.

Other social media platforms are no better. Snapchat has been used to “lure and sexually exploit children.” The New York Times reported last year that X has struggled to confront its child sexual exploitation problem. Parents are suing Roblox over sexual content on its platform.

Naturally, we can follow the money. A new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that “social media companies collectively made over $11 billion in U.S. advertising revenue from minors in 2022.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Big Tech is making billions of dollars facilitating this marketing toward and exploitation of children.

Space Force needs more money, people to secure cislunar space


The Space Force needs to begin now to establish a strategy and develop technology to secure cislunar space and the moon to block a Chinese takeover — and additional investment and personnel to do so, asserts a new paper by the Mitchell Institute.

The Mitchell Institute paper, “Securing Cislunar Space and the First Island Off the Coast of Earth, advocates that from now on, Congress bolster the Space Force’s budget by “about” $250 million annually and “increase end strength by approximately 200 personnel for the new responsibilities associated with emerging national interests on the moon and the cislunar region.”

The study’s author, Mitchell Senior Fellow Charles Galbreath, was quick to stress during a roll out of the new paper that he is not pushing for placing weapon systems in the cislunar domain.

“None of these capabilities that I’m advocating for are weapons, and I’d like to keep it that way,” he said today. “By having the military involved, it’ll send a strong signal of the nation’s commitment and will help deter irresponsible or reckless behavior as the military has done numerous times before. It can make additional investments to accelerate subsequent civil and commercial activity.”

Galbreath argued that the US cannot assume that peaceful activities in the domain will be possible without military back-up, largely because of China’s “territorial” ambitions for the moon.

“We wish we could solely focus on peaceful civil and commercial efforts, but history has shown, and recent events in the Red Sea and South China Sea have reinforced, the need to secure and assure access to areas that should be considered international commons,” he said. “We should expect that China will treat the moon and other regions in space territorially, as they have demonstrated time and time again in the island chains of the Western Pacific.”