14 February 2024

Israel War Map Shows Gaza Tunnel Hunt for Top Hamas Commanders

David Brennan

Israeli forces are continuing their hunt for Hamas' sprawling tunnel network—highlighted on a think tank's new map of the conflict—under the devastated Gaza Strip as talks on a fresh ceasefire agreement progress under American guidance.

As in previous rounds of conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have made the militant tunnel network—which is believed to stretch for hundreds of miles under Gaza—a prime objective given its strategic importance to the smuggling and military operations of Palestinian resistance factions.

On Wednesday, the IDF revealed a significant tunnel complex which it said had been used to hold 12 of those taken hostage during Hamas' October 7 infiltration attack, during which some 1,200 people were killed and hundreds abducted back into the Strip.

The IDF said it was built "in the heart of a civilian area in Khan Younis" and had previously been used by Hamas leaders. The IDF believes the Islamist group's Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar is still hiding below the streets of the southern city, which has been a recent focus of the fighting.

Can MBS Still Remake Saudi Arabia?

Bernard Haykel

For Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the war in Gaza has created a predicament. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, an Islamist movement that is allied and closely coordinating with Iran and its proxies, who wish to see the destruction of the House of Saud. But given how popular the Palestinian cause is with Saudi citizens, MBS must side with the Palestinians, who are seen throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds as the victims of Israeli aggression and occupation. The Saudi government wants to bolster its security, and it hopes that by normalizing relations with Israel, it can establish a security alliance with the United States and Washington’s regional allies. But Riyadh will not forge such ties when Israel is bombing Gazan civilians and refusing to recognize the Palestinians’ right to their own state.

Yet normalization was not, and is not, the only way for the Saud family dynasty to strengthen its hand. The regime can also protect itself and its interests by building a more powerful economy and shifting the country’s domestic ideology. To that end, it is actively developing new non-oil-related sectors, such as tourism, mining, logistics, manufacturing, technology, finance, and transportation. It is also shifting its source of legitimacy, which has long rested on the monarchy’s relationship to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, commonly known as Wahhabism, and on its role as the custodian of Islam’s most holy sites. Increasingly, the monarchy is instead seeking to legitimize its rule by presenting itself as protector of the Saudi people and promoting a strong sense of nationalism that places Saudi interests first. The resulting changes encompass virtually every aspect of the country’s society, from the legal and educational systems to the roles of religious authorities and women. Instead of committing itself to the spread of “true Islam,” the monarchy’s legitimacy rests on its ability to bring unity, peace, and prosperity to its region.

The war in Gaza has complicated this shift. Saudi Arabia still aims to normalize ties with Israel, but the kingdom is demanding a much higher price for diplomatic relations. The Saudis now insist that the Israelis offer guaranteed concessions that will lead to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. They are also trying to convince Washington to formally recognize the still intangible state of Palestine while calling on the UN Security Council to do so, as well. But the Saudis’ motivation for persuading Israel and the United States is not just to alleviate Palestinian suffering. It is also to make it harder for Saudi Arabia’s rivals—Iran and its so-called axis of resistance—to exploit that suffering as an excuse to foment chaos and instability. Riyadh believes that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is justly resolved, Tehran will be weakened, and the Middle East will settle down. The kingdom could then accomplish its national transformation and fulfill its vision of creating an interconnected and prosperous region, with itself at the center.

Gaza after the war: lessons of experience


There is much talk about “de-radicalization” in Gaza, de-militarization and not allowing Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA) or UNRWA to be in charge.

The PA has forgone elections since January 25, 2006, and lost elections in Gaza. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, in its present shape perpetuates and aggravates the conflict rather than being an institution to mitigate it.

All three objectives – de-radicalization, de-militarization and preventing dictatorial regimes from gaining power – have been pursued around the world, at times successfully, at times not. The failures offer better lessons than the successes.

Germany and Japan went through successful de-radicalization after World War II. However, this experience cannot be replicated and bring about transitions from dictatorial and deistic mindsets toward decentralized, meritocratic ones. Yes, Germany abandoned Nazism. However, that ideology did not have centuries-old roots, as the combination of centralization and an Islamic conception of society have had in the Middle East.

Japan abandoned both a warmongering political leadership and the concept of emperor’s divinity, when in an Imperial Rescript on January 1, 1946, Emperor Hirohito declared that he was not a living god.

These acknowledgments were not so drastic as they appear at first sight, since the 1889 Constitution of the Empire had already separated state and religion and distinguished Shintō from other religions. The latter’s rituals became just part of Japan’s program of national ethics.

These cases of “de-radicalization” in a relatively short time are thus not applicable to either Gaza, the West Bank, or the more populous Muslim states in the Middle East, expectations of “Arab Springs” having been hallucinations, really. Moreover, Germany and Japan were demilitarized, and the US stayed put in them during the years of transition.

Netanyahu Details Interactions With Biden After Special Counsel Report

Thomas Kika

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back on Sunday against the characterization of President Joe Biden in special counsel Robert Hur's recent report, calling him "very clear and very focused."

The Context:

On Thursday, Department of Justice (DOJ) special counsel Robert Hur released his report about the Biden classified documents case, which emerged after materials from his time as vice president under President Barack Obama were found at his home in Delaware and his Penn Biden Center office in Washington, D.C., in November 2022 and January 2023. Hur declined to pursue charges against the president, exonerating him for the retention of the materials, but nevertheless kicked up a political firestorm with brief passages detailing interactions with Biden, with the special counsel characterizing him as an "elderly" man with a fading memory.

This characterization played into the prevailing sentiment surrounding Biden that he, as the oldest individual to ever hold the presidency, is too old for the job and has declining mental faculties. The president himself and numerous members of his administration strongly denounced this aspect of the report as inaccurate and an irrelevant overstep on Hur's part. Some observers also accused Hur, a Republican appointed by Donald Trump, of acting in a politically motivated manner to hurt Biden's reelection odds. Hur was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee the DOJ's investigation in an effort to ensure a non-partisan investigation.

Since the report's publication, numerous other lawmakers and officials have come forward to attest to Biden's mental acuity, including the likes of Netanyahu, a foreign leader whom the president has been in frequent contact with in recent months.

U.S. Special Operators 'Gobbling Up' Lessons Learned in Ukraine, Gaza

Sean Carberry
Source Link

While U.S. Special Operations Command has long been viewed as the “counterterrorism command,” it’s primary mission today is "integrated deterrence," which is why it is studying the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza to bolster its capabilities to thwart adversaries in the Indo-Pacific, Europe and elsewhere, its leader said.

SOCOM is “absolutely gobbling up any lessons learned we can from” the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Army Gen. Bryan Fenton, commander of Special Operations Command, told reporters during a Defense Writers Group event Feb. 9.

“We’re absolutely interested in how an electronic warfare environment we see — very contested environment in particular in Ukraine — affects those and what that means for tactics, techniques and procedures in the future. I think we're always interested in a unique environment that might have tunnels and subterranean locations that we would have to operate in as that is not only in Gaza, but it's certainly reflected in other parts of the world that we find ourselves in,” he said.

The command is also looking at how to do communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in tunnels, he said. “So, all that's really important to us as an ever-learning military, ever-learning SOCOM. And we're certainly taking full advantage of that as SOCOM and part of the [Central Command] team.”

And in Europe, Ukraine is probably close to, if not the most contested electronic warfare environment ever experienced in warfare, he said.

That means things like small drones that U.S. and Ukrainian special operators might have been accustomed to using are no longer “working in the way that we've seen them once be able to work, even in our global war on terrorism experience in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

PTI’s Digital Odyssey: How Imran Khan’s Party Conquered Elections Using AI And Social Media – OpEd

Altaf Moti

In the heart of Pakistan’s political landscape, where tradition and modernity collide, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) orchestrated a digital revolution that defied odds, transcended prison walls, and resonated with millions. This is the tale of how PTI, led by the indomitable Imran Khan, wielded artificial intelligence (AI) and social media as weapons of mass mobilization, securing an unprecedented electoral victory on 8th February.

Let’s delve into how the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) effectively harnessed various digital tools and strategies to run a successful political campaign and secure a landslide victory in the country’s elections despite significant obstacles.

PTI’s Digital Triumph: A Roar of Resilience

1. Social Media Platforms

The PTI recognized the immense power of social media in reaching citizens nationwide. Despite suppression and bans on traditional media coverage, PTI’s social media team emerged as a beacon of innovation. Here’s how they leveraged social media:

– Virtual Rallies on X, YouTube and TikTok:

The party organized rallies on platforms like X, YouTube and TikTok, engaging impassioned supporters and making a significant impact in the digital space. These unconventional methods allowed PTI to transcend physical limitations and connect with millions of voters.

– AI Voice Generation for Imran Khan’s Speeches:

Despite Imran Khan’s incarceration, PTI used generative AI to deliver Khan’s messages. His speeches were conveyed through an AI-generated voice, showcasing the party’s commitment to engaging with the electorate even when traditional avenues were restricted.

Myanmar Junta to Begin Enforcing Military Conscription Law

Sebastian Strangio

After significant battlefield setbacks over the past three months, Myanmar’s military announced that it would start to enforce for the first time a 2010 conscription law that subjects young men and women to at least two years of military service.

In a statement read out on state broadcaster MRTV on Saturday, junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw said that the People’s Military Service Law was being applied, effective immediately, The Associated Press reported. Under the law, men between the ages of 18 and 45 and women aged 18-35 can be drafted into the armed forces for two years, a period extendable to five years during national emergencies.

The statement said that the junta’s Ministry of Defense would “release necessary bylaws, procedures, announcements orders, notifications, and instructions.” Evading conscription is punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine.

The conscription announcement comes at a testing time for the military junta, which seized power in a coup d’etat just over three years ago. In late October, the Three Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic resistance groups launched a surprise offensive that has seized a large stretch of territory in northern Shan State, overrunning hundreds of military outposts, seizing control of important border crossings, and ousting a junta-aligned Border Guard Force from Kokang, a strategic region running along the Chinese border. This has been followed by further offensives in the east and west of the country, which have eroded junta positions in Rakhine, Chin, and Karen states.

In this context, the AP notes, the activation of the conscription law “amounts to a major, though tacit, admission that the army is struggling to contain the nationwide armed resistance against its rule.”

In his statement, Zaw Min Tun said that activating the law could help reverse this by projecting a show of strength to the opponents of the military regime.

In Defense of China Before Mao

Bruce Gilley

Japanese sub-hunting helicopters have recently been training with their American allies in the Pacific to defend Taiwan from a possible invasion by China. There is a certain irony. After all, it was Japan’s full-scale invasion of China in 1937 that opened the way for the communist takeover of China, eventually forcing the retreat of the republican government to Taiwan. The result was “two Chinas” and an enduring conflict between the two sides. The Japanese, it seems, are making amends for their contribution to this historical disaster.

So are the Americans. With the help of useful idiots like the journalist Edgar Snow and the agronomist William Hinton, American opinion-makers of the 1940s came to see the communist rebels as more virtuous and progressive than the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek. American academics then lavished praise on Mao in the early years of the People’s Republic, which kept the refounded Republic of China on Taiwan on edge. If Mao had invaded Taiwan after China went nuclear in 1964, the U.S. might not have intervened.

Once the true horrors of Maoism began to emerge, U.S. policy shifted decisively in support of Taiwan. “How little we knew about China!” began a doleful 1981 article by Professor Edward Friedman, a former Mao-worshiper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that protects the island from the Reds might better be called the “Sorry For Believing Leftist Myths About Mao and Destroying the Republic of China Act.”

The so-called “republican” era in China’s history usually refers to the years 1912 to 1949, when the first and only experiment in liberal modernity took place in China under the Kuomintang. The era has been widely derided by communist and leftist historians as rife with poverty, corruption, and disorder. For them, the coming to power of the CCP was the fulfillment of the March of History, the arc of social justice.

China Maritime Report #35: “Beyond Chinese Ferry Tales: The Rise of Deck Cargo Ships in China’s Military Activities, 2023”

J. Michael Dahm

The China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) is pleased to provide you with China Maritime Report (CMR) #35, “Beyond Chinese Ferry Tales.”

This CMR is the most comprehensive open source report anywhere detailing Chinese civilian shipping support to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during 2023. Authored by Mike Dahm, this CMR is a follow-on to his previous CMR contributions including China Maritime Report No. 16 and China Maritime Report No. 25, which assessed PLA use of civilian shipping for logistics over-the-shore (LOTS) and amphibious landings between 2020 and 2022.

CMR #35, “Beyond Chinese Ferry Tales” highlights observed increases in inter-theater coordination including synchronized civil maritime military events across the PLA’s military theaters. It compliments information about deck cargo ships discussed in the just-published CMSI Note #4 published. It describes surge lift events involving roll-on/roll-off (RO-RO) ferries and identifies variable height loading ramps used by commercial vessels that may enable them to offload in ports regardless of tidal variations. Moreover, it provides imagery of a floating causeway system used to deploy forces to a beach landing area. There is much more critically useful information contained in this CMR.

One particularly noteworthy aspect of this particular CMR is that it contains dozens of tables, graphics, pictures, commercial imagery, and maps – to include a comprehensive listing of civilian/commercial ships observed supporting military events in 2023. The meticulous details compiled by Mr. Dahm makes it especially useful as a handy reference for all cross-Strait, PLA & China-Taiwan watchers.

US VC firms investing billions in Chinese AI, military and tech firms: CCP select committee

Eric Revell

Atlas Organization founder Jonathan D.T. Ward reacts to FBI Director Christopher Wrays warning over Chinas threat to U.S. national and economic security and a report of Chinese companies with Iranian ties present in U.S. markets.

A group of five U.S. venture capital firms’ investments in Chinese companies focused on artificial intelligence (AI), critical technologies like semiconductors or with links to either China’s military or its surveillance state and genocide in Xinjiang were the focus of a new report by a House panel.

The bipartisan House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party unveiled its new investigation into the five firms which found they invested at least $3 billion in such Chinese companies and provided expertise or other benefits to them.

The five firms used by the select committee as case studies in the report were GGV Capital, GSR Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Sequoia Capital China and Walden International. The investigation found those firms invested over $1.9 billion in Chinese AI companies that support the CCP’s human rights abuses and military, plus at least $1.2 billion in China’s semiconductor sector that the panel said "advance the CCP’s military, genocidal, and techno-totalitarian ambitions."

"The Committee’s findings suggest that there are billions of dollars beyond those captured in this report that have flowed into [People’s Republic of China] companies that support the PRC’s military, digital authoritarianism, and efforts to develop technological supremacy and undermine American technological leaders," lawmakers wrote in the report.

The United States and China’s complex cooperation and rivalry continue

Yuhan Zhang

The world has witnessed a complex tapestry of economic and technological dynamics between the United States and China, with 2023 marking a period of continued economic interdependence and technostrategic rivalry.

Despite a nominal dip in US imports from China, bilateral trade volumes remained substantial. US exports to China totalled US$135.8 billion and imports stood at US$393.1 billion for January–November 2023.

Trade represents only a facet of the economic bond between the United States and China. Policymakers, cognisant of the perils inherent in economic decoupling, have started to eschew such a course. High-level meetings and initiatives, like the US–China economic and financial working groups established in September 2023, offered a positive glimpse of potential bilateral relations. A meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2023 highlighted China’s willingness to partner with the United States.

In contrast, the high-tech landscape in 2023 was tense. The United States reinforced its global stance against China’s ascendancy, supported by US political parties. In response to escalating external pressure, terms like ‘struggle’ and ‘fight’ resurfaced in China’s strategic discourse. Key issues such as the ongoing tariff war and stringent export controls on critical technologies continued to underscore the intense rivalry between the world’s two superpowers.

Moving into 2024, the US–China economic and technological relations are poised to undergo a shift, characterised by enhanced communication, selective cooperation and balanced management of both interdependence and competition.

U.S.-China Tensions Have a New Front: A Naval Base in Africa

Michael M. Phillips

In August, Ali Bongo, then-president of the Central African nation of Gabon, made a startling revelation to a top White House aide: During a meeting at his presidential palace, Bongo admitted he had secretly promised Chinese leader Xi Jinping that Beijing could station military forces on Gabon’s Atlantic Ocean coast.

Alarmed, U.S. principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer urged Bongo to retract the offer, according to an American national security official. The U.S. considers the Atlantic its strategic front yard and sees a permanent Chinese military presence there—particularly a naval base, where Beijing could rearm and repair warships—as a serious threat to American security.

“Any time the Chinese start nosing around a coastal African country, we get anxious,” a senior U.S. official said.

The charged exchange between Bongo and Finer in Libreville, Gabon’s capital, was just one skirmish in the great-power maneuvering between the U.S. and China in Africa. China is conducting a backroom campaign to secure a naval base on the continent’s western shores, American officials say. And, for more than two years, the U.S. has been running a parallel effort to persuade African leaders to deny the People’s Liberation Army Navy a port in Atlantic waters.

The Looming Crisis in the South China Sea

Michael J. Mazarr

As China increasingly threatens to use force against Taiwan, the United States is rightly focused on the dangers of conflict over the island. But there is an equal risk of crisis, confrontation, and even war over a different area—the South China Sea. China is aggressively pursuing its claims throughout the sea, through which over $3 trillion in trade flows each year. Over the last decade, Beijing has built military bases on a series of reclaimed islands and harassed other countries that claim rights in the sea. Most recently, it has raised the risk of disaster by unsafely intercepting ships and aircraft belonging to the United States and its allies.

Tensions are especially high between China and the Philippines in the long-running standoff over the Second Thomas Shoal. For years, the Philippines has maintained its claim to the submerged coral reef within its exclusive economic zone through a jury-rigged outpost—an aging tank landing ship, the Sierra Madre, that the Philippine navy ran aground on the shoal 25 years ago. Over the last year, Chinese ships have used water cannons, lasers, and ramming to threaten Philippine resupply missions.

With the Sierra Madre now in danger of falling to pieces, the Philippines will soon need to rebuild the outpost, a step that Beijing has said it will not accept. In January, meanwhile, the Philippines announced plans to fortify as many as nine disputed maritime areas under its control. All this makes the risk of a direct military confrontation in the South China Sea higher than ever—and the United States has repeatedly promised to stand by the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. If Beijing directly attacks Philippine ships, Washington would be compelled to respond.

Violence in the Middle East


Nothing calms the Middle East down. Israel threatens a final push into the border town of Rafah, insisting that this has to be done to finish off the last four Hamas battalions as well as its military leader, Yahya Sinwar, believed to be hiding there. This requires the million and a half people who have crammed into the area to evacuate but there is nowhere obvious for them to go - certainly not into Egypt which will prevent them entering.

On Israel’s northern border there was a missile barrage on 9 February from Lebanon, after an Israeli drone strike on a Hezbollah commander, Abbas Al-Debes, with close ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In Iraq Wissam al-Saadi, the commander of the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah and his two bodyguards, was killed by a US drone strike on a Baghdad street on 7 February. Retaliation was promised. Meanwhile merchant ships continue to avoid the Red Sea route because of fears of being struck by missiles fired by the Yemen-based Houthis.

Attempts to agree cease-fires have been frustrated, although intermediaries have not stopped working on possible agreements. As a crunch point approaches in the Gaza War, neither Hamas nor Israel can agree to end the fighting except on terms that they could describe as victory. Although both the US and Iran play down the idea that they could be headed for a direct confrontation, this still leaves the US engaging with Iran’s proxies with tit-for-tat exchanges that may continue because nobody can work out how to bring them to a close.

These conflicts are complex and have many angles but I have been struck by one persistent theme, which is a belief in both Israel and the US that they can weaken their adversaries, perhaps terminally, by finding and taking out their leaders. As we shall see it is not the whole story, but it is a sufficiently important part to warrant close attention. Successful ‘decapitation’ of radical and insurgent groups that have been around for many years is rare. They have sufficient popular support and organisational structures that will continue even as individual leaders come and go. If one is killed a replacement will be found, and their replacements may be more capable and dangerous.

Return Of Islamic State Adds To Instability In The Middle East – OpEd

Yasar Yakis

The ongoing Gaza crisis has added fuel to the Middle Eastern fire and the prospects are not bright for an early end. Israel bids higher than it can afford. It relies on American support, but there are limits and the American public may, at some stage, say that enough is enough.

The international community has done little to stop the clashes between the Palestinians and Israel. Middle Eastern countries, including Turkiye, have been generous in giving advice but reserved in extending concrete support to the Palestinians.

The US has not deviated from its blind support for Israel, both in UN forums and by sending to the Middle East its two most powerful aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R. Ford and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. There are many other American battleships in the region, with at least seven in the Eastern Mediterranean and 12 in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.

The US warships have so far shot down 38 drones. Fourteen of them were heading toward Israel. When there are that many battleships in a region, there may be accidental clashes as well.

There is now a new phenomenon. Daesh, which had stayed largely dormant for a while, has now started to raise its head in various places around the world, beginning with the Middle East, but also in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

The region is far from being cleared of the remnants of Daesh. On the contrary, an increase has been noticed in its activities in many places. The US does not seem to be discontent with its activities. On the contrary, it uses Daesh’s activities as an excuse to keep its military presence in Syria and Iraq. Washington believes that its forces are necessary to keep a check on the activities of this terrorist organization.

Geopolitical Significance of U.S. LNG

Kunro Irié, Ben Cahill, and Joseph Majkut

The Biden administration has announced a temporary pause on new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export authorizations for proposed projects. This decision will not affect current exports or projects that are under construction, but a longer-term policy shift would have implications for both markets and geopolitics. This commentary addresses some geopolitical concerns associated with the pause in LNG export approvals.

Shifting Geopolitical Role of U.S. LNG

When Russia’s war on Ukraine in 2022 created a scramble for alternative gas supplies, U.S. LNG featured heavily in the transatlantic response. The United States and the European Union formed the U.S.-EU Task Force on Energy Security to help reduce EU reliance on Russian energy, diversify EU gas supplies, and accelerate the transition away from imported fossil fuels in Europe. The Biden administration pledged in March 2022 to ensure at least 15 billion cubic meters (bcm) of U.S. LNG supply to Europe that year, and the European Commission agreed to work with member states to ensure “stable demand for additional U.S. LNG until at least 2030 of approximately 50 bcm/annum.” The market delivered. LNG exports to Europe far exceeded targets for 2022 and 2023, reaching 56 bcm and 63 bcm, respectively. Today, about 50 percent of Europe’s LNG imports come from the United States.

U.S. LNG as well as Norwegian pipeline gas helped Europe withstand the economic shock of Russia’s weaponization of gas supplies and kept solidarity behind Ukraine. Mild weather and prudent stockpiling have calmed immediate concerns in Europe about lost supplies. Russian imports still constitute 20 percent of Europe’s gas supply, but Ukraine’s last remaining contract for transit volumes from Russia is due to end in 2024 and governments across Europe have no intention to resume larger gas imports from Russia. However, as European buyers seek a full divorce from Russian gas, the pause on new LNG project approvals will raise some longer-term concerns. Scarcer supplies from the United States after 2030 could make this more challenging.

Lessons From Hungary’s Trying Week with Brussels

Alexander Brotman

2024 is looking to be another year of antagonistic relations between the EU, its member states, and Hungary. This past week, Brussels threatened to take extraordinary steps to harm Hungary’s economy if it chose to veto the bloc’s 50 billion EUR aid package for Ukraine. Budapest ultimately bended, and for the time being Brussels is even ahead of Washington in terms of its solidarity and material support for Ukraine as Russia’s full-scale invasion nears the two-year mark. The past week also revealed the power of both Euro-centric and Eurosceptic forces in working together to advance the priorities of the bloc, with French President Macron and Italian Prime Minister Meloni reportedly playing a pivotal role in swaying Orban to his final position.

At Brussels’ disposal throughout the tense negotiations was the so-called nuclear option of Article 7, which would have suspended Hungary’s voting rights due to a ‘clear risk of a serious breach’ of the EU’s principles. While satisfying to the EU, this antagonistic method risked feeding right into Orban’s hands and further strengthening his domestic position. In a similar vein as the role Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan plays in NATO, Orban relishes playing the role of kingmaker in EU affairs, leveraging his position to extract maximum concessions from Brussels. Consensus is one of the hallmarks of the European project, and while cohesion may not always be possible for 27 different member states, ostracization can work to inadvertently harm the image of the EU in the minds of Hungarians fighting against Orban’s illiberalism.

There are few easy answers for Brussels in its dealings with Hungary, and there are likely to be further pressure points on the horizon. The EU’s response will also help shape the dialogue around future enlargement that will likely occur to Ukraine, Moldova, and states in the Western Balkans. Furthermore, Orban may have successfully captured Hungarian politics with his illiberal, nationalist message, but that does not necessarily translate into a desire for Hungary to leave the EU should it be put to the voters. The EU should make clear that its issue is not with Hungary and its place in the union, but with Orban and his ability to singlehandedly stifle the progression of the bloc at a time of great geostrategic importance.

What in the world is weather whiplash?

Jennifer A. Francis

Temperatures across the United States this winter have been on a roller coaster.

Average December temperatures in Minnesota, for example, were 14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, but the following month, they plummeted below the 30-year average before swinging back up to break an all-time high on January 31, hitting a balmy 55 degrees—nine degrees above the previous daily record. Parts of Montana saw a 90 to 100-degree temperature swing in the span of a month.

It wasn’t just the northern states that experienced the temperature yo-yo. Frigid arctic air swept down over much of the United States. At least 55 deaths have been attributed to January’s cold and winter storms. The airport in Houston, Texas, hit an all-time low for January 16 of 19 degrees Fahrenheit. And as in Minnesota, Houston’s temperatures soon rebounded to warmer-than average.

“Weather whiplash” events like these can be costly, even deadly. While an exact definition doesn’t yet exist, weather whiplash generally connotes an abrupt shift from one set of persistent weather conditions to a very different set. Long-duration drought followed by heavy precipitation, for example, can damage crops. Orchards can be devastated by the arrival of a severe cold snap after a persistent early-spring warm spell. Prolonged summer heat waves and drought have also fueled wildland fires across Canada and Mediterranean Europe in recent years, and if these conditions shift abruptly to a stormy pattern with intense rain, barren burn scars will absorb little moisture, raising the threat of flash flooding. All of these types of whiplash have occurred multiple times in recent years, and some research suggests they may happen more often in the future.

A Geopolitically Sustainable Green Energy Agenda – Opinion

Corey Lee Bell and Elena Collinson

Nations have increasingly come together to ward-off an existential climate crisis. Yet wars in Europe and the Middle East, rising nationalism and growing superpower tensions are raising questions about whether the climate agenda can remain insulated from rising concerns about energy security. With fading confidence that the modern liberal international order represents a clear disjunction from the realist politicking of the last century, it is necessary to reconsider whether in focusing on the climate change agenda in isolation from geopolitical variables, there has been a neglect of the lessons of the old energy order’s political catastrophes. With China accumulating dominance over large spectrums of the green energy value chain, and with Western nations attempting to break the market’s hyper-concentration, there is a need for broader multilateral efforts led by third parties that accommodate mature discussions on geopolitical, and in particular energy security, concerns.

2023 was a year in which the climate change agenda brought nations together, but again proved unable to shake off the fetters of their competing economic and political interests. By the year’s close global oil and coal consumption were heading to new highs, and COP28 concluded with a successful push by petrostates to replace a commitment to ‘phase-out’ fossil fuels with a pledge to ‘transition away’ from them. It is now more likely than not that the Earth’s temperature will rise above the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold that most of the world’s nations agreed to try to stay below. Indeed, one study shows the threshold has already been exceeded.

There is a growing risk that energy security concerns driven by geopolitical tensions could intensify the impact of national interests on decarbonisation. According to a 2023 report funded by the World Trade Organisation, events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine have already “made geopolitical concerns rather than economic interests the dominant factor in shaping the policies governing energy trade,” potentially leading to energy value chains fragmenting. There are inchoate signs that green energy chains are headed the same way. Democratic nations, for instance, have banded together to create an exclusive Minerals Security Partnership, are studying policies akin to Washington’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that place green energy sovereignty above free trade principles, and are threatening trade sanctions and countervailing duties on green tech imports from ‘problematic’ suppliers, with investigations on green energy technology dumping and cyber ‘back doors’ in technologies including solar power inverters and electronic vehicles

Ukraine wiped out nearly a third of Russia's Black Sea Fleet without even having a real navy. These are the warships Russia lost.

Lauren Frias 

The Ukrainian navy has decimated the Russian Black Sea Fleet, taking out nearly a third of Russia's vessels in less than two years.

With no warships in their arsenal, Ukrainian forces have relied on unmanned maritime drones and long-range anti-ship missiles to hammer Russia's fleet.

Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesman for the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said in a public statement that the Russian Navy had approximately 80 warships at the outset of the invasion, including large warships, landing ships, submarines, patrol boats, and minesweepers.

As of earlier this week, 25 vessels have been destroyed, and 15 more are under repair, he said.

"I can say that the Black Sea Fleet operations have been greatly complicated, if not paralyzed," Pletenchuk said.

The attacks have allowed Ukraine to resume the grain shipments through the Black Sea central to its economy and forced the Black Sea Fleet to shift warships away from Crimea, its prized naval homeport.

Several Russian ships that Ukraine claimed to have destroyed have yet to be identified, but reportedly among them are Raptor-class patrol boats, a BK-16 high-speed assault boat, a Serna-class landing craft, and a Stenka-class patrol vessel.

Unseen Eyes in the Sky: How Open-Source Intelligence is Revolutionizing Flight Tracking

Israel Ojoko

In the unassuming realm of online enthusiasts and open-source intelligence, a story unfolds that intertwines affordable receivers with the tracking of aircraft, unearthing insights that reverberate far beyond the sky.

The Unseen Eyes in the Sky

A spirited group of plane trackers, equipped with modest receivers, meticulously trace the trajectories of aircraft across the globe. These individuals are part of the broader Osint (open-source intelligence) community, a collective that meticulously examines vast troves of freely available online data to uncover incriminating, enlightening, or captivating information.

From casual observers to dedicated researchers and investigative journalists, this eclectic assembly of individuals pursues the elusive truth hidden within the digital ether. Their work transcends the boundaries of traditional intelligence, delving into the realm of public data to construct a comprehensive tapestry of knowledge.

The Dance of Data

Amid this intricate dance of data, a recent event has cast a spotlight on the significance of these efforts. The tragic demise of a chartered Bombardier Challenger 600 jet, en route from Columbus, Ohio, to Naples, Florida, serves as a poignant reminder of the potential insights gleaned from open-source intelligence.

The flight tracking service FlightAware, a cornerstone of the Osint community, meticulously documented the flight's journey, revealing a sudden engine failure that preceded the plane's catastrophic descent onto Interstate 75. The incident resulted in at least two fatalities and left three survivors grappling with the aftermath.

Today’s AI threat: More like nuclear winter than nuclear war

Daniel Zimmer, Johanna Rodehau-Noack

Last May, hundreds of leading figures in AI research and development signed a one-sentence statement declaring that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.” While ongoing advances in AI clearly demand urgent policy responses, recent attempts to equate AI with the sudden and extreme immediate effects of launching nuclear weapons rest on a misleadingly simple analogy—one that dates back to the early days of the Cold War and ignores important later developments in how nuclear threats are understood. Instead of an all-or-nothing thermonuclear war analogy, a more productive way to approach AI is as a disruption to global systems that more closely resembles the uncertain and complex cascades of a nuclear winter.

Over the last year and a half, headline-grabbing news has fed into the hype around the awe-inspiring potential capabilities of AI. However, while public commentators brace for the rise of the machine overlords, artificial un-intelligence is already kicking off chains of widespread societal disruption. AI-powered disinformation sows distrust, social media algorithms increase polarization, and mass-produced synthetic media degrade democratic engagement while undermining our shared sense of reality.

Uncritically equating acute nuclear attack effects and AI threats risks reproducing the same kind of all-or-nothing thinking that drove some of the most dangerous dynamics of the nuclear arms race. Drawing these analogies also unduly distracts from the dramatic damage that even a comparatively “small” nuclear war or “dumb” AI can cause to today’s interconnected social, ecological, and political systems. Rather than fear a future AI apocalypse, policymakers should recognize that the world is already living through something like the early days of an AI nuclear winter and develop effective frameworks for regulation that factor in how it is disrupting political, social, and ecological systems in unpredictable ways today. Overemphasizing speculative dangers of superintelligence (systems that exceed human intelligence) jeopardizes urgently needed efforts to regulate AI with a view to the systemic impacts of actual and emerging capacities.

Here’s the Thing AI Just Can’t Do


A few months ago, I was called in at the last minute to participate in an onstage fireside chat at an Authors’ Guild event. (I’m on the nonprofit’s council, but of course I speak here only for myself.) Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger and I spent much of the session exploring the implications of a future where AI robots could create viable literary works. For writers, it’s a terrifying scenario. As we discussed the prospect of a marketplace flooded by books authored by prompting neural nets, I had a revelation that seemed to mitigate some of the anxiety. It may not have been an original thought, and I may have even come up with it myself earlier and forgotten about it. (My ability to retain what’s in my training set falls short of that of ChatGPT or Claude.) But it did frame the situation in a way that transcended issues like copyright and royalties.

I put it to the audience something like this: Let’s say you read a novel that you really loved, something that inspired you. And only after you were done were you told that the author had not been a human being, but an artificial intelligence system … a robot. How many of you would feel cheated?

Almost every hand went up.

The reason for that feeling, I went on, is that when we read—when we take in any piece of art, actually, in any medium—we’re looking for something more than great content. We are seeking a human connection.

This applies even when an author is long dead. If anyone is still reading Chaucer (Has he been canceled yet?), somehow over centuries we can vibe into the mind of some dude that lived in the 14th century and would have been amazing to talk to over a beer or a goblet of mead. In fact, we get to know him better through reading him, even if we have to struggle a bit with Middle English. (Props to Ann Matonis, my rock star of a Medieval Lit professor at Temple University. Tough grader, though.)

Weapons of Mass Disruption: Social Media, Messaging and the Influencing of Public Emotions

Philippe Assouline

Introduction: Social Media, Mass Emotions, and Power

Much of the discourse surrounding foreign influence has been predominantly focused on the spread of “fake news” and foreign campaigns aimed at undermining factual integrity.[1] While the negative impact of misinformation is undeniable, whether foreign influence campaigns advance truthful or false claims misses a far more important point. The central thesis of this article is that the true peril of foreign influence resides not in the distortion of facts, but, more critically, in the distortion of feelings: the use of social media to manipulate mass emotions and thereby engineer mass behavior. States and non-state actors today have, through social media advertising platforms, the ability to easily and precisely target segments of foreign populations and to shape their preferences and behaviors via repeated exposure to weaponized messaging and content. They can thereby paralyze a society with fear, make it insensitive to risk, or cause it to turn on itself. They can sow doubt or rage in ways that do not benefit the targeted population but rather themselves or third parties. They can weaken or co-opt a target state from within, bloodlessly. This is true regardless of whether the content shared is factual or not;[2] that is, factual content can also be lethal.

When and how, then, can states or political actors use social content to leverage public emotions as a weapon? And how can states immunize their citizens against foreign emotional manipulation? These understudied questions, I believe, are of the greatest strategic importance at a time when social media and artificial intelligence-driven content feeds are transforming collective psychology and, as a consequence, political behavior. This subject—the psychological dimension of propaganda in the age of social media—remains relatively uncharted in academic inquiry, despite the potentially profound implications for democratic processes and international relations. This essay is an introduction to that topic.

Security News This Week: How 3 Million ‘Hacked’ Toothbrushes Became a Cyber Urban Legend


Documents exclusively obtained by WIRED reveal that AI surveillance software tracked thousands of people using the London Underground to detect crime or unsafe situations. The machine learning software scoured live CCTV footage to spot aggressive behavior, weapons being brandished, and people dodging fares. The documents also detail errors made during the trial—for instance, mistakenly identifying children walking with their parents as fare evaders.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, cryptocurrency tracing firm Chainalysis published a report finding ransomware payments in 2023 reached over $1.1 billion, the highest annual total ever recorded. The record-breaking sum of extorted funds was due to two things: the high number of ransomware attacks and the amount of money that hackers were demanding from victims, many of whom were targeted specifically for their ability to pay and their inability to sustain a prolonged disruption of services.

A tech company, notorious for keeping websites with far-right and other extreme content online, was bought last year by a secretive company whose business is to help set up businesses, often in ways that keep details of those companies secret, WIRED reported on Thursday. Registered Agents Inc.’s acquisition of Epik may allow the shadowy company to provide its customers with another layer of anonymity.

For the past month, senior security reporter Matt Burgess has been transitioning away from using passwords to log in to his hundreds of online accounts. Instead, he’s using passkeys, a more secure form of authentication that uses generated codes stored on your device to log in to websites and apps using a biometric identifier like a fingerprint, face scan, or PIN. When it works, it’s seamless and secure. When it doesn’t, it’s a mess.