29 March 2024

Five Chinese nationals among six killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

Abid Hussain

Five Chinese nationals and a Pakistani driver have been killed after a suicide attacker rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into their convoy near Besham city in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The incident happened on Tuesday when the convoy was on its way from Islamabad to Dasu, the site of a key hydroelectric dam being constructed by a Chinese company, about 270km (167 miles) from the capital.

“Our rescue team has successfully retrieved bodies of four people whereas recovery of two more people is still ongoing,” Bilal Faizi, spokesman for Rescue 1122 group in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Al Jazeera.

The vehicle fell in this gorge after the suicide blast 

Rescue officials said the vehicle carrying the Chinese nationals fell in a gorge after the blast and at least two bodies were badly burnt, making their identification difficult.

No armed group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad or the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing have not commented on the incident yet.

We are still haunted by ISIS


It was hardly a surprise when ISIS claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s terror attack in Russia. From the indiscriminate slaughter of nearly 140 people to the target itself – a rock concert – it bore all the grisly hallmarks of the Islamist network. It immediately brought to mind the ISIS attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris in November 2015, and the suicide bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May 2017.

Although Russian authorities are yet to officially assign responsibility to ISIS, preferring instead to cynically hint at some Ukrainian involvement, it seems pretty clear that ISIS affiliate Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) was behind the atrocity. The four suspects arrested by Russian security forces are all from Tajikistan, which borders the ISIS-K stronghold of Afghanistan. ISIS media channels have since even released body-worn camera footage of the massacre, in an attempt to remove all doubt as to the attack’s provenance.

This horrific attack on people attending a rock concert, just outside one of the most populous cities in Europe, ought to remind us that the Islamist barbarians are still among us. That the threat of ISIS, in particular, persists.

For a while now, it has been tempting to think otherwise, to hope that the threat from ISIS had ebbed. Having emerged from the West-led destruction of Iraq in the late 2000s, ISIS reached the height of its powers in the mid-2010s, when it controlled about a third of war-torn Syria and nearly half of Iraq. It was during this period that ISIS-backed terrorists carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris. But by the end of 2017, a combination of US and Russian firepower, as well as Kurdish fortitude, had seemingly laid much of ISIS to waste. It was successfully expelled from 95 per cent of the territory it had once held. In December 2018, then US president Donald Trump declared ISIS defeated. Three months later, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces appeared to have rooted out the last remnants of ISIS in Baghouz, near the Syria-Iraq border.

Why ISIS attacked Russia and why Russia blames Ukraine: Opinion

Omar Ashour

DOHA – The terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue in a Moscow suburb was no bolt from the blue. The Kremlin dismissed U.S. intelligence warnings of an imminent attack by “extremists,” possibly to shift the blame to a convenient scapegoat when the attack came.

The murder of 137 concert-goers is but the latest atrocity in a decade-long struggle between the Islamic State (ISIS) and Russia. The die was cast on Sept. 30, 2015, when Russia intervened in Syria to support the collapsing regime of Bashar al-Assad. ISIS operatives responded a month later by infiltrating Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh airport and planting a bomb on a Russian Airbus, killing all 224 passengers and crew.

In retribution, in September 2017, Russia is alleged to have killed ISIS’ former “war minister,” Gulmurod Khalimov, who had once been the commander of the police special forces of Tajikistan's Interior Ministry and who had fought beside the Russian forces during the Tajik Civil War. All of the alleged Crocus City Hall attackers are from Tajikistan.

The Syria-based “provinces” of ISIS – such as the defunct Homs and Raqqa – fought Russian regulars and irregulars, including the mercenary Wagner Group, in dozens of battles, most notably in Palmyra in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The December 2016 battles were particularly embarrassing for Russian President Vladimir Putin because ISIS forces recaptured the city from his forces and allies.

Between 2015 and 2024, Russia has supported many of ISIS’ avowed enemies. That includes military and intelligence coordination with Hezbollah, political support for Hamas, and political, intelligence, and possibly military support for the Taliban. All three organizations fought bitter battles against ISIS “provinces” and cells in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and Afghanistan.

Moscow Attack Shows Troubling, Lethal Reach of ISIS

Bruce Hoffman

Is it plausible that ISIS has the capability to mount such an attack?

Absolutely. ISIS has staged over half-a-dozen attacks in Russia since 2016. The movement has long deemed Russia as much of an enemy of the Muslim people as the United States. In taking responsibility for the March 22 attack, ISIS credibly claimed “let crusader Russia and its allies know that the mujahideen do not forget to take revenge.”

In its founding-leader’s first speech following the declaration of the Islamic State’s caliphate in July 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi singled out for attack “Jews, the crusaders, [and] their allies” and referred to them “being led by America and Russia and being mobilized by the Jews.” So, motive and intention are clear. In terms of capability, ISIS clearly already had an established presence in Russia given the arrests of twenty ISIS operatives there in the past year alone.

Russia had recently reported foiling an attack in Moscow by the ISIS Afghan affiliate. Does that group have ability to plan and mount attacks outside of Afghanistan?

Yes. In testimony before Congress a year ago, U.S. Army General Michael Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, warned that ISIS-Khorasan, the branch believed to have been responsible for the Moscow concert attack, could execute “external operations against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little or no warning.” In January 2023 the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Christine Abizaid, told congress that ISIS-K was the “threat actor I am most concerned about. We see concerning indications of ISIS-Khorasan in Afghanistan and its ambition that might go beyond that immediate territory.”

The group’s ability to strike in even heavily secured environments was demonstrated this past January when dual suicide bombings killed 84 persons in Kerman, Iran, during ceremonies commemorating the fourth anniversary of the killing of Qassem Soleiman, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force commander. As with the latest incident in Moscow, the United States had warned Iran, as had Russia, of what was believed to be an impending terrorist attack.

China’s Economy Is in Trouble: Is Xi Jinping?

Michael Cunningham

The Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, aren’t doing so well. Sky-high youth unemployment, a tumbling stock market, and continuing real-estate turmoil threaten to derail his “China dream” and possibly drag Xi down with it. And a spate of purges of senior officials over the past year—some of them former Xi proteges—has fueled speculation that his position in the party isn’t as secure as it appears.

At least this is the narrative presented in much of the western media discourse. The Communist Party sees things differently.

This was obvious from the recently concluded annual session of China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress (NPC). The week-long session is the most important yearly gathering in China’s political calendar, establishing an official narrative of the past year’s performance and setting priorities for the year to come. Everything presented at the congress is first approved by the ruling Communist Party after a lengthy period of drafting and deliberation, making it one of the clearest windows into the party’s thinking.

Judging from the NPC session, the party doesn’t see itself as a regime in crisis. The Government Work Report, presented by Premier Li Qiang, portrayed a China facing “both strategic opportunities and challenges, with favorable conditions outweighing unfavorable ones.” This isn’t hollow propaganda—the work report is the most authoritative statement of high-level policy for the year ahead and is designed primarily for internal government audiences.

The report acknowledges the year won’t be easy, due to geopolitical pressure, weak external demand, and a host of domestic economic challenges and financial risks. Nevertheless, its tone is, if anything, triumphant, pointing out that these challenges didn’t prevent China from reporting solid 5.2% economic growth last year. The report neglects to mention the low baseline due to terrible economic performance in 2022 or the widespread questions around the accuracy of official figures—Rhodium Group places last year’s growth at closer to 1.5%. In any case, the party is confident enough that it set a target of “around 5%” growth for 2024 as well.

China Is Winning the Belt and Road Debt Battle

David Malpass, Thomas J. Duesterberg & Joshua Meservey


The World Bank’s December 2019 report Global Waves of Debt warned of the size, speed, and breadth of the post-2010 buildup of debt in developing countries.1 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also sounded the alarm, labeling the debt buildup “the worst crisis in a generation.” Sixty percent of developing countries, including Sri Lanka, Ghana, Angola, Zambia, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Pakistan, are facing debt distress. Negotiations to address the problems have foundered in recent years, with countries like Zambia suffering through years of stop-and-go talks to restructure their external debts and secure some write-offs from creditors.

A major complicating factor in these negotiations is China’s rise as the largest creditor for development assistance. Partly as a consequence of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—a program designed to broaden Chinese influence around the world, open global markets for China’s booming manufacturing sector, and obtain needed commodity resources for Beijing’s huge economy—China has built up transportation and resource development sectors in many developing nations. In contrast to traditional Western development assistance, Chinese programs are largely loans at or near market rates with requirements for collateral. China offers little in the form of outright grants or below-market interest rates, as is characteristic of Western aid. A large majority of loans from China are denominated in United States dollars (USD).

A sequence of global events has compounded this acute crisis in developing world finances. First, the long Covid-19–related economic crisis lowered commodity prices. Then, the US-led recovery in Western economies boosted the value of the dollar, effectively increasing the cost of USD-denominated loans. Finally, the war in Ukraine exacerbated inflationary effects and supply chain disruptions. Many China-supported projects were poorly conceived in economic terms and contributed further to the debt crisis. Notably, the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka and several dam and transportation projects in Africa and Latin America have incurred severe costs to their local economies.

China and Russia: Exploring Ties Between Two Authoritarian Powers

Clara Fong and Lindsay Maizland


China and Russia have a long, complicated history together, marked by periods of both cooperation and fierce strategic rivalry. The neighbors have strengthened ties over the past decade, but some experts question the depth of their strategic partnership, arguing that the countries’ alignment is driven more by their common rivalry with the United States than by any natural affinity.

In the past, bilateral tensions have flared over issues including communist doctrine and the countries’ extensive 2,600-mile (4184 kilometers) shared border. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, however, the China-Russia relationship has improved substantially. The two formally resolved their border dispute in the 2000s and now exercise greater security cooperation through joint military drills and arms deals. Moreover, their economic relationship has blossomed in the face of Western sanctions against Russia as Moscow shifts trade away from Europe. China and Russia also coordinate within and across international institutions to challenge the norms of the U.S.-led world order.

However, challenges remain. While joint security exercises have increased, the two militaries do not exhibit interoperability. The economic relationship has deepened, but it remains highly asymmetrical. And on the diplomatic front, China and Russia coordinate in established and new international institutions, though they do not share the same vision of world order.

Are China and Russia allies?

China and Russia are not formal treaty allies and are not bound to come to the other’s defense. Nevertheless, their emerging strategic partnership has caused alarm in Washington. During a state visit to Stockholm, Sweden in September 2023, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) called the burgeoning China-Russia security alliance the most “large-scale” threat that Europe and the Pacific have faced since World War II. At a meeting in February 2022, days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin said their partnership has “no limits” [PDF] and vowed to deepen cooperation on various fronts.

National Defense Mobilization: Toward A Clear Division of Labor between the PLA and Civilian Bureaucracies

Yu-Ping Chang

Executive Summary:
  • As the result of the ongoing military reform, the military’s guiding and leadership role over civilian bureaucracies seems to be strengthened. Meanwhile, the responsibilities of the State Council and local governments on NDM have been substantiated, and the administrative work which the PLA used to undertake has been transferred to local governments.
  • A clearer division of labor between the military and civilian bureaucracies allows the PLA to focus on the development of combat capabilities without being distracted by administrative work, while more attention and resources devoted to national defense projects by civilian bureaucracies are likely to improve NDM work.
  • National defense mobilization is an area where the PLA and civilian bureaucracies need to cooperate closely during peacetime to allow an effective generation and mobilization of national resources during wartime.
  • The national defense mobilization system (NDM system), composed of civilian bureaucracies and the PLA bureaucracies, used to be characterized by a bureaucratic structure in which the military sat above local governments and both guided and administered a significant portion of administrative work related to national defense development.
On March 5 in his report to the National People’s Congress (NPC), Premier Li Qiang of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) said that governments at different administrative levels are to fully support national defense (ND) development this year (People’s Daily, March 6). ND development is an area where cooperation between civilian bureaucracies and the military is required during peacetime to ensure that effective generation and mobilization of national resources is possible to sustain the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) during wartime. However, developments at this year’s Two Sessions meetings further underlined the civilian governments’ diminished role in designing policies, including on matters related to national development and governance. For instance, a revision (Art. 3) to the extant Organic Law of the State Council placing the State Council under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (PLA Daily, March 12; PLA Daily, March 6; Lianghui, March 4). This emerging power structure is likely to produce a dynamic in which the State Council and local governments simply execute policies devised by Xi so that the PLA can concentrate on the development of combat capabilities.

PRC Pursues Chip Design Software Dominance

Michael Laha

Executive Summary:
  • US-China technology competition is no longer confined to only leading-edge semiconductors but is now moving to also include older so-called mature-node or legacy chips.
  • Central and local level Chinese industrial and innovation policies have long pursued a goal of achieving self-sufficiency in not just the most advanced chips now submitted to US export controls but also to develop manufacturing capacity for legacy chips now the subject of a US Department of Commerce survey.
  • To accomplish this, the PRC erected new R&D institutions and offered generous tax exemptions and subsidies to domestic companies.
  • PRC progress in mature-node Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software self-sufficiency is a more likely prospect for the foreseeable future. Domestic companies in the PRC are publicizing initial successes but have not achieved a fully localized ecosystem of EDA products.
In December of last year, the US Department of Commerce announced it would launch a survey of America’s supply chains of mature-node semiconductors or so-called legacy chips (Department of Commerce, December 21, 2023). The People’s Republic (PRC) is poised to become a leading producer of mature-node chips and US national security experts are worried that industrial overcapacity in the PRC might lead to cheap Chinese chip imports, eroding the United States’ manufacturing base in these chips. This in turn could threaten the reliable sourcing of such chips for use by the US military.

The Global Times, one of the Chinese Communist Party’s more hardline mouthpieces, responded quickly to the Commerce Department announcement by quoting a Chinese telecoms expert who said that the United States was “citing national security just as a pretext to maintain US competitiveness in legacy chips” (Global Times, December 22, 2023). In a phone call with Gina Raimondo this January, Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao (王文涛) raised the issue of the survey as one of three major concerns (FMPRC, January 11; Huanqiu, January 11). Weeks later, Gina Raimondo celebrated the first anniversary of the CHIPS and Science Act by announcing a first batch of approved semiconductor projects including in legacy chips (CSIS, February 26).

China linked to UK cyber-attacks on voter data, Dowden to say

James Gregory & Iain Watson

The UK government is expected to link cyber-attacks which accessed personal details of millions of voters to China.

The attacks on the Electoral Commission took place in August 2021 but were only revealed last year.

Several MPs and peers who have been critical of Beijing are thought to have also been targeted in cyber-attacks.

The prime minister called China "the greatest state-based challenge to our national security".

Rishi Sunak said: "China represents an economic threat to our security and an epoch-defining challenge.

"So it is right we take steps to protect ourselves."

The BBC understands other Western nations will set out similar concerns.

Acknowledging the attacks last August, the Electoral Commission said unspecified "hostile actors" had gained access to copies of the electoral registers and broken into its emails and "control systems", but added that it had neither had any impact on any elections nor anyone's registration status.

The commission said last August that they weren't able to predict exactly how many people could be affected, but that the register for each year contained the details of around 40 million people.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will address Parliament on Monday about the threat.

The biggest threat from China is right under our noses — and on our screens


Millions of people anticipated a glimpse of Taylor Swift at this year’s Super Bowl. That was likely millions more than noticed the stunning announcement by the government just four days earlier that Volt Typhoon — a conglomerate of cyber actors sponsored by the People’s Republic of China — had pre-positioned itself inside American critical infrastructures in preparation for cyberwar.

Intellectual theft, weather balloons, TikTok and now cyber war. What’s left for China to do before someone in charge takes action?

Like Taylor, technology tends to mesmerize and captivate us. Videos of gearheads unpackaging products and peeling plastic off screens in what resemble ritualistic ceremonies litter YouTube. Cryptocurrency computer codes invented by who-knows-who with no underlying value, backing or adult supervision intrigue us as they masquerade as the money of “the people.” Tech applications like TikTok have a pollyannish, feel-good, video game aura that lulls us into thinking bad stuff really won’t happen.

China knows how to take full advantage of it. If it had amassed its military offshore and focused every rocket in the direction of major U.S. cities, there would have been mass hysteria. But the insertion of digital explosives that can turn off our water, lights and ability to communicate seem to be too surreal to rate even a whimper.

Cyberspace has become the most dangerous and defenseless ecosystem on the planet. Instead of calling time out and rebuilding it to be more secure, we play the role of rats on spinning wheels foolishly thinking we can outrun the never-ending exploits of national adversaries, hackers, terrorist, traffickers and all-around creeps who are more than willing and capable of taking advantage of the internet’s porous qualities.

Rate Cuts? Timing Is Everything for Fed: OPINION

Dr. Hippolyte Fofack

The release of the latest trove of data on the US economy provided plenty of good news: the country’s growth forecast is resilient; the labor market is buoyant, and inflation remains on its downward trajectory. The personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index—the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure—rose 2.6% over the 12 months ending in December, well below the 5.4% recorded at end-2022. (Remove volatile food and energy costs, and core PCE prices have been running at just 1.9%).

Momentum is thus building in favor of adjusting the central bank’s monetary policy stance to focus more on growth objectives and sustain the post-pandemic economic expansion. As tempting as such a policy move may be, hastily cutting interest rates is not a risk-free proposition even in the best of times. The risks are especially acute today given the state of our highly-geopoliticized, polycrisis world, in which supply-chain disruption has become a permanent feature of the global economy.

Though the US economy defied most economists’ expectations for a recession, recording growth of 2.5% in 2023 – the highest among advanced economies – the risk has not abated entirely, with sharp monetary tightening emerging as the major threat to a positive outlook.

Bringing inflation to heel without causing a recession was always a tall order, managing the tradeoff between price stability and financial stability. The previous year therefore represents a remarkable pendulum swing for the US economy, in stark contrast to the euro area, where the European Central Bank aggressively tightened monetary policy to combat inflation and growth was anemic at just 0.5%, weighed down by Germany which saw its economy contract by 0.3% in 2023.

Several factors helped keep the US economy on an expansionary track. First, and perhaps the most important, is the scale (more than 25% of GDP) of pandemic relief, infrastructure spending, and investment incentives.

Why Getting Rid of Netanyahu Is Unlikely to Shift Israel’s Approach to Gaza


When Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to call for Israelis to return to the polls to elect a new government, he articulated a position that many within and beyond Israel share: that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put his political survival ahead of the country’s interests and that, amid a military campaign in Gaza where more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and some 134 Israelis remain hostage, perhaps his far-right coalition’s time in power has run its course.

Netanyahu’s dwindling popularity at home (where recent polls show him trailing his top rival, the retired army general Benny Gantz) and abroad has become increasingly apparent as Israel’s war in Gaza grinds on. Nearly half a year into its retaliatory war to root out Hamas from the Strip in the aftermath of the group’s Oct. 7 attack, the country appears no closer to meeting its desired endgame—one that the government says can only be achieved by launching a contentious offensive on Gaza’s southernmost and densely-populated city of Rafah. Meanwhile, the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza continues to spiral as global calls for Israel to allow greater flows of aid into the Strip go unheeded.

It’s then perhaps little wonder that Netanyahu has become widely regarded as a key obstacle to peace. Indeed, since returning to office in 2022 after a brief stint in opposition, Netanyahu has largely pursued policies aimed at preserving his power—most notably his government’s contentious judicial overhaul, which triggered consecutive months of mass protests. His popularity wasn’t great then, and it plummeted even further after Oct. 7; a majority of Israelis have blamed him for a failure to prevent the attack. Many now favor early elections (the next one isn’t due until late 2026), which would likely result in Netanyahu's ejection of power. While this would have a profound impact on Israel’s political landscape, which Netanyahu and his ruling Likud Party have dominated for the best part of two decades, expert observers warn that it won’t necessarily be a panacea.

Let’s Face It: Sanctions Are Warfare by Another Name


Despite a growing national fatigue for endless wars, US militarism and adventurism continues to be a common feature of its foreign policy. As Americans struggle at home to put food on the table and costs of living have soared, the resources expended on wars abroad and military aid become even greater points of contention. It is in this context that we should examine the increasing reliance of consecutive US administrations on economic sanctions as a tool of coercion. But how well do we actually understand how sanctions work? A new book by the same name sets out to answer that very question.

At first glance, sanctions may appear like a useful alternative to war. Proponents of sanctions will argue that they avoid putting boots on the ground, thus protecting American servicemembers, they have the power to alter the behavior of targeted states, and prevent the devastation to innocent civilians caused by conventional warfare. But a deeper analysis of sanctions shows a starkly different picture.

Though there has certainly been evidence and literature that shows the limited efficacy of sanctions and their humanitarian costs on civilians, those findings are not always accessible to the broader public and tend to have a narrower focus.

And while many may recall the horror stories of how US sanctions hurt Iraqi children and civilians in the 1990s — especially the now infamous remarks by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stating that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were “worth it” — sanctions policy is still not part of a wider political debate among the American public.

Sanctions as a Silent Killer

This discrepancy is due in part to the fact that sanctions are a silent killer. They do not draw the same media attention as bombs, dead bodies, and images of cities and homes turned to rubble — as we are seeing in Gaza now. To be clear, the enormous destruction and loss of life at such a rapid pace in Gaza should be the headline of every news outlet. But while sanctions can profoundly damage an entire society, the slow death they produce often goes unnoticed.

Haiti’s Evolving Political and Security Crisis

Christopher Hernandez-Roy and Georges A. Fauriol

Haiti’s years-long political and security crisis entered a new phase last week when Prime Minister Ariel Henry, Haiti’s acting head of state since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, announced his resignation. Now, Haiti faces a period of profound uncertainty, with a serious power vacuum in government, ascendant criminal groups within striking distance of the halls of state power, and increasingly narrow prospects for a long-awaited international aid mission.

In this episode, Christopher Hernandez-Roy sits down with Georges Fauriol, Senior Associate with the CSIS Americas Program and fellow with the Caribbean Policy Consortium. Together, they unpack the implications of Henry's resignation, the recent surge in gang activity, as well as what the future may hold as Haiti continues to struggle to come to terms with citizen security. They also discuss the reactions of Haitian civil society, and the lack of substantial action on the part of the international community.

Bullets and panic - the Moscow concert that became a massacre

Paul Kirby

It was just before eight o'clock and the auditorium at Crocus City Hall was filling up, ahead of a Friday night rock concert by veteran band Picnic.

"Some people in brown clothing, I don't know who they were - terrorists, military, whoever - broke into the auditorium and started shooting at people with assault rifles," said photographer Dave Primov, who saw the attack unfold from an upstairs balcony.

Warning: Some of the details of this story are graphic

The gunmen had just walked across the concourse outside the theatre, opening fire at random, killing and wounding members of the public as they walked in.

Some 6,200 tickets had been sold for the concert, but security outside the entrance quickly melted away. One of four guards said his colleagues hid behind an advertising board: "Those attackers passed 10m [30ft] away from us - they started shooting randomly at people on the ground floor."

No-one knew how many attackers there were. But video filmed from an upper floor shows four men walking separately with a few metres between them across the beige, marble-tiled floor.

Footage shows gunmen in the lobby of Crocus Concert Hall

The lead attacker aims point-blank at people huddled against the windows. These are the first victims of Russia's deadliest attack on civilians for years.

Many of those killed and wounded came from Krasnogorsk, Khimki and other nearby towns on Moscow's north-western fringe.

Immigration and the Rise of Populism

Adeline Von Drehle

Conservative populism is on the march across the world, as unchecked immigration continues to inspire a backlash of nativist feelings and nationalist rhetoric. As migrant crises plague Europe and the United States, populists leaders are adopting hardline immigration stances and boosting their rise to power.

The most recent example is in Portugal, previously one of Europe’s most reliably liberal countries. The center-left Socialist Party lost control of the government for the first time since 2015 in early March. They were toppled by the center-right Democratic Alliance by a mere 2,000 votes; both parties gathered about 29% of the vote. But the headline of the evening was the far-right Chega party and its third-place finish with 18% of the vote.

Chega, which means “Enough” in English, more than doubled its 2022 support. Andre Ventura, a former sportscaster with a large social media following, led the Chega Party on an anti-corruption message while stoking fears that crime-committing migrants are overrunning Portugal. Fact-checking organizations say Ventura has routinely exaggerated the threat, which he conflates with actual problems ranging from political corruption and a housing shortage to high inflation and low wages.

The Portuguese election may herald what is to come later this year on both sides of the Atlantic. Some 20 national-level elections are scheduled in the West in 2024, including in the United States and the European Union.

“Portugal is a laboratory for the electoral year in Europe,” said António Costa Pinto, a political expert with the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lisbon.

In Portugal, dark memories of a right-wing dictatorship which fell in 1974 kept populists at bay for the last half-century. For that reason, the rise of Chega is viewed as a signal that the far right can surge anywhere in Europe, and that disenchanted voters can be convinced that ultraconservative populism is the answer to a variety of social ills.

Gaza Strip: The Day After and Beyond – The Realistic Plan

Boaz ItsHaky

Two states side by side rather than One inside the other

We all must live by the consequences of the choices we make in life – no exceptions. What was before October 7th, 2023, must not take place again. To do so Israel must revisit, revise and renew its “NEVER AGAIN” policy, which will be supported by Israel’s renewed national security policy: A dove equipped with talons of a hawk, where one talon holds an olive tree branch and the other talon firmly grasps Israel enemies.

No longer can Israel have a “Small but Smart IDF.” Rather, a “Large & Smart IDF” that will be far more reliant on domestically made arms and far less dependent on foreign arms and ammunition. Israel must look forward.

In light of a possible October 7th like attack initiated from Judea and Samaria, a potential existential threat to Israel’s national security has become center stage. A similar attack could dissect Israel into two separate areas. Israel’s national security needs have changed forever.

After being at the receiving end of the Palestinians’ choices – of NO – for the past 75 years, there must be consequences for these choices. For the sake of Israel’s continuation, lasting to the Ein Sof (infinite in Hebrew) solution must be instituted now. But it cannot include Judea and Samaria as part of the Palestinians aspirations.

In addition, the majority of Israel’s electorate is already making a sharp hawkish shift on matters of national security, and it will remain this way for the foreseeable future. The new understanding of most Israelis (across the political spectrum) will be: A. A resounding NO for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, because of demographic and geographic existential threat to Israel’s national security. B. A resounding YES for once and for all separation from the Palestinians. However, this time with clear cut physical borders.

If Israel wants an arrangement that will last to the long/Ein-Sof term, then Israel must have a "Day After Plan" that is acceptable to at least 80% of Israel’s voters, otherwise it will be short-lived.

America has no Ukraine Plan B except more war


Somewhere last weekend a few dozen former Cabinet members, senior military officers, academics and think tank analysts met to evaluate the world military situation.

I can say that I haven’t been so scared since the fall of 1983, when I was a junior contract researcher doing odd jobs for then Special Assistant to the President Norman A Bailey at the National Security Council. That was the peak of the Cold War and the too-realistic Able Archer 83 exercise nearly set off a nuclear war.

Now, the US foreign policy establishment has staked its credibility on humiliating Russia by pushing NATO’s borders to within a few hundred kilometers of Moscow, while crushing Moscow’s economy through sanctions.

It has pulled every chit it has with European governments, mobilizing its legion of journalists, think tankers and stipended politicians to promote the Ukrainian proxy war, with the intent of degrading Russia’s armed forces and ultimately forcing regime change in Russia.

The messaging from the most distinguished participants – former Cabinet members with defense and national security portfolios – is that NATO is still determined to win at any cost. “The question is whether Russia can generate strategic reserves,” one rapporteur said, “Its officer corps is at 50% strength and it has no depth of non-commissioned officers.”

“The Russians are taking massive losses of 25,000 to 30,000 a month,” the former official added. “They can’t sustain the will to fight on the battlefield. The Russians are close to a breaking point. Can they sustain their national will? Not if the rigged election [of Vladimir Putin this month] was any indication. Their economy has real vulnerability. We need to redouble sanctions and financial interdiction of supplies getting to Russia. The Russians have a Potemkin portrayal of strength.”

The Tyranny of Expectations

Dominic Tierney

In early 2022, much of the world applauded the heroic Ukrainian troops who held back Russian forces outside the gates of Kharkiv and Kyiv. “This is Ukraine’s finest hour, that will be remembered and recounted for generations to come,” declared then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Its soldiers have demonstrated immense bravery,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In a speech from Warsaw, U.S. President Joe Biden proclaimed that Russian forces “met their match with brave and stiff Ukrainian resistance.”

Two years later, Ukrainian soldiers are again resisting massive Russian military assaults, this time in Donetsk, Luhansk, and elsewhere. But now there are far fewer cheers. Instead of celebrating Ukrainian valor, many observers are chiding the country for not turning the tide and going on the offensive. Last November, for example, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni made revealing comments to two Russians (who were pretending to be African Union officials): “There is a lot of fatigue, I have to say the truth, from all the sides. We are near the moment in which everybody understands that we need a way out.” Ukraine may again be holding off a more powerful aggressor. Yet this outcome now seems like a stalemate, if not a defeat.

The global shift in perceptions is an example of the tyranny of expectations—or how assumptions about who will win a war can skew judgments about who prevails. Outside observers, both experts and laypeople alike, do not evaluate military results by simply tallying up the battlefield gains and losses. Instead, they compare these results to their expectations. As a result, states can lose territory and still be deemed winners if they overperform. States can take land and be labeled losers if they underdeliver. The resulting conclusions about the winners and losers, however skewed, can even rebound and shape the battlefield. Ukraine, for example, lost territory during the initial weeks of Russia’s invasion. But Kyiv’s unexpectedly resolute defense earned it widespread Western assistance, which helped it liberate numerous cities in the following months.

Where are the US ships on the Gaza aid mission now?


The Army and Navy ships that have left the U.S. for a massive humanitarian aid project in Gaza are still making their way across the Atlantic, with two still at ports in Florida and Virginia. It will likely take until mid-April for the vessels to reach Gaza and begin building a temporary causeway to facilitate the entry of life-saving aid into the strip.

Looking at real-time satellite imagery tracking military vessels, it looks like the USAV Gen. Frank Besson Jr., an Army support vessel that left Fort Eustis, Virginia, on March 10, has been moored and presumably refueling at a port in the Azores, Portugal, since Friday. It is at the half-way point between the U.S. and its final destination of Cyprus (nearly 5,000 nautical miles total). At an average speed of 10 knots, its journey will take nearly two more weeks, depending on weather conditions, once it gets going again.

The rest of the vessels are behind and, as of Tuesday, halfway across the Atlantic, though they can travel at slightly higher speeds than the Besson. They include the Army support vessels Loux, Matamoros, Monterrey and Wilson Wharf, which are all traveling together and were between Bermuda and the Azores Tuesday morning.

They all left U.S. ports around March 15. They are carrying modules and equipment to build the “trident” causeway — about 800 by 1200 feet — which will be anchored at the beach in Gaza to unload humanitarian aid.

The USNV Roy Benavidez, which, once in place, will help construct the floating pier and serve as a “roll on, roll off” facility two miles off the coast of Gaza, is the fastest of all the military vessels and is now ahead of the smaller Army landing craft on their way to the Azores, even though it left Newport News, Va., on March 21. When complete, aid will be ferried from Cyprus to the floating pier and then to the causeway at Gaza.

Moscow attack proves Russia — and US — have lost sight of priorities


The Islamic State terrorist attack in Moscow is the starkest possible reminder that despite the war in Ukraine, Russia and the West also still have some of the same enemies.

What the terrorists — ISIS-K, an Afghanistan offshoot of IS, took responsibility — did in Moscow, they have done in Paris and Manchester — and will do (and did do, on 9/11) in New York and Washington, if they get the chance.

This horror is also a reminder of the fatal results of mutual distrust. It appears that U.S. intelligence warned the Russian government of an impending attack — and President Putin dismissed this as a U.S. “provocation.” In the event that Russian intelligence were to warn the U.S. of a coming terrorist attack, it is only too easy to imagine Washington reacting in the same way.

Moreover, the attack should make us think about the degree to which governments and security elites around the world are liable to lose sight of the real interests and safety of their fellow citizens — which it is their first duty to defend. In their obsessive focus on the supposed threat from each other, both the Russian and the U.S. establishments have forgotten this duty.

Over the past three decades, Washington has certainly threatened important interests in Moscow, and Russia’s international status as a great power. But (at least until Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. provision of arms and intelligence to Ukraine), Washington never killed a single Russian citizen.

As to the idea of a direct American and NATO attack on Russia (as alleged in Russian domestic propaganda) this was always absurd. No such plan ever existed. And in any case, if Russia is really so vulnerable, what is its nuclear deterrent for? Meanwhile, over this period, Islamist terrorists have killed hundreds of Russian citizens, at Vladikavkaz in 1999, 2008, and 2010; the Dubrovka theater in Moscow in 2002, the Beslan school in 2004, and now again in Moscow.

Is This a Revolution? Or Are People Just Very Ticked Off?

Michael Hirsh

Do you, Mr. Jones?

—Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man”

… something is happening here but you don’t know what it is

Do you, Mr. Jones?

—Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man”

Something is happening to us—to Americans, to the world—and we don’t know what it is. Is the United States in the throes of some kind of revolution, with a vampiric Donald Trump rising from the political undead to threaten (more openly, this time around) the destruction of the U.S. Constitution itself? Is the entire post-World War II global system—or what remains of it—facing some kind of revolutionary upheaval as well? Russia’s murderous president, Vladimir Putin, continues to violate every postwar norm, territorially and otherwise, with China mostly on his side. Together they are helping to unravel an ever-more ragged global consensus that, if Trump is reelected U.S. president eight months from now, he could well rip apart for good. “Where Globalism Goes to Die” was the motto of the 50th annual Conservative Political Action Conference held in February at National Harbor, Maryland, where Trump was welcomed as a conquering hero.

Or are we, instead, engaged not so much in revolution as a series of counter-revolutions—in other words, a domestic and global reactionary backlash that seeks to restore the world that used to be (or what many people wishfully think it used to be)? Trump, of course, is leading the way, once more spuriously promising to “Make America Great Again.” Trump is embracing a radical agenda that seeks to reverse what the Republican Party—of which he is now sole owner and proprietor—views as nearly a century of liberal encroachment on Washington since the New Deal. He pledges to exile or even to imprison anyone who stands in his way. Much of this amounts to a rebellion by Trump’s riled-up MAGA base against the values of the American Revolution itself—its pledge of a common nationhood and constitutionalism, and its quixotic effort to “live out the true meaning of its creed,” in Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, by striving for equality among races and ethnic groups (as well as, more recently, every sort of sexual identity).

What we know after the Islamic State group claims responsibility for Moscow massacre

Source Link

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people, the most deadly attack in Russia in years. Though the U.S. says it has evidence backing up the jihadists’ claim, that didn’t stop Moscow and Kyiv from pointing the finger at each other Saturday as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Much remains unknown about the Friday night attack, including whether it related to a security alert the U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued two weeks earlier and whether it signals a resurgence of the group in the West.

Russia continues to investigate after detaining 11 suspects but it wasn’t possible to confirm the authenticity of statements issued by Russian investigators.

Here is a look at some of what is known so far.


The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, first Friday and then again Saturday, on the social media channels that they typically use to issue statements. In their Saturday statement they said the attack had come in the “the natural framework” of the ongoing war between the extremist group and countries they accuse of fighting Islam.

IS is an offshoot of al-Qaida that took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. It launched a genocidal campaign against the Yazidis, a religious minority that lives in northern Iraq, as well as other groups. By 2018, it had been largely defeated on the battlefield by a U.S.-led coalition, but it continues to operate in desert hideouts in both countries. Its regional affiliates are also present in Afghanistan, West Africa and the Far East.

Apple fined €1.8bn by EU for breaking streaming rules

Shiona McCallum

Apple has been fined €1.8bn (£1.5bn) by the EU for breaking competition laws over music streaming.

The firm had prevented streaming services from informing users of payment options outside the Apple app store, the European Commission said.

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Apple abused its dominant position in the market for a decade.

She ordered the US tech giant to remove all the restrictions. Apple has said it will appeal against the decision.

The European Commission's decision was triggered by a complaint by Swedish music streaming service Spotify, which was unhappy about the restriction and Apple's 30% fee..

Ms Vestager said Apple had restricted "developers from informing consumers about alternative, cheaper music services available outside of the Apple ecosystem".

"This is illegal under EU antitrust rules," she said.

However, Apple said it would appeal, adding there was no evidence consumers had been harmed.

"The decision was reached despite the Commission's failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the realities of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast," the company said in a statement.

"The primary advocate for this decision, and the biggest beneficiary, is Spotify, a company based in Stockholm, Sweden.