8 February 2024

The War in Gaza May End Soon, but Not the Fighting | Opinion

Yaakov Katz

On March 27, 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber disguised as a woman walked into the Park Hotel in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya and blew himself up. Thirty Israelis who had just sat down for the festive Passover Seder were killed in the horrific attack.

The terrorist had come from the West Bank city of Qalqilya and the bombing came after a month which saw more than 100 Israelis murdered by Palestinians in cold blood in attacks across the country. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided that enough was enough and that same evening ordered the Israel Defense Forces to come up with a plan to change the paradigm. Two days later he gave the green light to launch a full-scale offensive in the West Bank known as Operation Defensive Shield.

The high-intensity stage of the 2002 operation lasted for just a few months. However, the results of the offensive, which saw the Israeli military return to all the Palestinian cities it had evacuated a couple of years earlier as part of the peace process, have been felt now for almost 22 years. In late January, for example, the whole world got to watch security footage of a group of Israeli commandos disguised as Palestinians covertly enter a hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin where they eliminated three alleged Hamas terrorists.

A shock wave erupts as a projectile exits the barrel of an Israeli army self-propelled artillery Howitzer firing rounds from southern Israel toward the Gaza Strip on Jan. 31.

That operation—as well as the countless others that the IDF carries out almost every night in some other part of the West Bank—are the results of Operation Defensive Shield from 2002. Israel did not defeat Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism back then. What it did was create a new security reality in which it can continue to fight terrorism with freedom when and where it wants to.

How Will the War in Gaza End?


A year into World War II, the United Kingdom’s War Cabinet established a committee that would be responsible for clarifying the UK’s objectives in the conflict. The following year, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt devised the Atlantic Charter, which established their war aims and a shared vision for the future. As Israel continues its relentless air and ground campaign against Hamas – and as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens – US President Joe Biden is probably desperately hoping that his recalcitrant Israeli allies will launch a similar effort.

So far, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to discuss any vision for a political deal to end the fighting in Gaza, let alone for a broader Israeli-Palestinian peace. In fact, the current devastation in Gaza seems to serve little strategic purpose at all. Netanyahu’s only real objective appears to be political: to maintain the cohesion of his far-right coalition, so that he can stay in power.

That means, first and foremost, keeping the war going. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir of the hard-right Jewish Power threatened to break the coalition if Israel halts its military operations in Gaza. According to Netanyahu, only when all Israeli hostages held in Gaza are released and the total and unconditional “obliteration” of Hamas is achieved can the fighting stop and a deal (possibly including a renewed Israeli occupation of Gaza) be implemented.

But this goal is both unrealistic and dangerous. Hamas is an Islamist nationalist organization with deep roots and considerable support. Since its founding in 1987, Hamas has threatened the exclusive rule of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the West Bank. In fact, the “security cooperation” between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel was never anything more than a euphemism for a joint battle against Hamas in the West Bank. But Hamas has continued to thrive.

The Middle East conflict is spiraling. Biden must force Israel to end the war

Mohamad Bazzi

Since Friday, the US military has launched dozens of airstrikes on targets in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Joe Biden’s administration portrayed the wave of attacks as a response to a drone strike that killed three US troops at a military base in Jordan on 28 January, and to ongoing attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi militia. “If you harm an American, we will respond,” the US president said on Friday, adding that there will be more retaliation to come.

Biden, the president who withdrew the last US troops and ended America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan, could now become the same leader who started a new regional war in the Middle East that entangles the US in a conflict with Iran and its allied militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

For now, the fallout from US reprisals seems to be contained, especially since Biden did not order the Pentagon to strike targets inside Iran. But Biden has promised more US attacks on Iranian-backed Shia militias operating in Iraq and Syria, including on bases where members of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards train and advise the militias.

And that’s where the US military and Iran’s allies are caught in a loop of tit-for-tat escalation: attacks on US bases in the region, or shipping vessels in the Red Sea, lead the Pentagon to hit back, risking new reprisals that could spiral out of control. The US keeps hoping that its overwhelming military power will create a “deterrent” and stop the militias from carrying out new attacks.

Despite Biden’s insistence as a presidential candidate and in his first year in office that he wanted to end the “forever wars” that the US unleashed after 9/11, the president is once again hoping to bomb his way out of a problem in the Middle East.

The cognitive dissonance of unleashing more bombing to achieve stability is even more stark because Biden and his top aides have insisted that their highest priority since the brutal 7 October attacks by Hamas militants inside Israel has been to prevent Israel’s devastating invasion of Gaza from spreading into a regional conflict.

Hamas Has Responded to Latest Deal Offer, Officials Say

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Adam Rasgon, Michael Levenson, Erica L. Green, Ronen Bergman and Patrick Kingsley, Adam Rasgon, Jack Nicas and Lucía Cholakian Herrera, Carl Hulse , Anushka Patil, Farnaz Fassihi, 
Source Link

Here’s what we know:

The Qatari prime minister, speaking at a news conference in Doha with the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said Hamas’s response was “positive” but gave few details.
Blinken Says ‘Agreement Is Possible’ With Hamas on a Hostage Deal

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cautioned that there was still “a lot of work to be done,” as the United States and its allies prepare to review Hamas’s response to their cease-fire proposal.

Together with Qatar and Egypt, we put forward, as you know, a serious proposal that was aimed at not simply repeating the previous agreement, but expanding it. As the prime minister just said, Hamas responded tonight. We’re reviewing that response now and I’ll be discussing it with the government of Israel tomorrow. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential. And we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it. We’re also determined to use any pause to continue to pave a diplomatic path forward to a just and lasting peace and security for the region. That is the best way, the best way to ensure that Oct. 7 and the tragic loss of life by Israelis and Palestinians is not repeated.

Netanyahu’s refusal to plan for the ‘day after’ may doom Israel’s war effort - Opinion

Max Boot

It’s been nearly four months since Israel launched Operation Swords of Iron in response to the horrific Hamas attack on Oct. 7. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has failed to articulate a viable “day after” strategy for what happens if and when the guns fall silent. His latest dereliction may consign the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip to failure despite the bravery and dedication of ordinary Israeli soldiers.

While much of the media coverage focuses on the heavy casualties suffered by the Palestinian civilians that Hamas uses as human shields, the Israel Defense Forces are also inflicting heavy losses on Hamas fighters. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. intelligence estimates that the IDF has killed 20 percent to 30 percent of Hamas’s prewar strength of roughly 30,000 combatants and wounded roughly another 30 percent. (Israel’s figures for Hamas casualties are slightly higher.)

Any conventional military force that has suffered such heavy casualties would be rendered “combat ineffective.” But Hamas is continuing to wage guerrilla warfare against Israeli forces, and its command structure remains intact. While Israel has killed many lower-level commanders, it has not yet located Hamas’s senior leaders, including Yehiya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack who is believed to be hiding in the tunnels under his hometown, Khan Younis. The IDF has discovered that Hamas’s tunnel network is even more extensive than suspected — and as much as 80 percent of the tunnels remain intact despite months of bombardment.

There are even reports of Hamas militants returning to areas in northern Gaza where Israel has reduced its forces in the past month. Hamas could actually wind up inadvertently benefiting from Israel’s heavy bombardment: The terrorist group has figured out how to turn unexploded Israeli ordnance into its own bombs and missiles.

“Israel has been highly successful in degrading Hamas militarily and must complete the work in the two remaining areas of Gaza: Khan Younis and Rafah,” Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser, told me. “It has been far less successful in undermining Hamas’s control as the ruling body in Gaza.”

Crisis at the Bangladesh-Myanmar Border: A Looming Regional Challenge

Md. Himel Rahman

On February 4-5, over 100 Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) personnel illegally crossed the Bangladesh–Myanmar border, and were disarmed and interned by the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Beyond that, southeastern Bangladesh is currently facing persistent attacks, including gunfire, mortar attacks, and gunship strikes, from the Myanmar forces. The intense fighting between the Myanmar government forces and the insurgent Arakan Army in Rakhine and Chin States has created a serious security threat to Bangladesh.

Historically, Bangladesh has shared a complex relationship with Myanmar. Repeated expulsions of ethnic Rohingya from northern Rakhine State into Bangladeshi territory since 1978, violations of Bangladesh’s land and maritime borders as well as airspace by Myanmar forces, murders of Bangladeshi troops and civilians by Myanmar’s border forces, and its designs on Bangladeshi territory have occasionally marred the relations between Dhaka and Naypyidaw.

Since August 2017, the presence of more than 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and Myanmar’s obstinate refusal to repatriate the refugees, have strained the bilateral ties between the two countries. The beginning of a full-scale civil war in Myanmar between the military-controlled government and the exiled National Unity Government (NUG), allied with various ethnic armed groups, in May 2021 has further complicated the Bangladesh–Myanmar relationship.

On October 27, 2023, the Three Brotherhood Alliance – consisting of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – and its allies launched a multi-pronged offensive, codenamed Operation 1027, against the Myanmar government. Since then, the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army has been locked in fierce battles against the Myanmar Armed Forces (also known as the Tatmadaw) and the BGP in Rakhine and Chin States. So far, it has captured a significant chunk of territory, including several towns such as Paletwa and Pauktaw, routed several Tatmadaw battalions, overrun nearly all border outposts along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, and seized significant amounts of military equipment. The situation has turned so critical that the Myanmar government has been compelled to impose a curfew in Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine State.

Are Pakistan and Iran on the Brink of War?


Is the broader Middle East conflict drawing Pakistan in? The answer hinges on Iran. Not only are its proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen keeping regional hostilities at a boil, but it also backs militant groups that have attacked positions in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan – three countries that are generally friendly toward it (to varying degrees). Recent missile and drone strikes by Iran, a would-be nuclear power, on nuclear-armed Pakistan’s territory are particularly worrying.

Iran’s attacks on Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan are responses to hostile activities that it believes originated within those countries. Iranian strikes in Syria, for example, followed suicide bombings that killed nearly 100 people in the Iranian city of Kerman. In a sense, these episodes were nothing new. Iran and its proxies have been battling the Islamic State (ISIS) for years. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad himself has relied heavily on Iran in fighting ISIS (he also ultimately benefited immensely from US, Israeli, and Turkish offensives against the group).

By contrast, a recent Iranian attack on the Iraqi city of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, was intended to punish Israel. As General Amir Ali Hajizadeh of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force told Iranian state TV on January 16, Israel’s covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and assassinations of its nuclear scientists have been planned from a facility in Erbil. “We had to confront this and retaliate in the name of the blood of our martyrs,” he explained.

Similarly, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the strikes on Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province the same day were directed at a training camp for a Sunni extremist group. The Iranians claim the group, Jaish al-Adl, specializes in attacking positions along Iran’s border with Pakistan, and it recently struck a police station in southeastern Iran, killing 11 officers.

Myanmar: Scores Of Border Guards Flee To Bangladesh Amid Fighting With Rebels

Abdur Rahman

More than 100 members of the Burmese junta’s border police force, including some wounded men, crossed into southeastern Bangladesh since Sunday to flee fierce fighting with Arakan Army rebels, Bangladeshi officials said Monday.

Two civilians – a Bangladeshi woman and a Rohingya refugee – meanwhile were killed Monday when a mortar shell fired from Rakhine exploded on the woman’s house in Bandarban district near where the fighting was happening.

They were the first civilians to be reported killed in Bandarban since the fighting encroached along Bangladesh’s southeastern border with Myanmar.

In Dhaka, Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud said the government was in touch with the junta in Myanmar to arrange to repatriate the members of the Burmese Border Guard Police (BGP) who, starting Sunday, had fled into Bangladesh.

At least 24 of the BGP men were sent to hospitals in neighboring Cox’s Bazar district to be treated for their wounds, officials said.

“We have been maintaining uninterrupted communication with [Myanmar], and the deputy foreign minister of Myanmar talked to our ambassador [in Myanmar] this morning. They will take their nationals back; I mean they will repatriate the BGP members who have come here,” Mahmud told reporters at the ministry on Monday.

The BGP members who fled into Bangladesh abandoned their posts as the Arakan Army insurgents closed in to capture their camp in Maungdaw township.

China's Cyberattackers Target US and Allied Militaries

Didi Kirsten Tatlow

Chinese state cyber actors are targeting infrastructure in military bases in the Asia-Pacific belonging to the United States and its allies, in an uptick in hacking activities aimed at sabotaging vital systems in the event of a conflict, intelligence and cybersecurity sources have told Newsweek.

"They have invaded computer systems, and they are able to sabotage, for example, military installations on Guam or any of the U.S. bases in Southeast Asia," said a Western intelligence source in a NATO nation, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

"Pre-positioning" by China across critical online infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific was ongoing, according to a cybersecurity industry source in the region who was also granted anonymity due to the highly sensitive nature of the matter.

Pre-positioning in military parlance means to advantageously place soldiers and equipment—or in the digital age to embed malware in online networks—thus enabling fast action in a crisis. The practice aligned with China's strategic goals, namely sabotage and disruption in the scenario of a conflict in the Pacific, the source said.

Over the last decade, China has invested widely in its military and cyber capabilities as it challenges the U.S. for leadership in all areas including the economy and technology, military and global governance—a goal its leader, Xi Jinping, has set for 2049 at the latest.

The most likely military conflict between China and the U.S. is over Taiwan, which Beijing claims and has said it could take by force. Another flashpoint is the South China Sea, which China also claims and has heavily militarized including by building islands. About half a dozen nations contest ownership of territories and maritime zones in the energy-rich waters, and one, U.S. treaty ally the Philippines, is coming under increasing diplomatic and military pressure from China for refusing to acquiesce.

Fear and Ambition Propel Xi’s Nuclear Acceleration

Chris Buckley

Nineteen days after taking power as China’s leader, Xi Jinping convened the generals overseeing the country’s nuclear missiles and issued a blunt demand. China had to be ready for possible confrontation with a formidable adversary, he said, signaling that he wanted a more potent nuclear capability to counter the threat.

Their force, he told the generals, was a “pillar of our status as a great power.” They must, Mr. Xi said, advance “strategic plans for responding under the most complicated and difficult conditions to military intervention by a powerful enemy,” according to an official internal summary of his speech in December 2012 to China’s nuclear and conventional missile arm, then called the Second Artillery Corps, which was verified by The New York Times.

Publicly, Mr. Xi’s remarks on nuclear matters have been sparse and formulaic. But his comments behind closed doors, revealed in the speech, show that anxiety and ambition have driven his transformative buildup of China’s nuclear weapons arsenal in the past decade.

From those early days, Mr. Xi signaled that a robust nuclear force was needed to mark China’s ascent as a great power. He also reflected fears that China’s relatively modest nuclear weaponry could be vulnerable against the United States — the “powerful enemy” — with its ring of Asian allies.

Now, as China’s nuclear options have grown, its military strategists are looking to nuclear weapons as not only a defensive shield, but as a potential sword — to intimidate and subjugate adversaries. Even without firing a nuclear weapon, China could mobilize or brandish its missiles, bombers and submarines to warn other countries against the risks of escalating into brinkmanship.

China’s PLA plots robot drones, 'James Bonds' for covert military operations

Christopher McFadden

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has made public its desire to develop robotic, artificial intelligence special operations agents by 2035, reports the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

If ever developed, such machines would replace human agents on dangerous missions that would put human agents in extreme danger. The use of machines would also limit the risk to military planners should such assets be found and captured.
Robo-James Bond

A branch of the People's Liberation Army has announced that it is collaborating with a team of scientists to develop drones that can replace humans in complicated overseas missions in the next decade. Envisaged as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the new drone should have the ability to fly long distances, dive deep underwater, and remain hidden for extended periods. Upon receiving a command, it can swiftly emerge from the water, move towards its target, and deliver a fatal strike before disappearing beneath the waves again.

The call for the robot-special ops machine came from the PLA's unit 78092, which recently published details of a hypothetical overseas special operations plan in the Fire Control & Command Control journal. They argued that disclosing this theoretical plan would assist Chinese companies, engineers, and scientists in researching and developing new UAVs better to comprehend the military's requirements and strategic objectives.

According to the scenario, in 2035, a minor conflict broke out between China and one of its neighboring countries. Both sides agreed to use only small arms, such as small boats, drones, and anti-aircraft guns, to keep the expenses low and prevent escalating. The scenario does not specify the other country's name but refers to a river that flows along the border between the two nations.

'Do sanctions work?' is the wrong question


In his seminal 1957 book “The Copernican Revolution,” Thomas Kuhn writes that Copernicus’ “astronomical innovation” was characterized by a “plurality” that “transcends the competence of the individual scholar.”

Studying the Copernican Revolution, he said, provides an “ideal opportunity to discover how and with what effect the concepts of many different fields are woven into a single fabric of thought.”

There is a similar plurality of thought present in “How Sanctions Work: Iran and the Impact of Economic Warfare” (Stanford University Press) by Narges Bajoghli, Vali Nasr, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, and Ali Vaez. Like astronomy, the study of sanctions transcends the competence of the individual scholar. The four authors bring diverse expertise to the task of understanding the workings of sanctions. Bajoghli is a sociologist, Nasr is a political scientist, Salehi-Isfahani is an economist, and Vaez trained as a nuclear physicist before turning towards security issues.

Studies on the efficacy of sanctions policies tend to focus on policy design — are they unilateral or multilateral measures, are they are primary or secondary sanctions, and what sectors, entities, or individuals do they target? In these studies, the country imposing sanctions is placed at the center of the system, exerting forces on the sanctioned countries in its orbit. The Copernican aspect of “How Sanctions Work” is its insistence that a true understanding of sanctions efficacy arises not from an analysis of the policies, but rather from an analysis of the society and economy on which they are imposed.

Setting out their aim for the book, the authors declare that “policymakers and pundits” inquiring “do sanctions work?” are asking the wrong question. That question fixates on the power of the sanctioning country and has an obvious answer. “When a country with the size and economic power of the United States imposes harsh sanctions on a country, of course they ‘work’: sanctions create massive disruptions in the everyday lives of citizens, impact the political culture of the targeted state, and induce shocks in the economy.”

How Washington Emboldened the Houthis

Noam Raydan and Grant Rumley

Since the Houthis launched their assault on global shipping in November, the United States and its partners have scrambled for ways to restore calm and commerce to the Red Sea. First, on December 18, Washington assembled a maritime coalition designed to boost the U.S. presence in the area and promote regional security. Then, in January, the United States started intercepting Iranian military shipments bound for the Houthis and issued multiple warnings to the group. Finally, after nearly two months of continuous attacks in the Red Sea, the United States and the United Kingdom launched a barrage of strikes against the Houthis’ facilities. But these attacks have not halted or seemingly slowed the onslaught. The group has continued to lob missiles and drones, prompting continued strikes by Washington and its allies.

That the United States and its partners are now faced with the reality they were hoping to avoid—a conflict with the Houthis—is an unfortunate irony. But it also yields a lesson for the future. By waiting so long to retaliate, issuing warning after warning, and telegraphing their intention to launch strikes far in advance, the United States and its partners emboldened the militia that dominates much of Yemen. They taught the group that it can defy Washington without facing swift retaliation, and they gave it time to prepare for counterattacks.

The United States should, instead, have cut to the chase and immediately struck back. To defeat the Houthis, Washington was always going to need force: the group will not engage in meaningful diplomacy with U.S. officials. But like all military powers, the Houthis have limitations, and the United States can strike the group to the point that it will no longer be able to launch attacks at targets in the Red Sea. If the United States had acted sooner and more decisively, either the Houthis would have been deterred from further escalation or Washington would now be well on its way to degrading the group’s capabilities. The United States would have shortened the duration of this conflict, lessened the toll on global maritime trade, and reassured U.S. partners in the region and beyond. Now, the world will have to wait far longer for normality to return to the Red Sea.

US warns of further retaliation if Iran-backed militias continue their attacks


After a weekend of retaliatory strikes, the United States on Sunday warned Iran and the militias it arms and funds that it will conduct more attacks if American forces in the Mideast continue to be targeted, but that it does not want an “open-ended military campaign” across the region.

“We are prepared to deal with anything that any group or any country tries to come at us with,” said Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Sullivan said Iran should expect “a swift and forceful response” if it — and not one of its proxies — “chose to respond directly” against the U.S.

Sullivan delivered the warnings during a series of interviews with TV news shows after the U.S. and Britain on Saturday struck 36 Houthi targets in Yemen. The Iran-backed militants have fired on American and international interests repeatedly in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

An air assault Friday in Iraq and Syria targeted other Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for the drone strike that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan last weekend. The U.S. fired again at Houthi targets on Sunday.

“We cannot rule out that there will be future attacks from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria or from the Houthis,” Sullivan said. He said the president has told his commanders that “they need to be positioned to respond to further attacks as well.”

The U.S. has blamed the attack at the Tower 22 base in Jordan on Jan. 28 on the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iranian-backed militias. Iran has tried to distance itself from the drone strike, saying the militias act independently of its direction.

Biden “is not looking for a wider war,” Sullivan said, when questioned about the potential for strikes inside Iran that would expand the conflict in the volatile region. But when asked about the possibility of direct escalation by the Iranians, he said: “If they chose to respond directly to the United States, they would be met with a swift and forceful response from us.”

The Shadowy Backroom Dealer Steering Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’

Sune Engel

Four years ago, the U.S. launched a drone strike to kill the man who headed up Iran’s covert paramilitary operations. Qassem Soleimani had an almost cultlike following as the Middle East’s perhaps most recognizable military commander, and had placed his Quds Force atop a web of regional militias that over two decades had extended Iran military influence across the Arab world. His funeral procession drew such huge crowds that more than 50 people were killed in a stampede.

The man who succeeded him is very different, an unassuming backroom dealer who now faces a difficult new task—using this patchwork of armed groups to expand Iran’s footprint without provoking a devastating reprisal from the U.S.

Since taking over the Quds Force, Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani has quietly worked to consolidate the various militias working under Iran’s direction from Baghdad to the Red Sea, where they have created what the U.S. government calls the most volatile situation in the Middle East in decades.

A commemoration ceremony for Soleimani in Tehran last month. 

From the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen to Shia paramilitaries in Syria and Iraq, Qaani’s militia clients have the potential to inflame a cascading series of conflicts triggered by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, and draw the U.S. further into the morass by targeting American bases, such as the drone strike that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan more than a week ago. When the U.S. responded with strikes on Iran-backed militias across Syria and Iraq over the weekend, it was a message directed squarely at Qaani: Back off.

What Qaani decides to do next and whether the militias Iran has built up and support will follow his lead is perhaps the greatest source of uncertainty across the region.

Solution For Somali Piracy Has To Be Found On Land, Not At Sea – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Sri Lankan scholar Amali Karawita says that Somali piracy is a by-product of a Failed State.

The Salama Fikira (FP) Group, a leading global security and risk management firm, warned in January, that despite a perceived decline in Somali piracy, recent incidents indicate that the menace has not been eradicated and remains a formidable challenge.

By January 2011, 736 people were taken as hostages and 32 ships were captured by pirates. Piracy impeded the delivery of shipments and increased shipping expenses, costing an estimated U$ 6.9 billion a year in global trade according to Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), a veritable industry of profiteers also arose around the piracy. Insurance companies significantly increased their profits from the pirate attacks as these companies hiked premium rates in response.

“The hijacking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Somalia on the 14th of December 2023 was the first since 2017, “ said Lt.Col. Conrad Thorpe, Chairman of the Salama Fikira. “ While unusual, it was not surprising given the Somali piracy capability has never been relinquished,” he added.

Thorpe warned that the tactics employed, including the use of a mother ship (a large ship which can go long distances), enable pirates to operate at sea for extended periods and at considerable distances, catching ship owners off guard.

The Somali pirates, once a significant concern between 2008 and 2016, saw a decline in activity due to concerted international efforts. But since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began in October 2023, the world’s attention was diverted, leaving the coast off the Horn of Africa unpoliced.

Americans Need Domestic Unity for Effective Foreign Policy

Stephen J. Hadley and Richard Fontaine

The United States thrives in a stable international environment and amid substantial domestic unity. In 2024, it seems folly to wish for either. Multiple foreign crises persist, ranging from wars in Europe and the Middle East to the China challenge. A looming presidential election promises to further divide Americans.

The US is failing to quickly field hypersonic missile defense

Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery (ret.) and Bradley Bowman

The Pentagon warned in its annual report to Congress last year that China already possesses “the world’s leading hypersonic arsenal” and is sprinting to field even more advanced offensive capabilities. These weapons would give Beijing a capability to conduct a prompt strike that paralyzes America’s command-and-control and missile-defense capabilities.

The good news is that the United States is making progress on its own offensive hypersonic weapons. The bad news is that American efforts to develop systems that can defend against Chinese hypersonic capabilities are not keeping pace. If Washington does not act quickly to expedite the Pentagon’s fielding of hypersonic missile defense capabilities, deterrence may fail in the Pacific.

A hypersonic weapon is a missile that travels at speeds above Mach 5, or greater than 1 mile per second. There are many existing ballistic missile systems that travel at hypersonic speeds, but Chinese hypersonic missiles present an additional challenge. In addition to their high speeds, these systems include hypersonic glide vehicles, which maneuver through the atmosphere after an initial ballistic launch phase. To make matters worse, Beijing is also developing hypersonic cruise missiles that use air-breathing engines such as scramjets to reach high speeds and maneuver.

That combination of speed and maneuverability presents a daunting challenge for existing U.S. ballistic and cruise missile defense radars and interceptors, making it difficult to track and destroy the adversary’s incoming glide vehicle or cruise missile. The fact that hypersonic glide vehicles can also operate at unusual altitudes — well above cruise missiles but below ballistic missiles — adds an additional layer of complexity.

China has several hypersonic variants that leverage their extensive work in both intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. That includes, for example, the deployed DF-17, a medium-range ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle that has a reported range of 1,600 kilometers. Beijing could use that system to target American and allied military bases and fleets in the Pacific.

How to help solve Ukraine’s drone shortage problem

John Hardie and Bradley Bowman

Drones and other unmanned systems are a “central driver” of the Russia-Ukraine war, Kyiv’s top general observed in an op-ed published this month. In terms of battlefield innovation, Ukraine’s “number one priority” is the “mastery of an entire arsenal of (relatively) cheap, modern and highly effective, unmanned vehicles and other technological means,” he wrote.

By leveraging their resources, technologies and production capacity, the U.S. and its allies can help Ukraine meet this challenge.

In addition to artillery shells, one of Ukraine’s most urgent battlefield needs is an enormous number of one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as “kamikaze drones.” First and foremost, this means first-person view — or “FPV” — drones, combining cheap commercially available quadcopters rigged with munitions. Both Russia and Ukraine widely employ FPVs as improvised loitering munitions used to attack vehicles and personnel at or near the front line. But while the Ukrainians adopted FPV drones first, Russia now has the edge thanks to its advantage in production capacity.

With Western-provided shells currently in short supply, Ukraine will need to lean even more heavily on FPVs as a partial replacement for artillery. The Ukrainians are making many thousands of FPV drones every month, but they’re still well short of Kyiv’s goal of 1 million per year. Although Ukraine has received some loitering munitions from the United States and other Western countries, they’re far more expensive and aren’t produced at anywhere near the sufficient scale.

Ukraine also needs more long-range attack drones designed to strike targets far behind the frontlines. Here, too, Moscow currently has an advantage thanks to its Iranian-provided Shahed UAVs, which Russia began producing itself last year. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia can now make as many as 350 Shaheds per month.

Global Risks Report 2024: Three risks we aren't talking enough about

Thea de Gallier

From economic downturn and unemployment to climate change and misinformation, the challenges the world might face in the short and medium-term future are myriad.

To understand the size and impact they represent, they’ve been ranked by experts from academia, government, business and society, and compiled in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024.

Over the next two years, the greatest risks are disinformation, extreme weather events, societal polarization, cyber insecurity and armed conflict. Over the next 10 years, the top risks are extreme weather events, critical changes to Earth systems, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, natural resource shortages, and disinformation.

Perhaps the top risks are not surprising, given the ongoing conflict in several regions, escalating climate change and fast-evolving tech landscape. But it is worth paying attention to some of the risks that are as yet under the radar. They reveal a much wider and interconnected picture of global risk.

Here are 3 areas of growing concern.

Organized crime as a result of economic downturn

Organized crime is on the rise globally, and while currently perceived as a relatively low-risk factor, ranking 28th and 31st over the two- and 10-year time horizons, the Forum’s analysis shows it has a direct connection to the top-ranked risks.

Economic downturn, lack of economic opportunity, cyber insecurity and involuntary migration – all higher-ranked risks – are all potential drivers of illicit economic activity. If legitimate employment can’t be found because of reasons related to the main risks, crime might become an attractive alternative.

Could a Rogue Billionaire Make a Nuclear Weapon?

Sharon Weinberger

I first learned of a secretive Pentagon-funded study about rogue nuclear entrepreneurs more than five years ago from Stephen Lukasik, a former head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

We were talking about the Office of Net Assessment, the long-term analysis division of the Pentagon, famous in Washington policy circles for its predictions about the Soviet Union’s military capabilities and then later China’s rise. Lukasik mentioned that he had led several studies for the office, including one that looked at whether a private company or wealthy entrepreneur could produce nuclear weapons.

“We worked out what a private organization would do if it wanted to build and sell nuclear weapons,” Lukasik told me. “It turned out to be a fairly profitable business.”

Intrigued, I asked if he would share a copy. A few days later Lukasik, whom I had known for two decades, sent me all four volumes of the study, which was completed in 2013. The report laid out in exquisite detail, including staffing levels and cash flow projections, how such an enterprise could operate.

It would take as little as a billion dollars’ investment and five years to produce the first bomb, the study concluded.

The report read like background notes for an airport thriller: A Bond-villain-like corporation would set up shop as a legitimate business, managing a series of nominally independent subsidiaries responsible for different parts of weapons production in locations around the world. One company, for example, would be responsible for designing the centrifuges; another would produce the highly enriched uranium; a third would do the chemical processing. A company could even work directly with a rogue nuclear power. “Would our hypothesized enterprise ever go into partnership with North Korea? Or perhaps with Iran?” the report asks.

"You Americans, You're Fascinated By Power"

John J. Waters

In most places around the country, the point of acquiring power is to do something with it. Your state’s legislators pass a corporate tax cut to attract new business. Or, your mayor deploys city funds to repair streets damaged by winter’s snow and ice, paving the way for a smooth commute.

But D.C. is different.

More than other places, in D.C., the best use of power is not to discharge it toward solving some real or concrete problem that exists in the world, but to use power to create even more power. Whether that’s a better committee assignment, a bigger office, deeper donor pool, or a bigger professional network, there’s an urgency to spend what you have in furtherance of your ambition for more, to apply all of one’s tools in a strategy that (swiftly) generates more and greater power.

It’s a unique environment, and one in which military historian Eliot Cohen has thrived for more than 30 years. He’s advised presidents, cabinet secretaries, generals and diplomats. “In government and out,” writes David Petraeus, “Eliot Cohen has consistently been one of the shrewdest observers of the exercise of power.” In his new book The Hollow Crown, Cohen finds in Shakespeare the characters and stories that illustrate what he has learned about the ebb and flow of power in the real world, and it’s on this theme that we pick up our conversation. I talked with the author about military leadership, Coriolanus, and the Henry plays in part one of our conversation, which you can find here. Now, on to part two …

What is the state of “power” in 2024?

Power is more diffuse today than in previous periods of history.

As a group, elites don’t have the same voice as they once did because the number of elites has expanded, so you don’t have groups that have a high level of authority. For example, you once had senior clerics in this country who had a profound moral voice. I grew up in Boston and I’m Jewish but if Cardinal Richard Cushing said something, then people would really pay attention. Presidents of the great university played a role in our national debate that they do not play right now. Because power has gotten very diffuse, it’s sometimes in the hands of people who are irresponsible. Look at Congress. Our committee chairs are not powerful anymore. The Speaker of the House once was powerful. We’ve watched several of them get defenestrated. The elites lost their moral authority and there is no coherent leadership group rising in its place.

Robert Skidelsky Says More…

Robert Skidelsky

This is a really difficult opener! My main issue with the contemporary policy discussion is that it disregards Keynes’ insight that capitalist economies suffer from a chronic deficiency of aggregate demand. In other words, it assumes that economies have an in-built tendency toward full employment. But if that were true, there would be no case for expansionary fiscal policy.

The IRA – which includes $800 billion in new spending and tax breaks to accelerate the deployment of clean-energy technologies – had to be dressed up as “modern supply-side policy,” aimed at reducing inflation by lowering energy costs. But fiscal expansion based on a model that denies the need for it is bound to come to grief, as markets push for a return to sound finance and sound money. In the UK, Labour has had to abandon its pledge to spend an extra £28 billion ($35 billion) per year on green energy, because it couldn’t answer the question, “Where is the money coming from?”

Friendly Fire: An Unwanted Phenomenon Of Modern Warfare – Analysis

Matija Šerić

Friendly fire represents an extremely serious aspect of war. It is a situation in which military forces, members of the same army or allied soldiers, unintentionally open fire on each other.

The U.S. Department of Defense has professionally defined the term friendly fire as “a circumstance in which members of the U.S. military or an allied military force are mistakenly or accidentally killed or injured in action by U.S. or friendly forces actively engaged in combat with the enemy.”

Friendly fire should not be confused with the term fragging, which represents an attempt to intentionally kill a soldier or officer in the own ranks. Fragging was particularly prevalent among American troops during the Vietnam War as soldier morale declined and the intensity of combat increased—as many as 527 such cases were recorded between 1969 and 1971.

A dangerous phenomenon

While the deliberate shooting of soldiers and officers can be prevented by instilling discipline in the military ranks, friendly fire is much more difficult to limit and even more difficult to eliminate. It is a byproduct of modern warfare and something that accompanies all wars to some extent. It is certain that friendly fire will appear sooner or later in every war.

Admittedly, the unintentional targeting of one’s own comrades in arms has existed since ancient times and the Middle Ages, but it was not given importance unless a high-ranking officer was killed. Although friendly fire has existed since the beginning of mankind, as military technology advances, its occurrence is more frequent. This phenomenon has very negative and disastrous consequences, not only for the soldiers who are involved in friendly fire, but also for the military strategy, the morale of the army and the political leadership that manages the military formations.