22 January 2024

The Coming War Between Israel and Hezbollah

Hilal Khashan

Ever since the inconclusive 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, a rematch – and clear Israeli victory – has seemed inevitable. That conflict is now at hand. Storm clouds were gathering even before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, when Israel began building a wall around the Lebanese part of Ghajar village to prevent Lebanese from entering it. Israel had seized Ghajar from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967 and then extended its holdings during its occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000. Hezbollah responded to Israel’s wall construction by setting up two tents in Israeli-held Shebaa Farms, another contested area that Israel occupied during the 1967 war. It assumed that Israel lacked the will to go to war, given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government’s preoccupation with domestic crises.

After the eruption of the current Israel-Hamas war, Hezbollah initiated low-intensity attacks in southern Lebanon to support Gaza. Hezbollah concluded that a token display of solidarity with Hamas would not lead to a full-scale war. Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah said Israel had intended to eliminate the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, but because of his actions it lost the initiative and canceled its plans. Those statements were reminiscent of his justification for raiding northern Israel in 2006. When those raids sparked a war, Nasrallah said Israel had planned to invade Lebanon anyway. Since that conflict, Hezbollah has often claimed to have established a deterrent military capability vis-à-vis Israel. Many Lebanese, especially Shiites, took these claims at face value.

In response to the escalating skirmishes on the border with Lebanon, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that if Nasrallah made the same mistake as Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, it would have disastrous consequences for Lebanon. Gallant and other senior Israeli officials demanded that Hezbollah quit the border area to avert war. But Hezbollah cannot just pack up and leave the area because doing so would shatter its reputation as a resistance movement. Israeli officials soon began to warn that time for diplomacy was running out.

Hezbollah’s Frame of Mind

Bracing For Middle East Instability – Analysis

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

The Middle East has long been an epicenter of geopolitical tensions and upheaval, with its complex dynamics influencing global peace and stability. As we move into 2024, it is imperative for the international community to recognize and prepare for the possibility of an even more turbulent Middle East.

The ongoing conflict in Gaza has undoubtedly ignited a cascade of emerging regional tensions at multiple fronts that can further lead to a more unstable Middle East. The increasing tensions in the south of Lebanon; Yemen’s Houthi maritime attacks in the Red Sea; the increasing military confrontation between Iran and Pakistan; the intensifying fight in Sudan; the widening window of confrontation between Jordan’s air forces and drug smugglers in Syria; and increasing attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria, along with simmering sectarian tensions in both countries – all of these developments reflect security challenges that can draw the whole region into an unprecedented conflict spiral that can have negative impacts beyond the Middle East.

The ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel presents a precarious situation for regional stability. While the immediate focus of the international community remains on the dynamics between Hamas and Israel, it is equally important to consider the evolving implications of the conflict. It is especially clear by now that Hamas isn’t expecting a military victory; they aim for a “PR” victory.

Netanyahu publicly rejects US push for Palestinian state

Mark Lowen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has told the United States that he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state once the conflict in Gaza comes to an end.

In a news conference, a defiant Mr Netanyahu vowed to press on with the offensive in Gaza "until complete victory": the destruction of Hamas and return of the remaining Israeli hostages, adding that it could take "many more months".

With almost 25,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and 85% of the Strip's population displaced, Israel is under intense pressure to rein in its offensive and engage in meaningful talks over a sustainable end to the war.

Israel's allies, including the US - and many of its foes - have urged a revival of the long-dormant "two-state solution", in which a future Palestinian state would sit side-by-side with an Israeli one.

The hope in many circles is that the current crisis could force the warring parties back to diplomacy, as the only viable alternative to endless cycles of violence. But from Mr Netanyahu's comments, his intention appears quite the opposite.

Speaking to reporters following Mr Netanyahu's latest comments, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby recognised that the US and Israel "obviously" see things differently.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Netanyahu said Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

The Greater Goal in Gaza

Marwan Muasher

As Israel’s war in Gaza enters its fourth month, an intensifying debate has unfolded about who should rule the territory when the fighting stops. Some have suggested an Arab force, a notion already rejected by Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab states. Others have proposed a reconstructed Palestinian Authority, ignoring the fact that less than ten percent of Palestinians would support such an outcome, according to a recent Palestinian poll. Yet a third idea is to put Gaza under international control, an approach that has already been rejected by Israel, which does not want to set such a precedent.

But there is a larger reason these envisioned solutions are doomed to fail: they all treat Gaza in isolation, as if it can be addressed without regard to the broader issue of Palestinian statehood and self-determination. In this way of thinking, once Hamas is made to disappear and once the question of who rules Gaza is answered, there can be a return to the status quo ante. Both assumptions are fundamentally flawed, and any policy based on them will lead to disaster.

To be truly durable, a solution for the future of Gaza must be framed within a larger endgame for all Palestinians under Israeli control. It must finally address the root cause of unending violence: the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Years of failed negotiations have also made clear what such a plan will require in order to succeed: unlike so many of its predecessors, it must be credible and time-bound, and the endgame itself must be well defined at the outset.

Securing India’s Digital Future: Cybersecurity Urgency and Opportunities

Shruti Sharma

In an era dominated by digital advancements and technological reliance, cybersecurity has become increasingly crucial for nations across the globe. For India, a nation with a rapidly growing digital footprint, the question of cybersecurity readiness takes center stage. Recent reports indicate a concerning trend, with approximately 83 percent of Indian organizations experiencing cybersecurity incidents in 2023. These incidents, ranging from web attacks and phishing attempts to supply chain infiltrations, have not only posed significant threats but have also led to substantial financial losses, with 48 percent of organizations reporting 10 or more incidents resulting in million-dollar damages.

As businesses in India grapple with the relentless onslaught of cyber threats, the need for a robust cybersecurity infrastructure is more apparent than ever. According to the CISCO Cybersecurity Readiness Index, as of 2022, a mere 24 percent of firms and organizations in India have the necessary resources and capabilities to effectively address their cybersecurity issues. Meanwhile, more than 30 percent were still in the first stage of preparedness.

Current Cybersecurity Landscape in India

There has been a considerable disregard for cybersecurity in India, leading to challenges in fulfilling the growing needs of the nation. Malicious software such as Stuxnet, Flame, and Black Shades exacerbate India’s inadequate cybersecurity capabilities. India has a lower number of cybersecurity initiatives compared to other prosperous nations.

In India, many government projects remain simply hypothetical. The National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIPC) and the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC), while authorized, have not been fully implemented. Furthermore, India’s 2013 National Cyber Security Policy has failed to be effectively executed, leading to infringements on privacy and violations of human rights.

In India, cybercrime encompasses a wide range of activities, including the dissemination of viruses, unauthorized access to computer systems, stealing personal identities, sending unsolicited emails, overwhelming email servers with excessive messages, sabotaging websites, and engaging in cyberdefamation. The country’s global ranking for internet access is 85th, but its ranking for cyber attacks is third. India also accounts for 8 percent of global detections of ransomware, the fourth-largest share in the world.

With an Eye Toward India, China Bolsters Military Infrastructure Development in Tibet

Tenzin Younten

On January 11, China announced an 80 billion yuan ($11.2 billion) investment to boost key infrastructure such as airports, railways, and highways in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) by the year 2035. This was disclosed through a government work report released after the second meeting of the 12th People’s Congress of the Autonomous Region..

Besides China’s expansionist policies, the massive infrastructure buildup in TAR is being driven by both external and internal threats, as Tibetans continue to resist Chinese domination. These massive strategic investments not only substantiate India’s growing concerns but also vindicate claims from the Tibetan diaspora that infrastructure developments in Tibet are a major instrument of repression, primarily serving Beijing’s strategic and expansionist designs.

Strategically, this major announcement fits within the broader objective of Beijing’s aim to establish a highly effective and expansive three-dimensional transportation network in the Tibet Autonomous Region, connecting it with other regions in China and also with other countries in South Asia. Beijing’s long-term infrastructure plan also solidifies its military’s ground and logistic network and air infrastructure, boosting the realization of the Chinese People Liberation Army’s strategic layout of the Tibet Military Region (TMR) by 2035.

The People’s Liberation Army was restructured into theater commands in 2016. The Western Theater Command (WTC) consists of the Tibet Military Region, Xinjiang Military Region, 76th and 77th Group Army, and is primarily tasked with addressing security threats stemming from India, especially along the disputed Sino-Indian border.

Impasse at Torkham: Pakistan’s Border Closure a Pressure Tactic on the Taliban

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

For decades, the Pushtun Ahmadzai Wazir tribe living on both sides of the Durand Line could wave their national identity documents to the guards to cross the Torkham border, the main point of transit for travelers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan. That is no longer possible, with Islamabad on January 13 reimposing the “one document regime” policy, which it had suspended not long after its unveiling in 2023.

Under the policy, Afghan civilians, including drivers and their helpers crossing over through all transit routes with Afghanistan must have passports with a valid Pakistani visa. Very few fulfil these requirements.

As officials from both countries engage in negotiations to end the current impasse, the border has been shut for trade, with hundreds of vegetables and fruit-laden trucks from both countries stranded with perishable supplies that are likely to rot in a few days. This is Islamabad’s most recent move to arm-twist its fickle ally.

The Taliban’s capture of power in August 2021 was celebrated in Pakistan as the realization of its policy of regaining strategic depth vis-a vis India. However, in the succeeding months, these hopes were belied as the Islamic Emirate’s policy on the Durand Line and especially on the haven it provides to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ran completely contrary to the government in Islamabad. The Taliban government opposed Pakistan fencing the contested Durand Line and repeatedly denied sheltering the TTP. On the contrary, it advised Islamabad to hold peace parleys with the TTP so that the group could be persuaded to give up violence targeting the Pakistani state.

The Taliban’s volte-face is a bitter pill Islamabad has found hard to swallow. In the last few months Pakistan’s caretaker government, appointed ahead of the national polls, has tried to use multiple tactics to make the Taliban fall in line, albeit without success.

Making Sense of Iran-Pakistan Cross-Border Strikes

Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

In a surprising turn on January 16, Iran launched missile strikes into Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, claiming it had hit two strongholds of anti-Iran insurgent group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice). Iran announced the attack in Pakistan concurrent to its strikes in Iraq and Syria. Less than two days later, Pakistan hit back with not only missiles but also fighter jets in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province — claiming to target hideouts of anti-Pakistan ethno-nationalist insurgents operating from Iranian soil.“Prepare your coffins,” a banner warns Iran’s adversaries in Tehran, Jan. 16, 2024. In recent weeks, Iran has struck targets in neighboring Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. (Arash Khamooshi/The New York Times)

This sudden escalation and military hostilities between the two neighboring countries come at a time of heightened regional tensions, with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq carrying out near-daily attacks on bases with U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and escalation in the Red Sea due to another Iranian-backed entity, the Houthis, targeting global shipping.

Still the attack in Pakistan is unique. Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been generally peaceful and border skirmishes between the two sides have been minimal, or at least contained very close to the border and downplayed by both sides. This time, by announcing the attack, Iran broke from that trend.

‘Credibility at stake’: Why did Iran strike inside Pakistan amid Gaza war?

Simon Speakman Cordall

Tehran’s attacks on Pakistani, Iraqi and Syrian territory have only one thing in common, say analysts: a show of strength at a time Iran feels especially threatened.

Members of Muslim Talba Mahaz Pakistan chant slogans at a demonstration to condemn Iran's strikes in Balochistan province, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Thursday, January 18, 2024. Pakistan's air force launched retaliatory air attacks early on Thursday on Iran.

In just two days this week, Iran launched missiles – first into Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Syria, and then into Pakistan – in attacks that could further inflame tensions in a region on edge.

Monday’s attacks in Syria were against alleged ISIL (ISIS) targets. In Erbil, Iraq, Tehran claimed it hit a Mossad facility, also on Monday. At least four people were killed, according to Kurdish authorities.

Then on Tuesday, Iran fired missiles into Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Their target was the separatist group Jaish al-Adl but at least two children were killed. Pakistan launched retaliatory attacks on Thursday morning, killing at least nine people in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, just across the border.

These rapid attacks by Iran on three different neighbours have sparked concerns of a regional escalation and triggered questions over the timings of Tehran’s decision to launch cross-border strikes, given Israel’s continuing war on Gaza.

Impasse at Torkham: Pakistan’s Border Closure a Pressure Tactic on the Taliban

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

For decades, the Pushtun Ahmadzai Wazir tribe living on both sides of the Durand Line could wave their national identity documents to the guards to cross the Torkham border, the main point of transit for travelers and goods between Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan. That is no longer possible, with Islamabad on January 13 reimposing the “one document regime” policy, which it had suspended not long after its unveiling in 2023.

Under the policy, Afghan civilians, including drivers and their helpers crossing over through all transit routes with Afghanistan must have passports with a valid Pakistani visa. Very few fulfil these requirements.

As officials from both countries engage in negotiations to end the current impasse, the border has been shut for trade, with hundreds of vegetables and fruit-laden trucks from both countries stranded with perishable supplies that are likely to rot in a few days. This is Islamabad’s most recent move to arm-twist its fickle ally.

The Taliban’s capture of power in August 2021 was celebrated in Pakistan as the realization of its policy of regaining strategic depth vis-a vis India. However, in the succeeding months, these hopes were belied as the Islamic Emirate’s policy on the Durand Line and especially on the haven it provides to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ran completely contrary to the government in Islamabad. The Taliban government opposed Pakistan fencing the contested Durand Line and repeatedly denied sheltering the TTP. On the contrary, it advised Islamabad to hold peace parleys with the TTP so that the group could be persuaded to give up violence targeting the Pakistani state.

Where might the US station its B-21 bombers to deter China?

Chris Martin

Nations in the Asia-Pacific are growing their missile arsenals, but the development of long-range capabilities may help stabilize the region, according to a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The London-based think tank released its take on the region’s balance of power, noting the growth in arms could boost deterrence against potential Chinese military offensives.

China has in recent years stepped up military activity around neighboring Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province and has threatened to take back by force. While the United States officially maintains its one-China policy, it also provides arms to the island nation.

“That’s been our policy for as long as I can remember, and it remains our policy,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday. “And again, it’s a policy that ensures to the best of our ability that we have peace, that we have stability, that we don’t have a status quo that’s disrupted in ways that are going to have repercussions for everyone around the world.”

As a means of ensuring regional stability, the report specifically pointed to the U.S. Air Force’s B-21 Raider, a bomber currently in development by Northrop Grumman.

The first Raider, unveiled a little over a year ago, flew to Edwards Air Force Base, California, in November 2023 to undergo flight testing. Initial delivery to the service is expected in the mid-2020s.

The IISS report offered four possible basing locations for the B-21 in the Asia-Pacific — one in Guam and three in Australia — based on its own analysis, information from the U.S. and Australian militaries, and Lockheed Martin.

In addition, a variant of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, dubbed AGM-158D JASSM-XR, with a range of up to about 1,118 miles, is scheduled to begin delivery in February 2027, the report noted.

How China is winning the Middle East


Amid the recent catastrophes in the Middle East—the renewed Israel-Hamas war; widening violence in Lebanon, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea—one player counts the past year a success: China.

Beijing stacked up strategic win after win, not just expanding its economic presence, but convening leadership summits, brokering peace deals, and even holding a joint military training exercise with one of the U.S.’s most important allies in the region. While shifts in power and influence often become evident only after the fact, history could one day look back on 2023 as the year that China truly began to win the Middle East.

It is easy to see why states in the Middle East have sought closer ties with China. Collaborating with a military powerhouse that is not Washington helps them shed U.S. dependency—a goal that even close allies like the UAE have expressed repeatedly in the past decade.

But what are China’s goals? A look at Chinese sources reveals efforts in the political, economic, diplomatic, and military realms.

Build economic ties

Chinese sources frequently talk up the centuries-old links between China and the Middle East; they note, for example, the UAE has historically been home to over 100,000 ethnic Chinese. But as with its other global initiatives, the original linchpin of Beijing’s efforts are economic. China sees great economic opportunity in the Middle East, especially with the energy-rich Gulf states, whose ties with China have steadily grown over the last decade.

“Belt and Road Initiative'' partner countries have increased their imports of Chinese products by 8.9% in the past decade alone, while in 2021, bilateral trade between the Persian Gulf countries and China grew at a record 44.3%. When the global economy slowed in 2022, trade between the Gulf countries and China still grew 27.1%, a stark contrast to the falling trade between China and both Japan and the United States.

China’s Economy Is in Serious Trouble


In 2023, the U.S. economy vastly outperformed expectations. A widely predicted recession never happened. Many economists (though not me) argued that getting inflation down would require years of high unemployment; instead, we’ve experienced immaculate disinflation, rapidly falling inflation at no visible cost.

But the story has been very different in the world’s biggest economy (or second biggest — it depends on the measure). Some analysts expected the Chinese economy to boom after it lifted the draconian “zero Covid” measures it had adopted to contain the pandemic. Instead, China has underperformed by just about every economic indicator other than official G.D.P., which supposedly grew by 5.2 percent.

But there’s widespread skepticism about that number. Democratic nations like the United States rarely politicize their economic statistics — although ask me again if Donald Trump returns to office — but authoritarian regimes often do.

And in other ways, the Chinese economy seems to be stumbling. Even the official statistics say that China is experiencing Japan-style deflation and high youth unemployment. It’s not a full-blown crisis, at least not yet, but there’s reason to believe that China is entering an era of stagnation and disappointment.

Why is China’s economy, which only a few years ago seemed headed for world domination, in trouble?

Part of the answer is bad leadership. President Xi Jinping is starting to look like a poor economic manager, whose propensity for arbitrary interventions — which is something autocrats tend to do — has stifled private initiative.

But China would be in trouble even if Xi were a better leader than he is.

No Place to Hide: A Look into China’s Geosynchronous Surveillance Capabilities

Clayton Swope

China launched a remote-sensing satellite called Yaogan-41 into geostationary orbit (GEO) on December 15, 2023. Analysts expect the satellite to settle into a position that would allow continuous surveillance of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as Taiwan and Mainland China. Paired with data from other Chinese surveillance satellites, Yaogan-41 could provide China an unprecedented ability to identify and track car-sized objects throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region and put at risk numerous U.S. and allied naval and air assets operating in the region.

Q1: What is Yaogan-41?

A1: Officially, the Chinese government says that Yaogan-41 is a civilian high-altitude optical remote-sensing satellite intended for crop yield estimation, environmental management, weather forecasting, and disaster prevention. However, Western observers assess that Yaogan-41 is primarily a military reconnaissance satellite, as the Yaogan program supports the space component of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). China has successfully placed 144 Yaogan surveillance satellites into orbit since the start of the program in 2006. Translated into English from Chinese, Yaogan literally means remote sensing.

Once Yaogan-41 reaches its intended position it will become the fourth Chinese optical surveillance satellite in GEO. Notably, Yaogan-41 is much larger and heavier than its three optical predecessors. Whereas these other satellites were launched by the Long March 3B rocket, capable of lifting 2,000 kilograms (kg) into GEO, Yaogan-41 used China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5, capable of launching a 4,500 kg payload. Additionally, Yaogan-41’s payload fairing was 50 percent longer than the usual Long March 5 fairing, making the particular Long March 5 that launched Yaogan-41 China’s tallest rocket.

Chinese Drones May Pose Security Risks – Analysis

Alex Willemyns

Chinese-made drones could pose a national security risk to the United States due to laws in China that force companies to provide authorities access to user data, two U.S. agencies say in a new memo.

These “unmanned aircraft systems,” or UAS, are often used by operators of critical infrastructure in the United States without regard to the data they may be sending to Chinese servers, according to the memo from the FBI and the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

That puts security and economic interests at risk by potentially exposing vulnerabilities in key infrastructure or the details of intellectual property to China’s intelligence services, and could also put key networks at risk of cyber-attack, the agencies say in the memo.

The 2017 National Intelligence Law, the memo says, “compels Chinese companies to cooperate with state intelligence services,” including by providing access to all user data collected anywhere in the world.

“This includes prominent Chinese-owned UAS manufacturers that the Department of Defense has identified as ‘Chinese military companies’ operating within the United States,” it says, adding that the 2021 Data Security Law then introduced “strict penalties” for non-compliance.

The data is essential, it says, to China’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy, “which seeks to gain a strategic advantage over the United States by facilitating access to advanced technologies and expertise.”

An statement released by the FBI and CISA says the agencies understand that drones “reduce operating costs and improve staff safety.” But instead of Chinese-made drones, it suggests alternatives “that are secure-by-design and manufactured by U.S. companies.”
Drone wars

Ukraine is piling pressure on China to help bring an end to the war. But Beijing’s peace plans are focused on Gaza

Simone McCarthy

As Ukraine scrambles to keep international support with Russia’s invasion grinding into a third year, its leader has made clear one country he would like to see join his push for peace: China.

Ratcheting up pressure on Beijing – Moscow’s most powerful political ally – appeared as a key talking point for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials this week during a gathering of the global elite in Switzerland’s Davos.

There, Zelensky told reporters he would “very much like China to be involved” in Ukraine’s peace plan. His foreign minister said the country wanted more contact with China at “all levels,” Interfax-Ukraine reported, while Zelensky’s chief of staff left the door open that the wartime leader could even meet China’s top delegate on the gathering’s sidelines.

But Chinese Premier Li Qiang appeared to depart the World Economic Forum earlier this week without meeting Zelensky – and didn’t directly address the conflict in a roughly 25-minute speech that focused heavily on reassuring his audience about China’s faltering economy.

Even as Chinese officials last year ramped up efforts to present the country as a potential peace broker in the war, analysts say it’s unlikely Beijing sees now as the time to leverage its deep and growing Russia ties to ramp up a push for its end – especially on Ukraine’s terms.

“China thinks it is already playing an important role in moving toward peace. It’s just the Chinese version of peace is not what Zelensky wants to see,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank.

Water Is the New Oil in the Gulf


Raha Hakimdavar is senior advisor to the Dean of Georgetown University in Qatar and the Dean of the Earth Commons Institute.

In the arid desert landscapes of the Gulf, where oil has long been the region’s economic bedrock, a new narrative is unfolding—one where water’s increasing recognition as a critical and finite resource demands a reckoning. Under the most extreme climate scenario, temperatures in the region, already among the highest in the world and warming faster than elsewhere, could rise by nearly 6°C by the end of the century. Four of the six most water scarce countries in the world are in the Gulf—a phenomenon that is reshaping nearly every sector, from agriculture to energy—pushing leaders to tackle the issue in the face of climate change.

Water stress in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—is mostly driven by low supply. But it has been exacerbated by rapid population growth, which has nearly doubled in 20 years, alongside decades of skyrocketing incomes. Saudi Arabia, for example, which accounts for over 60% of the GCC population, is now the third highest per capita water consumer in the world, behind only the U.S. and Canada.

The New Middle East: A Triangular Struggle For Hegemony – Analysis

 Ali Omar Forozish

A seismic shift is underway in the heart of the Middle East. The region is currently defined by the competition between three formidable powers — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. The situation is a kind of cold war with the three powers locked in a struggle for influence across the Middle East. This regional cold war is intricately tied to these countries’ historical claims of hegemony. Each nation, with a legacy as the center of Islam and a history of great empires, asserts its legitimacy to shape and rule the region.

Iran: an enduring pillar of hegemony in the Middle East

Iran’s claim to legitimacy is deeply rooted in a history that spans millennia. The land known today as Iran has been home to a succession of influential civilizations and empires, each leaving its mark on the country’s cultural and intellectual makeup. From the Elamites, who rival the Sumerians as one of the oldest civilizations in world history, to the Achaemenids, Parthians, Sassanids and Safavids, Iran’s rich history fosters a profound sense of pride and identity in its people. Iran has often been the seat of power for empires stretching across the Fertile Crescent and into Central Asia, a heritage which serves as a foundation for Iran’s claim to leadership.

Ukraine War Map Shows Russia's 'Confirmed Gains' on Three Fronts

David Brennan

Russian forces are edging forward at three key points along Ukraine's frozen front line, according to the latest analysis by the Institute for the Study of War, as Kyiv warns that staggering losses alone will not stop Moscow's war machine.

ISW's Thursday update noted confirmed Russian advances in the frontline hotspots near the devastated city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, the besieged Ukrainian fortress city of Avdiivka, also in Donetsk, and in the the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, which this summer was at the heart of Kyiv's own offensive efforts.

"Positional engagements" are continuing along the 600-mile front, ISW wrote, with both Russian and Ukrainian forces probing each other's positions seeking local advantage.

Newsweek is unable to independently verify the reports and has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry by email to request comment.

Ukraine has transitioned from counteroffensive operations into a more defensive posture with the onset of winter. Russian forces, meanwhile, have launched fresh efforts to capture ground and reverse the meager gains won by Kyiv's troops through a costly summer and fall of fighting.

Moscow's troops have advanced northwest of Bakhmut, with the ISW citing geolocated footage published on January 17 suggesting "a marginal gain in the residential area in northern Bohdanivka," just outside the destroyed city that was captured by Russian units in May 2023 after months of devastating combat.

Putin attack on NATO ‘possible’ in 5-8 years: German defense chief


Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could attack the NATO military alliance in five to eight years.

During an interview with the German outlet Der Tagesspiegel, Pistorius said “our experts expect a period of five to eight years in which this [attack] could be possible.”

“We hear threats from the Kremlin almost every day … so we have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day,” Pistorius said.

The Kremlin has bolstered threats against neighboring nations since launching its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, especially as Sweden and Finland have moved to join the NATO alliance. Russiam leaders have also issued dire warnings toward Poland.

Swedish officials have been warning their citizens that “war could come” to the country. Sweden is still waiting for approval from Hungary and Turkey before it can join the military alliance, while Finland has already joined.

Pistorius said Swedish warnings were “understandable from a Scandinavian perspective,” considering its proximity to Russia.

This week, chairs of foreign affairs committees from various countries in Europe met with U.S. lawmakers to plea for the passage of the supplemental package that contains $60 billion in Ukraine funding. The funding request is stuck in Congress after being tied to negotiations over the U.S. border policy.

During the meetings, officials defended Europe’s funding of the Ukraine military, but they also emphasized the U.S.’s role as the leader on the global stage and its irreplaceable military support.

New ICBM Is Seen Going 37% Over $96 Billion Cost, Forcing a US Review

Anthony Capaccio

The US Air Force’s new Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile program is now estimated to cost at least 37% more than the previously projected $96 billion, triggering a formal Pentagon review that will include whether to scale back or terminate the project.

Costs for the Sentinel may increase to as much as $162 million per missile when calculated in 2020 dollars, up from $118 million each, according to a new estimate being sent to Congress on Thursday. 

How Many Aircraft Carriers Does the U.S. Have—or More Importantly, Need?


In the days after Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, the U.S. Navy did what it does best: sail an awe-inspiring amount of seapower to the doorstep of the latest crisis. The Navy placed not one but two carrier strike groups off the coast of Israel, along with accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.

Aircraft carriers have long served as a show of naval power, but in the era of modern warfare, it’s worth asking: how many aircraft carriers does the U.S. Navy actually need?

The Current Fleet

Let’s start by examining what we’re doing with the aircraft carriers we already have. Right now, the carriers Eisenhower, Ford, and Vinson are all on deployments, with Eisenhower in the Red Sea, Ford returning from an extended deployment in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and Vinson in the Philippines. The rest of the fleet are either coming off deployments or working up to them.

An aerial view of the aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower together in the eastern Mediterranean, on November 3, 2023.

The carrier USS Truman recently completed a Planned Incremental Availability period, a modest upgrade during which it gained the ability to operate the F-35C fighter. USS Bush is just entering a PIA.

USS Nimitz is in and out of Naval Base Kitsap in Washington, and may make one last deployment before retiring in 2025.

USS John C. Stennis is in the middle of a Reactor and Complex Overhaul, a lengthy period in which the ship is refurbished and the nuclear reactor takes on new fuel.

Navy Going Digital to Increase Energy Efficiency

Josh Luckenbaugh

Refueling Navy ships while at sea — particularly larger vessels like destroyers — takes a lot of time and effort, requiring a supply ship to come fill up the tank.

While this may not be such a daunting task in peacetime, in a potential Indo-Pacific conflict an underway replenishment could become an easy target for an adversary. The Navy is going to need to make the most of every tank and spend as little time as possible at the pump, experts have said.

The service’s Global Energy Information System, or GENISYS, could play a key role in improving decision-making and fuel efficiency across the fleet. Its goal is “to accurately and consistently track surface ship energy usage to improve operational readiness,” a Navy spokesperson said in an email.

GENISYS consists of three applications: two ship-based applications called eLogBook and the Shipboard Energy Assessment System and an ashore, cloud-based component called the Fleet Energy Conservation Dashboard, the spokesperson said. The system achieved initial operational capability in 2023 “after GENISYS validated its ability to automatically transfer data from the ship-based applications on an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to the Fuel Energy Conservation Dashboard application live on the government cloud,” the spokesperson said. As of the end of fiscal year 2023, GENISYS has been installed on 12 destroyers.

The Navy leveraged Small Business Innovation Research funding to create GENISYS, with Beacon Interactive Systems and Frontier Technology Inc. serving as the developers and ManTech International Corp. as the software integrator, the spokesperson said.

Beacon CEO ML Mackey said through the SBIR program, the company has been able to take its experience in the commercial sector “to bring to bear on DoD problems and deliver capabilities into the hands of the warfighter.”

The company’s first SBIR program was focused on “the question of how do you decrease the cost of keeping our ships mission-ready by addressing the big cost driver, which was the people doing the work?” Mackey said in an interview. “And the proposers on our topic proposed a lot of the mainstream kind of stuff that was being suggested across the DoD. We were outside the DoD, [and] we said, ‘Well, you’d figure out how to make it easier for them to get their work done,’ which is what we had done for” private companies such as Olympus, MetLife and IBM.

Russia's electronic warfare is so intense, it may be messing up GPS signals in nearby countries: ISW

Tom Porter

A Lithuanian border fence runs along the bborder to the Russian semi-exclave of Kaliningrad on October 28, 2022 near Vistytis, Lithuania. Sean GallupRussia is using electronic warfare units to disrupt Ukrainian drone and missile attacks.

But Russian electronic warfare may also be disrupting GPS signals in nearby countries.

Russia's electronic warfare units are so widespread, they may be causing havoc with GPS signals in nearby countries, according to a report.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, said that recent disruptions to GPS signals in Poland and the Baltic area have sparked rumors about the use of Russian electronic warfare systems nearby.

The US-based think tank cited reports about high levels of GPS interference in Poland on January 10 and 16, and in the south Baltic Sea between December 25 and 27.

Polish media said that the interference affected aircraft GPS systems, but that flights were not impacted because air traffic control enabled navigation through alternative systems.

There was also speculation the interference could've been caused by secret NATO exercises or by Russian electronic warfare units in Russia's Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic coast, said the ISW.

The War in Ukraine Has Become a Peripheral Concern for the West

What seemed at first to be the start of a Third World War has turned out to be more akin to a Second Yugoslav War: a local conflict on the edge of Europe triggered by a slow-motion imperial collapse.

Throughout 2022, Europe was in shock. It turned out that Russia, owner of the continent’s most powerful armed forces, really was capable of sending tanks, missiles, and jets across its borders, bombing cities and seizing territory for no apparent reason, just as today’s adults were warned it might when they were children, and all while its politicians increasingly spoke in the language of tinpot dictators.

A feeling that everyone had been attacked swept Europe. Ukrainian flags were raised over buildings where even national flags had never been seen, and borders were flung open for Ukrainians in an unprecedented move.

Europe encountered a new type of refugee: one accustomed to going to cafes and the theater, one who may have arrived in a decent European car and is searching for a good school for their children. It was people like us who’d been attacked, the thinking went, and if Ukraine had not stood between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Europe, then it could have been us in their place.

The Russian army was a terrifying prospect that many believed capable of storming European capitals if it wasn’t stopped with nuclear weapons. In the end, it proved to be far less effective, but even so, the sight of destroyed cities, people huddled in subway stations by candlelight, and makeshift graves with cardboard headstones in residential courtyards was far more shocking than the films and TV series that had raised the specter of a Russian invasion in the first place.