27 March 2024

India’s Space Ambitions Buttress MIRV Efforts

Harsh Vasani

On March 11, 2024, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) tested the country’s maiden MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) missile using its Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The test was code-named “Mission Divyastra” and was carried out from Dr. Abdul Kalam Island, in Odisha, while telemetry and radar stations tracked and monitored multiple re-entry vehicles.

The test displayed the ability of India’s strategic forces to load multiple warheads on a single missile, which can then deliver the warheads inside enemy territory, evading the latter’s missile defense systems. The missile can also carry decoys that can elude countermeasures from the enemy. Moreover, there is an economic rationale to the test since MIRV technology allows multiple warheads to be loaded onto a single, often very expensive, missile – thereby increasing lethality at a cheaper cost.

Analysts point out that MIRV capability strengthens India’s nuclear counterstrike capabilities, gives it the ability to evade any current and future ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems, and allows India’s strategic forces to substitute accuracy for firepower.

The test demonstrates that India’s national security establishment has successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads that can be tipped on ICBMs – this is important to highlight since limited testing, including the 1998 tests, raised questions about India’s ability to design miniaturized warheads. Other elements of the MIRV test are not discussed as much but nevertheless provide insight into India’s evolving strategic thinking.

First, while the MIRV test was designed to showcase India’s second-strike capability, the ability to launch multiple smaller loads on a single missile shows that in case of an attack on India’s CISR (communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) satellites by a hostile power, the DRDO can quickly launch into orbit miniaturized satellites that can act as India’s eyes in the sky. These satellites can be launched to replace damaged satellites and restore crucial communication and surveillance networks. The ability to offset an enemy’s anti-satellite attacks should be seen in light of India’s own space weapons program that was tested in March 2019.

10 Years Of Modi's Foreign Policy: Aspiration Meets Self-Assurance - Opinion

Harsh V. Pant

A day might be a long time in politics, but in foreign policy, even a decade is usually not long enough to merit a serious appraisal. The last decade, however, has witnessed a phenomenal change in both the scale and the scope of global politics. At the same time, politics in India has undergone a tectonic shift too. Inevitably then, India's foreign policy was bound to be affected as well. But it's not just that. Beyond global shifts, it is also Prime Minister Narendra Modi's personal involvement in the realm of external relations that has accorded India a unique place in contemporary international affairs today.

Proving The Critics Wrong

It is easy to forget that when Modi came to power in 2014, his critics had painted him as a provincial politician who didn't have adequate engagement with foreign policy. His 'Hindu nationalist' credentials were deemed to be a liability that would constrain India's outreach to the Islamic world, in particular. But Modi has managed to keep both his detractors as well as his supporters on tenterhooks by following a pragmatic foreign policy, keeping the 'India first' mantra at its core. Right from the time he surprised everyone by inviting all South Asian nations to his swearing-in ceremony in 2014, to the current day, when a visit to Bhutan is in the works in the midst of a gruelling election campaign, Indian foreign policy has been 'Modi-fied' in ways that were not expected when Modi took the reins a decade ago.

Of course, India's emergence as the centrepiece of contemporary global political discourse has a lot to do with the structural changes shaping the international order. The shifting balance of power and growing disillusionment with China in the West has focused the world's attention on India, which has emerged as the fastest-growing major economy in the world. India's favourable demographics, its position as an attractive alternative to China, and its centrality in the key strategic geography of the Indo-Pacific have together contributed to making this India's moment.

Modi’s Success Story in West Asia

Rajeev Agarwal

The election bugle has been sounded, and with that curtains have officially come down on the second term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India. Modi 2.0, which was marked by remarkable successes, also faced many unprecedented challenges in all spheres, especially on the foreign policy front.

Modi 2.0 was fast paced and eventful, to say the least. While COVID-19 presented a global challenge, it was the Chinese misadventure in eastern Ladakh in May 2020 that has been the overarching point of foreign policy debate in India over the past four years. In between all this, small pinpricks in relations with neighbors like Nepal and the Maldives kept the pot boiling.

The Russia-Ukraine war presented a different kind of challenge, where India had to withstand Western pressure in extending support to Russia and even doing brisk trade amid Western sanctions. It was in fact during this period that India’s hard diplomacy skills came to the fore and the world slowly came to realize the global leadership position of India. India’s remarkably successful G-20 presidency in 2023, coupled with its chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), virtually sealed India’s status on the world stage.

Hamas’ sudden and brutal terror attack on southern Israel on October 7 came as a shock, but India once again skillfully managed a fine balancing in this too. The recent meeting between India’s national security advisor and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 11, hinting at a possible Indian role in playing a peacemaker role where others have failed, is once again a testament to the unique leadership position that India enjoys.

Indeed, if there was one region that stood out in Indian foreign policy under Modi 2.0, it was West Asia. Modi’s outreach toward the region had started early in his first term, with visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August 2015, the first visit by an Indian prime minister in 34 years. Very early in his second term, Modi once again visited the UAE in August 2019, where he was awarded with the prestigious Zayed Medal for playing a “pivotal role” in giving a “big boost” to the bilateral strategic ties.

Why is Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus Alone and Alienated in Bangladesh?

Mubashar Hasan

Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus is facing jail time.

On January 1, a Bangladeshi labor court convicted Yunus for violating the country’s labor laws and sentenced him to six months in prison. Yunus is facing charges of money laundering, tax evasion and corruption in some 198 cases. His jail term is yet to begin as he is out on extended bail.

Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which gives loans to small entrepreneurs who would otherwise not qualify for bank loans. He is known as the “banker of the poor.” His microfinancing efforts have been replicated and celebrated in many countries worldwide. In 2006, Yunus and his Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. In a nutshell, Yunus is probably the most celebrated living Bangladeshi in the world at present.

Yunus’ supporters and human rights groups believe that the cases against him are politically motivated. They allege that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is carrying out a personal vendetta campaign against him. The government denies this allegation and argues that it has no control over the judicial process. However, judicial actions in Bangladesh over the last 15 years have regularly aligned with the ruling Awami League’s interests. Last year, Bangladesh’s Deputy Attorney General Imran Ahmed Bhuiyan publicly said that cases against Yunus are tantamount to judicial harassment. Bhuiyan was dismissed from his position soon after, indicating the tight government control over the judiciary.

Yunus’s international network of friends is standing up to defend him. In an open letter to Hasina in 2023, more than 170 influential world figures, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and over 100 Nobel laureates called on Hasina to halt the “continuous judicial harassment” of Yunus.

Immigration Is Helping the U.S. Edge Out Asia

Nathaniel Taplin and Megha Mandavia

As the world’s postpandemic economic order takes shape, the U.S. has emerged as an unexpected winner. Asian economies that fared relatively well during the pandemic—especially China, but also advanced economies such as Japan and Taiwan—have struggled to maintain steam.

The end of the pandemic-era export boom and Washington’s aggressive stimulus are two reasons. But the U.S. has another ace up its sleeve: big postpandemic immigration inflows.

Immigrants have helped cap inflationary pressures by expanding the workforce, despite falling birthrates, and will boost growth and public finances for years.
Goldman Sachs estimated recently that above-trend immigration this year and last will boost potential growth by around 0.3 percentage point to 2.1% in 2024. Japan, meanwhile, struggled to expand at all in late 2023. Taiwan grew just 1.3% last year.

The migrant population has always been a touchy political issue in the U.S., but Northeast Asia’s rich nations have much bigger problems with it. As their populations age more rapidly, the consequences of that attitude are becoming more obvious. Pension systems, which depend on young workers to fund benefits, will become difficult to maintain. Falling populations will make exporters such as Taiwan and South Korea even more dependent on the vagaries of the chip price cycle. Higher government debt issuance could crowd out private investment or impinge on other urgent priorities such as national defense.

Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul recognize the problem and have begun to take steps to address it. But with populations already beginning to decline outright—and powerful political factions opposed to change—Asia could struggle to maintain much of its economic dynamism.

Will China Push the U.S. Dollar Out of the Middle East?

Christy Un

As China’s geo-economic influence expands across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), countries in the region are becoming acutely aware of the risks emanating from their dependence on the U.S. dollar. From a ground-breaking Chinese Renminbi (RMB)-denominated energy deal to the recent integration of four Middle Eastern countries into BRICS+—which advocates for the expanded use of local currencies, the MENA region is riding the wave of de-dollarization. However, the RMB will not become a credible alternative in the near future. Instead, the currency forms part of MENA countries’ financial toolkit to safeguard their long-term economic interests.

While China’s strides across trade, investments, and the digital landscape encourage the adoption of the RMB, the dollar maintains a significant international role in all three functions of money—as a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of value. It makes up nearly 90 percent of foreign exchange transactions, half of the invoice currency of global trade, and half of all cross-border loans and international debt securities. Additionally, the dollar offers several advantages. It is a widely accepted medium of exchange that lowers international transaction costs. When adopted in unstable economic and financial environments, the dollar can also provide greater currency stability relative to a country’s own currency. Moreover, a dollar peg stabilizes exchange rates between trading partners and maintains competitive pricing for exports to the United States.

Notwithstanding, the dollar’s share of global reserves has dropped from 73 percent in 2001 to 58 percent in the last quarter of 2022. Its weaponization via the Clearing House Interbank Payment System (CHIPS) and SWIFT raises concerns about manipulation. For instance, Iran’s banks have been banned from using SWIFT since the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, but the country has increasingly adopted the RMB for transactions.

The US’ Waning Naval Dominance and China’s Surge Should Worry You

Hal Brands

The Houthis are sinking ships and killing sailors. China is waging a persistent campaign to make the South China Sea its own private lake. Russia is claiming international waters in the Arctic Ocean. The war in Ukraine has made the Black Sea a shooting gallery.

The flashpoints are scattered, but the fundamental crisis is the same. Freedom of navigation is a hallmark of America’s liberal international order; it is a pillar of the relative peace and tremendous prosperity humanity has achieved. And now, as its defenders grow weaker and its challengers become more assertive, it is being threatened in regions around the globe.

Like the dominance of democracy or the absence of great-power war, freedom of navigation is one of those features of the modern world that we often take for granted because we forget how exceptional it really is. For most of history, the seas were neither safe nor free. Pirates and privateers seized ships and stifled commerce. Nations protected their own commerce and no one else’s. In his famous treatise Mare Liberum, published in 1609, Hugo Grotius may have argued that no country owned the oceans. The behavior of a great many states suggested they thought otherwise.

This really changed only with the ascendancy of the Anglo-American sea powers from the 18th century onward. In wartime, Britain’s Royal Navy conducted blockades that were the terror of its enemies and the neutrals that traded with them — including the United States. In peacetime, Britain’s interest in securing trade routes that connected a far-flung empire made the seas safer for others as well. And when Britannia’s rule faltered, amid the global wars of the 20th century, Washington stepped in.

The US originally built its navy in part to shield its vessels from piratical attacks. Depredations by German submarines helped bring America into both world wars. And since 1945, the US Navy has patrolled the oceans as part of its project to ensure a secure and prosperous America by promoting a secure and prosperous world. When freedom of navigation has been violently challenged, the US has fought sharp conflicts — against Iran in the 1980s, for example, and against the Houthis today — to make sure those challenges fail.

Surviving Scarcity: Water and the Future of the Middle East

Natasha Hall

Human civilization was born out of the Middle East’s waterways. As ancient cities grew from thousands to millions, agriculture also expanded to support livelihoods, trade, and food security.

Today, the Middle East is facing a water crisis.

Decades of poor water management, exploding populations, and rising temperatures have degraded the region’s land and sapped its limited water supplies. The region’s famous waterways are disappearing before our very eyes. Once-roaring rivers have been reduced to trickles that can easily be crossed on foot.

By 2050, every single country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will live under extremely high water stress.

If temperatures rise by 4°C, the region would experience a 75 percent drop in freshwater availability, and many countries in the region are expected to warm about 5°C by the end of the century.

Countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and the least ready to adapt are also those affected by conflict. Countries like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan are either embroiled in their own conflicts or affected by violence in neighboring countries.

Water insecurity most endangers these conflict-affected countries, but those crises can spill across borders.

As a result, failure to improve water management and adapt to a changing climate threatens both regional and international security.

Many Middle Eastern governments are confronting unprecedented levels of corruption, violence, debt, and unemployment. That makes them especially vulnerable.

Growing Lethal Drone Threat is a ‘Scourge,’ Says U.S. SOCOM Commander


The “secret sauce” for Special Operations Command in quickly closing capability gaps is its acquisition executive, its top general told a House panel Wednesday.

Army Gen. Bryan Fenton said “that’s first and foremost” the difference between SOCOM and other major commands. He added, “and [the executive] works for us” using the authorities given by Congress to the command in how it can spend money and cooperation with contractors.

“We bring industry forward with us into theater,” he told the House Armed Services Intelligence and Special Operations subcommittee.

To guarantee speed and agility under those circumstances, Fenton added, “we’re willing to work as fast as industry.” The example he used came from developing counter-unmanned aerial system (UAS) defenses.

The need for these defenses is urgent and growing as groups like the Houthis in Yemen use advanced unmanned systems in their attacks. Three American soldiers were killed in Jordan in late January in a drone strike on an outpost monitoring the Syrian civil war and the continuing presence of ISIS.

Fenton called UAS threats a “scourge,” and said SOCOM is partnering with Central Command in a layered defense across the Middle East to not only “sense” the threat, but also “to defeat and destroy.” He said the command has learned much on UAS offensive and defensive operations from the war in Ukraine.

In prepared testimony, he and Christopher Maier, assistant secretary for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict, said the command “is a trailblazer for data-driven decision-making to both inform and execute our service-like and combatant command responsibilities, focused on the talent, architecture and processes needed to capitalize on data and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-related technologies.”

Netanyahu’s decision to cancel Rafah meetings causes new rupture with Biden

Kevin Liptak and MJ Lee

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision Monday to scrap a planned delegation to Washington — a trip President Joe Biden personally requested a week ago, hoping to offer a constructive approach — amounts to a low point in the ever-deepening rift between the two men.

Netanyahu threatened to pull the delegation if the US did not veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Monday. When the US abstained from the vote, allowing it to pass, the Israeli prime minister followed through, canceling meetings that already amounted to a political risk for Biden.

American officials had planned to offer the Israeli delegation a suite of alternative options for going after Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, hoping to forestall what the US believes would amount to a humanitarian catastrophe if Israel launches a full-scale ground invasion.

Those alternatives will still be shared, American officials said, including in talks early this week between top Biden advisers and Israel’s defense minister. But the public break-off of the in-person talks made for a stark illustration of what has become an increasingly fraught dynamic between Israel and its top backer.

American officials said they were perplexed by Netanyahu’s decision to cancel the delegation after the US allowed the resolution to pass at the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Inside the White House, the move was viewed as an overreaction that most likely reflected Netanyahu’s own domestic political concerns, according to a US official. Hours after the delegation was canceled, Israeli minister Gideon Sa’ar submitted his resignation from the current government after not being included in the war cabinet.

U.S. Warned About Possible Moscow Attack Before Concert Hall Shooting

Julian E. Barnes, Constant Méheut and Anton Troianovski

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert on March 7, warning that its personnel were “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts.” The statement warned Americans that an attack could take place in the next 48 hours.

The warning was related to the attack on Friday, according to people briefed on the matter. But it was not related to possible Ukrainian sabotage, American officials said, adding that the State Department would not have used the word “extremists” to warn about actions ordered from Kyiv.

Pro-Kremlin voices immediately seized on the U.S. Embassy’s warning to paint America as trying to scare Russians.

America officials are worried that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could seek to falsely blame Ukraine for the attack, putting pressure on Western governments to identify who they think may be responsible. Mr. Putin frequently twists events, even tragic ones, to fit his public narrative. And he has been quick to accuse Ukraine of acts of terrorism to justify his invasion of the country.

U.S. officials said Mr. Putin could do that again after Friday’s attack, seeking to use the loss of life to undermine support for Ukraine both domestically and around the world.

US had warned Russia ISIS was determined to attack

Mary Kay Mallonee, Katherine Grise and Chris Lau

The US warned Moscow that ISIS militants were determined to target Russia in the days before assailants stormed the Crocus City Hall in an attack that killed scores of people, but President Vladimir Putin rejected the advice as “provocative.”

Gunmen stormed the concert hall near Moscow on Friday, opening fire and throwing an incendiary device in the worst terrorist attack on the Russian capital in decades.

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Experts said the scale of the carnage – some of which was captured in video footage obtained by CNN showing crowds of people cowering behind cushioned seats as gunshots echoed in the vast hall – would be deeply embarrassing for the Russian leader, who had championed a message of national security just a week earlier when winning the country’s stage-managed election.

Not only had Russian intelligence services failed to prevent the attack, they said, but Putin had failed to heed warnings from the United States that extremists were plotting to target Moscow.

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Russia had said it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow,” including concerts, and it warned US citizens to avoid such places.

US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US government had “shared this information with Russian authorities in accordance with its longstanding ‘duty to warn’ policy.”

ISIS claims responsibility for attack at Moscow-area concert venue that left at least 60 dead

Mariya Knight, Anna Chernova and Darya Tarasova

ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack at a popular concert hall complex near Moscow Friday after assailants stormed the venue with guns and incendiary devices, killing at least 60 people and injuring 145.

The terror group took responsibility for the attack in a short statement published by ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq on Telegram on Friday. It did not provide evidence to support the claim.

Video footage from the Crocus City Hall shows the vast complex, which is home to both the music hall and a shopping center, on fire with smoke billowing into the air. State-run RIA Novosti reported the armed individuals “opened fire with automatic weapons” and “threw a grenade or an incendiary bomb, which started a fire.” They then “allegedly fled in a white Renault car,” the news agency said.

State media Russia 24 reported the roof of the venue has partially collapsed.

The fire had been brought largely under control more than six hours later. “There are still some pockets of fire, but the fire has been mostly eliminated,” Moscow governor Andrey Vorobyov said on Telegram.

The deadliest terror attack on Moscow in decades, Friday’s assault came less than a week after President Vladimir Putin won a stage-managed election by an overwhelming majority to secure another term in office, tightening his grip on the country he has ruled since the turn of the century.

With attention focused on the country’s war with neighboring Ukraine, Putin had trumpeted a message of national security before Russians went to the polls.

The carnage broke out before a concert by the band Picnic, according to Russia 24.

“Unidentified people in camouflage broke into Crocus City Hall and started shooting before the start of the concert,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said, cited by TASS.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Must Reflect Reality

Lawrence Haas

“I hate the ‘to be sure’ sentences,” an Israeli opinion leader once told me, referring to critiques of the Jewish state. For instance, “To be sure, Israel is surrounded by enemies.” Or, “to be sure, Israel faces a genocidal Hamas to its south and a more powerful genocidal Hezbollah to its north.”

He hated the “to be sure” sentences, he explained, because they were throw-away lines, sops to reality that writers felt compelled to acknowledge before they returned to their central task of overwhelmingly blaming Israel for the region’s tumult.

Well, “to be sure”-ism has returned as top U.S. and Western officials and opinion leaders resurrect the ever-elusive “two-state solution” for Israeli-Palestinian peace and criticize Israeli military operations in Gaza that, they say, will kill it.

“I will never understate the grave threats Israel faces, and has faced, for the entirety of its existence,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in classic “to be sure”-ist fashion before focusing his fire on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – in a high-profile speech that President Biden praised for raising concerns “shared… by many Americans.”

“I want to be very clear about one thing Schumer and Biden have also made clear:” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman added in similar fashion before firing away at Netanyahu. “The war in Gaza was forced on Israel by a vicious attack by Hamas on Israeli border communities…”

The problem with “to be sure”-ism amid the war is that in pressuring Jerusalem to scale back its military plans and pursue the two-state solution at this moment, its critics ignore an ugly reality on the Palestinian side – that among its leaders and people, there is no constituency for “two states living side by side in peace.”

Iran and Hezbollah shaken by Israel's new warfare tactics, Saudi expert says


Assad Awad, the military commentator from the Saudi channel Al-Hadath, appeared on the channel on Thursday. He addressed the situation in Israel’s North and analyzed the IDF's tactics in the region.

Awad addressed Israel’s conflict between Hezbollah and Iran. Speaking on the conflict, Awad suggested, "Israel was surprised by the extent of the tunnels in Gaza and the military methods [of Hamas,] and it has adopted a new strategy for regional deterrence," he said at the outset.

In the heart of civilian villages: Hezbollah's weapon production

In the initial stage, according to Awad, "Israel severely hit Iranian shipment operations to the region and destroyed many weapon shipments that were on their way from Iran.

"In the next stage, warehouses in eastern Syria were attacked and destroyed. [The warehouses] contain[ed] weapons that could have been deployed to the border with Israel within hours. In fact, it undermined Iran's supply lines to Hezbollah and Iranian militias in the region.

The exterior of a house damaged by a rocket fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near Israel’s border with Lebanon in northern Israel. March 19, 2024. (credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/REUTERS)© Provided by The Jerusalem PostThe exterior of a house damaged by a rocket fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near Israel’s border with Lebanon in northern Israel. March 19, 2024. 

Israel’s victory will be Netanyahu’s downfall This war has broken his authority

Edward Luttwak

Weeks ago, the Israeli army came up with a perfectly serviceable plan to finish the war in Gaza. Their strategy was to simultaneously push their ground forces into the remaining Rafah segment of the strip to destroy the last of Hamas, while opening a secure evacuation route to allow the displaced Palestinians to return home to Gaza City and Khan Yunis. Desperate to see an end to the fighting, the Biden White House had been privately willing to approve a limited offensive, provided that the Israelis continued to fight without the support of aerial bombing except in rare cases, and continue to be sparing with their artillery.

All was seemingly prepared; but then nothing happened. Now the war is in stasis, neither properly continuing nor adequately resolved, while yesterday Biden effectively ruled out any support for a major ground assault.

Why did Israel miss its chance? Part of it was down to the “friction” that pervades every and any war, to the great frustration of all strategists. As first articulated by Carl von Clausewitz, friction is made up of many separate impediments. Some are really trivial — like a flat tyre on the eve of a family outing — while others represent a fundamental threat to any war effort. In Israel’s case, the impediments were substantial, from supply officers claiming they needed more time to provide food and water along the evacuation route, to the open-ended delays caused by the Qataris’ negotiations over Hamas’s hostages, which have swung back and forth without resolution, and with even the Qataris losing patience with their Hamas clients. Meanwhile, there are concerns that not all the tunnels under Gaza City and Khan Yunis had been found and destroyed. Again and again when it seemed that the day had come, the finding of new tunnels caused another delay. Just this week, there was a serious fight at Al Shifa, where the first battles was fought back in October

But these are the usual travails of war, and there is another, far more significant source of friction, located at the heart of the Israeli leadership. When I asked an officer at IDF headquarters why so much time had passed with Rafah untouched, his answer was unexpectedly gnomic: “Netanyahu is not Ben Gurion.” The comparison is charged: Ben Gurion was not only Israel’s first prime minister, but its spiritual founder, midwife to a nation born under siege. When he declared independence on May 15, 1948, he triggered the invasions of four Arab states, each one better equipped than his underground Jewish militias, for whom a rifle was precious and artillery an impossible dream. With this act, Ben Gurion ignored American and British warnings that the war would end in a massacre and went it alone, demonstrating a faith in the fighting spirit of his young country and a conviction in his own powers of leadership.

A Defining Moment for America's Role in the World


Congress’ failure to push through urgently needed aid to Ukraine has dominated transatlantic discussions for the past several weeks. As the specter of a new administration disinterested in U.S. involvement in European security once again looms large, debates about European strategic autonomy—or significantly reducing European dependence on U.S. security—are back. The key issue, however, goes much deeper than the direction of U.S. policy towards Europe or Russia, or even transatlantic security more broadly.

The present moment will clearly define whether enough Americans are ready to elevate U.S. engagement with allies and partners to a core value and voting issue in 2024 to maintain American leadership for the second half of the decade. Recent polling by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that only 40 percent of Trump Republicans believe the U.S. should take an active role in world affairs or that America’s European alliances are mutually beneficial—two core tenets of America’s post-World War II foreign policy.

This is just one troubling indicator that much of the American public does not appreciate the value of international engagement. While foreign affairs only rarely moves voters, this summer’s NATO summit in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 75th anniversary of the alliance’s founding, offers a unique opportunity to remind Americans why multilateralism and alliances matter in times of peace and war—and in a crucial year.

The Kremlin’s war on Ukraine, which just entered its third year, and unprecedented transatlantic cooperation in pushing back on Russian aggression are emblematic of a larger multilateral ecosystem under assault. It is clear to all objective observers that Putin’s blitz against Ukraine and subsequent human rights violations against its people are not only a gross violation of international law, but also an attack on the global rules written in no small part by the United States in the aftermath of World War II.

There is no ‘axis of evil’

Daniel DePetris

Adm. John Aquilino and Assistant Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner traveled to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for an appearance in front of the House Armed Services Committee. The topic of the hearing: the U.S. military posture in Asia.

It was a relatively uneventful occasion for those used to watching them. But there was a moment that raised an eyebrow. At one point in the hearing, Aquilino, the commander of Indo-Pacific Command, referred to the budding relationships between China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as an aspiring “axis of evil” primed to undermine U.S. interests not only regionally but globally.

Ratner seemed to agree with his military counterpart, insisting that what happens in Europe directly affects security in Asia. You could be forgiven for thinking you were transported back to 2002, when then-President George W. Bush coined the phrase “axis of evil” to hype a connection between Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Iran, and North Korea.

The term didn’t make sense back then. Iran and Iraq were mortal enemies for decades. Saddam launched a war of choice against the Iranians in 1980 in part to stir up a counterrevolution against the ayatollahs, whom he viewed as expansionist troublemakers. The war lasted for eight long years, and the two neighbors have been highly distrustful of each other ever since. North Korea, meanwhile, was concerned first and foremost with its own survival. While the North Koreans and Iranians cooperated to a degree on missile development, it was less about striking an alliance and more about bolstering their own domestic capabilities.

Twenty-two years have gone by, but the “axis of evil” phraseology is still alive and well. The so-called members of this evil grouping may be different, with the exception of North Korea, but the assumptions undergirding the “axis of evil” framing are as silly today as they were in 2002. Simply put: Just because U.S. adversaries may be cooperating doesn’t mean they are engaged in a global conspiracy against the United States. To suggest as much gives China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea far too much credit.

With World's Attention on Gaza, ISIS Is Making a Global Comeback

Tom O'Connor

With much of international attention gripped by the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has been steadily ramping up operations across continents and setting the stage for a resurgence of global mayhem.

This latent threat came to life on Friday with ISIS claiming responsibility for a massacre targeting a concert held at Crocus City Hall outside of Moscow. It marked the deadliest militant attack on Russian soil since the 2002 theater hostage crisis in the capital. Experts and officials warn the next operation could target virtually anyone, including U.S. citizens.

Just one day before the attack, U.S. Central Command chief General Michael Kurilla told lawmakers in Congress that "ISIS-Khorasan retains the capability and the will to attack U.S. and Western interests abroad in as little as six months with little to no warning." Weeks earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had urged U.S. nationals to avoid crowded events, "to include concerts."

The latest attack has reclaimed international headlines for the jihadis who, at their peak just a decade ago, presided over a self-styled caliphate spanning the size of Portugal. However, the roots of ISIS' attempted resurgence have been taking hold for some time.

The group's so-called Khorasan province (ISIS-K or ISKP) has been particularly active in its base country of Afghanistan, using the Taliban-held nation to launch attacks at home and against neighboring Iran and Pakistan, in spite of efforts by all three governments. The militants also began expanding operations beyond the region, with Russia, Germany, Turkey and Tajikistan recently cracking down on alleged ISIS-K plots.

"The recent spike in ISIS-K's activity in the region is not an overnight development," Amira Jadoon, a professor at South Carolina's Clemson University who has regularly engaged with the U.S. government on issues of counterterrorism, told Newsweek, "but rather something that ISIS-K has been planning through a multi-pronged approach since a few years."

Shoigu Has Promised Combined Armies, Divisions, and Brigades

Pavel Luzin

Executive Summary:
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the creations of a new army corps, motor rifle division, and Dnipro River flotilla, along with the establishment of 30 large unspecified units.
  • Moscow’s manpower resources and the size of the officer corps remain limited, and these new divisions and brigades are doomed to be understaffed without a significant expansion of the officer corps and massive conscription.
  • The Russian High Command may create an organizational framework to increase the number of drafted soldiers and/or another round of mobilization despite demographic and economic limitations.
On March 20, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced the establishment of a new army corps, motor rifle division, and Dnipro River flotilla. He also claimed that two combined armies, 14 divisions, and 16 brigades would be established in 2024. Shoigu did not, however, clarify the specific make-up of these 30 large units (e.g., motor rifles, artillery, etc.) (Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), March 20). These efforts followed the establishment of the Leningrad and Moscow military districts three weeks ago and build on the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) course to increase the assigned strength of the Russian Armed Forces and the number of positions available for generals (see EDM, February 29). The MoD’s efforts will likely come with significant difficulties primarily related to heavy losses along the Ukrainian frontlines, a limited office corps, and the prospects of public uproar in the face of mass mobilization.

Russian manpower resources and the actual size of the officer corps remain limited. Consequently, Moscow can employ three main means to establish the planned units: (1) transforming the existing brigades into new divisions, which has taken place over the past decade; (2) redistributing units and arms from existing units and military districts; and (3) transforming the existing separate motor-rifle regiments staffed by mobilized soldiers, prisoners, recently recruited contracted soldiers, and soldiers deployed in Ukraine into the new brigades and divisions. These new groupings, however, are doomed to be understaffed without a significant expansion of the officer corps and massive conscription.

The reported manpower increase in the Russian Armed Forces from 1,150,628 troops to 1,320,000 troops corresponds with the total assigned number of 14 divisions and 16 brigades, which consist of 170,000 soldiers and officers (Kremlin.ru, December 1, 2023). The MoD is creating new units according to the assigned military budget; however, the devil is in the details. The Kremlin’s elevated military spending will likely hurt the domestic economy as a whole and may be difficult to put into practice due to lost revenue from Western sanctions.

The meaning of Russia’s presidential election

Nigel Gould-Davies

Vladimir Putin’s overwhelming victory in Russia’s 2024 presidential election was a foregone conclusion. But the conduct and context of the vote offer three insights into the country’s condition and point to the regime’s likely evolution.

The first indicator is how far the Kremlin went to ensure Putin’s victory. In a civil society and media landscape flattened by repression, it nonetheless chose a small field of candidates who presented no challenge. The anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin was barred from running after an unexpectedly vigorous registration campaign, and members of his team have since been arrested. A month before the election, Putin’s most articulate critic, the imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was silenced.

Even with these restrictions, the results – a record turnout (77%) and vote for Putin (87%) – were certainly falsified, as past elections were, such as the 2020 referendum that changed the constitution to allow Putin to run again. The use of electronic voting, for the first time in a presidential election, added a further layer of opacity. Official results even claim that 72% of Russians abroad, many of whom have fled the regime, voted for Putin. The outcome also humiliated the docile and obliging ‘systemic opposition’ that had long participated in the theatre of managed competition. The election was instead an emphatic performance of power that left nothing to chance.

Secondly, the Kremlin ran this as a war-time election from the start, when Putin announced his intention to run at a meeting with serving soldiers. This was not inevitable. Ever since the regime failed to win a rapid, easy victory in Ukraine, it has been adapting Russia’s economy and society to a slow, hard war. This has meant testing and learning to what extent elites and society will bear its growing costs. In doing so, the regime has sought to resolve a dilemma. Should it maintain a semblance of normality, minimising the visibility of the war in the eyes of a population that it has long sought to keep politically apathetic? Or should it mobilise active commitment even as it imposes ever-greater repression? The Kremlin’s management of the election, with its overt appeals to the war in Ukraine, has confirmed it is moving towards the latter.

Apple, Meta and Google to be investigated by the EU

Tom Gerken & Zoe Kleinman

The EU has announced investigations into some of the biggest tech firms in the world over uncompetitive practices.

Meta, Apple, and Alphabet, which owns Google, are being looked into for potential breaches of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) introduced in 2022.

If they are found to have broken the rules, the firms can face huge fines of up to 10% of their annual turnover.

EU antitrust boss Margrethe Vestager and industry head Thierry Breton announced the investigations on Monday.

Just six companies have obligations under the DMA, but they are also the world's largest tech firms: Alphabet, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft and ByteDance.

None of the firms are actually based in Europe - five of them are in the US, while ByteDance has headquarters in Beijing.

Three of them are now facing questions just two weeks after submitting their compliance reports, which will have been meticulously compiled.

It comes three weeks after the EU fined Apple €1.8bn (£1.5bn) for breaking competition laws over music streaming.

Meanwhile, the United States accused Apple of monopolising the smartphone market in a landmark lawsuit against the tech giant introduced last week.

An Apple spokesperson says the company will constructively engage with the investigation and that they're confident that their plan complies with the Digital Markets Act.

The Case Against TikTok Is Thin at Best

Zachary Karabell

The U.S. Congress hasn’t passed a budget on time since 1996, and many members spend more time preening and posturing than legislating. Yet at the beginning of the month, the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives voted 50-0 on a bill that would have de facto given the president the authority to force ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to divest its control of U.S. operations or face a ban of the app. The full House passed the bill less than a week later by a margin of 352-65.

But that speed should give us pause. The question of what to do about TikTok depends on what TikTok is actually doing. And the evidence of clear and present danger just isn’t there yet. As things stand, banning TikTok is not just bad policy; it’s hollow as well. It won’t make the United States safer, and it will allow those in government—both in the national security bureaucracy and in Congress—to pretend that it is doing something without doing much at all to address the real issues of data, privacy, and foreign influence.

The main national security argument for forcing TikTok to sell to a U.S. owner or face an effective ban is that Chinese laws require ByteDance to turn over user data to the Chinese government if requested. That leads to fears that user data could provide a way for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to perform massive surveillance of Americans, and that the party could (and may already) use the algorithms that power TikTok’s feed to manipulate public opinion in the United States to the detriment of U.S. democracy and civil society, and hence tilt the nascent China-U.S. cold war in China’s favor.

Each of these cases rest on very thin reeds. And what’s more, almost all of the threats cited are about what TikTok could potentially do, and not about what it has been or is doing.

First, yes, Chinese law does obligate companies to turn over data. Arguably, though, every government can commandeer user data through whatever laws empower either domestic police or foreign intelligence gathering (in the United States, that would include the FBI for domestic issues, and the CIA and National Security Agency for foreign intelligence, though the lines blur at times). But in the United States, companies can often resist initial demands to turn over data, although courts can compel them. No such recourse exists in China.

Why Artificial Intelligence Must Be Stopped Now – Analysis

Richard Heinberg

The promise of AI is eclipsed by its perils, which include our own annihilation.

Those advocating for artificial intelligence tout the huge benefits of using this technology. For instance, an article in CNN points out how AI is helping Princeton scientists solve “a key problem” with fusion energy. AI that can translate text to audio and audio to text is making information more accessible. Many digital tasks can be done faster using this technology.

However, any advantages that AI may promise are eclipsed by the cataclysmic dangers of this controversial new technology. Humanity has a narrow chance to stop a technological revolution whose unintended negative consequences will vastly outweigh any short-term benefits.

In the early 20th century, people (notably in the United States) could conceivably have stopped the proliferation of automobiles by focusing on improving public transit, thereby saving enormous amounts of energy, avoiding billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and preventing the loss of more than 40,000 lives in car accidents each year in the U.S. alone. But we didn’t do that.

In the mid-century, we might have been able to stave off the development of the atomic bomb and averted the apocalyptic dangers we now find ourselves in. We missed that opportunity, too. (New nukes are still being designed and built.)

In the late 20th century, regulations guided by the precautionary principlecould have prevented the spread of toxic chemicals that now poison the entire planet. We failed in that instance as well.

The Age of the M1 Abrams Tank Is Coming to an End

Brandon J. Weichert

After months of building up in neighboring Kuwait. Constant exchanges between the leaders of the countries involved. Operation Desert Storm, the mission of allied powers to liberate the tiny oil-producing nation of Kuwait from the vile clutches of the Baathist gangster and Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, had begun. Fearinga Vietnam War in the desert, the George H.W. Bush Administration was overjoyed by the efficiency with which America’s advanced military jogged through the desert, crushing what was then the fourth-largest army in the world.

Still, the Iraqis were not without their own elite forces. The infamous battle-hardened Iraqi Republican Guard and their Soviet-built tanks had decided to catch the Americans off-guard. Not realizing, though, that the Americans were armed with the most lethal killing machine to have ever rolled across a battlefield: the M1A1 Abrams tank (developed by General Dynamics).

The M1 Abrams Fights the Greatest (and Last) Tank Battle of the Twentieth Century

The stage was set for one of the greatest tank battles of the twentieth century. In fact, it has been dubbed as the “last tank battle” of the twentieth century. Until the recent outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, many military theorists had assumed it might have been the final tank battle ever.

Known to history as the “Battle of 73 Easting,” the bizarrely named conflict earned its title from the identifier on the battle maps of Coalition forces. It was the sector that the Coalition forces had been traversing. An astonishing 200-300 Coalition armored vehicles of various types had been assembled there along with 4,000 infantrymen. On the other side of the battle lines was approximately 300-400 armored Iraqi vehicles and 2,500-3,000 infantrymen.