2 April 2024

How Modi Has Changed Indian Foreign Policy

Mohamed Zeeshan

As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a third term in the parliamentary elections beginning next month, his electoral campaign will be predicated on the many ways in which he has transformed India during his decade in power.

Foreign policy is almost never a part of India’s electoral discourse, but Modi has been an exception. In the run-up to the campaign trail, his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has highlighted Modi’s slogan of positioning India as a “vishwaguru” or world leader. That term was debuted prominently on the world stage when India hosted the G-20 last year; imposing banners of Modi and the G-20’s sundry meetings were then erected across the country.

Modi’s energetic popularization of foreign policy in India’s public discourse is a stark departure from the past, when foreign policy events were largely unknown beyond the corridors and chancelleries of New Delhi. This wider involvement of the public would be welcome if it sparked informed debate, transparency, and accountability for foreign policy outcomes. But amid communal polarization and declining press freedom, public discourse has only complicated India’s relations with sundry countries, particularly in the neighborhood.

Take India’s ongoing spat with the Maldives. Early this year, the Maldives asked New Delhi to withdraw Indian troops from its strategically significant islands. That culmination was reached after political leaders, celebrities, and journalists in India reacted angrily to derogatory comments about Modi by three Maldivian ministers. The Maldivian government suspended the ministers in question, but that did little to prevent widespread calls in India for an economic boycott of that country. As a result, Indian tourist arrivals in the Maldives have fallen considerably in recent months.

In line with this popularization of foreign policy, Modi has redefined India’s identity on the world stage from a secular democracy to a Hindu civilizational state.

India’s Income Inequality Is Now Worse Than Under British Rule, New Report Says


A new study from the World Inequality Lab finds that the present-day golden era of Indian billionaires has produced soaring income inequality in India—now among the highest in the world and starker than in the U.S., Brazil, and South Africa. The gap between India’s rich and poor is now so wide that by some measures, the distribution of income in India was more equitable under British colonial rule than it is now, according to the group of economists who co-authored the study, including the renowned French economist Thomas Piketty.

The current total number of billionaires in India is peaking at 271, with 94 new billionaires added in 2023 alone, according to Hurun Research Institute’s 2024 global rich list published Tuesday. That’s more new billionaires than in any country other than the U.S., with a collective wealth that amounts to nearly $1 trillion—or 7% of the world’s total wealth. A handful of Indian tycoons, such as Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, and Sajjan Jindal, are now mingling in the same circles as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, some of the world’s richest people.

“The Billionaire Raj headed by India’s modern bourgeoisie is now more unequal than the British Raj headed by the colonialist forces,” the authors write.

The observation is particularly stark when considering India is now hailed as an 8% GDP growth economy, according to Barclays Research, with some projecting that India is poised to surpass Japan and Germany to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027.

But the authors of the World Inequality Lab study reached this conclusion by tracking how much of India’s total income, as well as wealth, is held by the country’s top 1%. While income refers to the sum of earnings, interest on savings, investments and other sources, wealth (or net worth) is the total value of assets owned by an individual or group. The authors combined national income accounts, wealth aggregates, tax tabulations, rich lists, and surveys on income, consumption, and wealth to present the study's findings.

What’s Driving India-China Tensions?

Dean Cheng, Sameer P. Lalwani, Ph.D., Daniel Markey, Ph.D. &  Nilanthi Samaranayake

Since deadly clashes between India and China on their 2,100-mile disputed border — known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) — nearly four years ago, the two countries have remained in a standoff and amassed an increasing number of troops on either side of the LAC. While India and China have held regular exchanges at the corps commander level since 2020, each side has also continued to militarize and invest in infrastructure in the high-altitude border regions, which may exacerbate risks of clashes or escalation. India-China competition has also deepened beyond the land border, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.

USIP experts Dean Cheng, Sameer Lalwani, Daniel Markey and Nilanthi Samaranayake examine what has changed on the border in the past four years, new domains where India-China competition has intensified, what role India’s general elections this spring could play in shaping these dynamics and the implications for U.S.-India relations.

The standoff on the border has now lasted nearly four years. How has India’s position toward China changed over this period?

Lalwani: India increasingly views China’s approach to the border dispute as indicative of a broader strategy to contain India within the subcontinent and deny its rise. India’s position on China has hardened — as indicated by senior military and cabinet officials critiquing China’s behavior and India raising the public salience of border defense for long-term competition with China. Strategic hostility seems likely to prevail even if there is a modicum of tactical military de-escalation and disengagement on the border.

China’s border intransigence also colors how New Delhi perceives Beijing’s engagements throughout South Asia, including China’s financial lending, military presence and scientific surveys. In response, India will compete with China for influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region by increasing its military (and nuclear) modernization efforts, expanding public good instruments like physical and digital infrastructure, and conducting more competitive diplomacy in partnership with like-minded partners. To compete effectively with fewer resources, India may need to be more selective, efficient and asymmetric. For instance, India risks overplaying the Chinese territorial threat by over-indexing on continental border defenses to prevent any incursions and under-resourcing its maritime and naval capabilities where India could generate greater strategic effects.

Crocus City Hall Attack: Deciphering Central Asian Jihadism and Russian Counterterrorism

Uran Botobekov

The devastating March 22 terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, on the outskirts of Moscow, allegedly carried out by four citizens of Tajikistan, vividly demonstrates the threats posed by Central Asian jihadi terrorism and Sunni Islamist extremism. The shooting at the concert hall sadly confirmed a security alert issued by the U.S. Embassy in Russia at the beginning of March regarding a terror threat, as well as the March 16, 2023, testimony of General Michael Kurilla, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the rapid development of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and the growth of its capability to conduct “external operations” in Europe and Asia.

Regrettably, at a Federal Security Service (FSB) meeting on March 19 – 10 days after an FSB operation killed two alleged ISKP members, Kazakh citizens, in Kaluga Region – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin dismissed Washington’s numerous terror warnings, assessing them as “outright blackmail” and an “attempt to intimidate and destabilize” Russian society amid the euphoria of Putin’s winning the March 15-17 presidential election with a “historic” 88 percent of the vote.

Questioning the Islamic State Claim: Kremlin’s Skepticism

On the evening of March 22, a coordinated attack took place at the Crocus City Hall music venue in Krasnogorsk, a Russian city on the western outskirts of Moscow. Four gunmen opened fire on the gathered crowd and deployed explosive incendiary devices, resulting in a devastating death toll: at least 137 fatalities and 144 injuries. The attack stands as the deadliest terrorist incident in Russia since the Beslan school siege of 2004, and the deadliest in Moscow since the 1999 apartment bombings.

When police units from the Special Rapid Response Unit (SOBR) and the Special Purposes Mobile Unit (OMON) arrived at the scene, over an hour after the attack began, the attackers took advantage of the chaos and thick smoke of the burning building to escape.

How Moscow terror attack fits ISIS-K strategy to widen agenda, take fight to its perceived enemie

Sara Harmouch & Amira Jadoon

What is ISIS-K?

ISIS-K, short for Islamic State Khorasan Province, is a regional affiliate of the larger Islamic State group.

The affiliate group operates primarily in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, although it has presence throughout the historical “Khorasan” – a region that includes parts of the modern-day nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, along with other Central Asian countries.

Established in 2015, ISIS-K aims to establish a physical “caliphate” – a system of governing a society under strict Islamic Sharia law and under religious leadership – in the South and Central Asian region.

ISIS-K’s beliefs follow the ideology of its parent organization, the Islamic State group, which promotes an extreme interpretation of Islam and sees secular government actors, as well as non-Muslim and Muslim minority civilian populations, as legitimate targets.

A Taliban fighter checks a destroyed ISIS-K safehouse on Feb. 14, 2023.

The group is known for its extreme brutality and for targeting both government institutions and civilians, including mosques, educational institutions and public spaces.

Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, ISIS-K’s key objectives have been to diminish the now-ruling Taliban’s legitimacy in the war-ravaged nation, assert itself as the rightful leader of the Muslim community and emerge as the principal regional adversary to regimes it deems oppressive.

Moreover, the Taliban’s transition from an insurgency group to a governing entity left numerous militant factions in Afghanistan without a unifying force – a gap that ISIS-K has aimed to fill.

The Next Afghan Jihad? Taliban Efforts to Contain ISKP

Amira Jadoon, Andrew Mines, Aaron Y. Zelin

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) has shifted its targeting priorities, tactics, geographical focus, media activity, and broader outreach efforts. These changes lend insight into how the Afghan branch of IS has evolved over time and how it is adapting to its new environment. Despite various challenges, the group has been resilient, continuing to inflict violence, target state and civilian actors, threaten international security, and recruit individuals across the region. Its strategic selection of alliances and rivalries with local groups was central to both its initial rise and its ability to overcome losses and resurge after the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

ISKP’s media operations and narratives have gone through three stages since the group first emerged in 2015, reflecting its shifting priorities and environment. The first phase (2015-19) focused on anti-Taliban sentiment and rosy narratives about life under the so-called “caliphate” in an attempt to recruit followers. The second phase (2020-21) focused on instilling fear and emphasizing the group’s resolve to survive amid significant territorial losses. The current phase is ISKP’s most aggressive and sophisticated propaganda and outreach campaign yet, unprecedented in its form, quantity, and number of languages used—a worrisome sign of the group’s intention to reach recruits and sympathizers well outside its immediate region.

To the south, Pakistan has experienced a surge in terrorism driven by the umbrella group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and it is unclear how ISKP will respond. Historically, ISKP has not targeted TTP in its propaganda, but it has criticized the group for engaging in negotiations with the Pakistani government. If TTP strikes a deal with Islamabad in the future, some of its militants may defect to ISKP. There is also significant potential for TTP-ISKP collaboration on individual initiatives when convenient.

Washington’s Best Response to the ISIS-K Attack May Be No Response


The day before ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) carried out a deadly attack on a concert hall in Moscow, General Michael Erik Kurilla testified before Congress about the threat posed by the group. The leader of U.S. Central Command told the House Armed Services Committee that ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State, “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.” He made a similar assessment one year earlier in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he also warned that additional funding to support expanded intelligence activities and strike operations would be required to counter the group’s rise.

In the wake of the March 22 attack, Kurilla’s predictions looked prescient, and his push to scale up efforts to counter ISIS-K gained traction. Senator Lindsey Graham argued for massive airstrikes on the group inside Afghanistan. Terrorism expert Peter Bergen implied that greater U.S. military presence overseas might be required, suggesting that “the decision to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan allowed ISIS to regroup there with the capability to carry out large-scale attacks in other countries.” The Pentagon asserted that continued and reinforced U.S. military presence in Iraq and Syria would be essential to U.S. efforts to contain the global threat posed by ISIS.

President Joe Biden’s administration should resist calls to expand the scope of its counterterror operations overseas, even by a little. Increasing overseas military operations is not the most efficient way to protect the U.S. homeland in this instance—and in fact, it may do more harm than good. U.S. intelligence capabilities appear able to track the group proficiently, even without forces deployed in Afghanistan. An already overstretched U.S. military can ill-afford to widen its counterterrorism responsibilities as it tries to manage the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and tensions in the Western Pacific—especially given its limited success in countering similar terrorist threats elsewhere. This is a case where the best response may be no response.

Australia’s Opportunity to Deepen Ties With Bangladesh

Grant Wyeth

In recent years Australia has started to shift its focus westward. While the Pacific Ocean and Southeast Asia have been deemed primary areas of interest for the country, the Indo-Pacific construct has led Australia to take its Indian Ocean opportunities more seriously. Mostly this has led to greater cooperation with India as the region’s primary power, but Canberra shouldn’t discount other states within South Asia, each of which has its own worth and opportunities to present.

As we move toward an era where economic weight is more closely aligned to a country’s population, Bangladesh has the potential to become a serious power. Given the size of its enormous neighbor, Bangladesh is often overlooked as a considerable country itself. Yet it has the world’s eighth largest population, with around 170 million people.

Alongside its large population, Bangladesh has experienced a sustained period of economic growth and considerable poverty reduction, mostly off the back of its textiles industry. Its GDP per capita has overtaken India, and the country will soon graduate out of least developed country status. As this progress continues, the relationship between Canberra and Dhaka has the potential to flourish.

Yet with opportunities also comes responsibilities. Bangladesh is currently carrying an extraordinary burden by housing the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. The Australia’s government has recognized this and has committed $153 million from 2023 to 2025 to meet the needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, as well as for humanitarian support to Myanmar. This funding is designed to provide food, water, shelter, education, and health services.

This is a welcome contribution, but what both Bangladesh and the Rohingya themselves require is resettlement. It is highly unlikely that the Rohingya will be able to return to Rakhine state in Myanmar. However, the prospect of significant resettlement of Rohingya – by all countries capable of refugee resettlement, not just Australia – looks dire. Since 2008, Australia has granted refugee visas to less than 500 Rohingya. There is a fairly brutal reason for this.

Myanmar’s widening war headed for junta’s heartland


Even before the end of a dry season that has dramatically upended the military balance in Myanmar, the broad and profoundly sobering contours of conflict over the remainder of 2024 and into 2025 are already taking shape.

Recent months have seen large swathes of the nation’s borderlands fall under the control of powerful ethnic minority armies amid cascading defeats suffered by State Administration Council (SAC) military forces.

But the war in the coming rainy season and beyond will almost certainly be waged at increasing intensity in the country’s populous ethnic Bamar heartland and will be a very different fight.

Short of a political implosion of the embattled regime in Naypyidaw – a conceivable but still unlikely scenario – the already discernable shift of major hostilities toward the center of national power promises a far less organized and more brutally destructive conflict than anything seen to date with inevitably dire humanitarian consequences.

A worst-case scenario could involve a descent into a wave of killing and population displacement not seen in Southeast Asia since the Indochina wars of the 1970s.

The scale of the army’s recent battlefield losses and its impact on morale offers some ground for hope that the coming phase of the war might, if nasty and brutish, at least be short and that a “strategic offensive” announced by the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) last December will push a weakened SAC regime toward collapse or break the military’s cohesion.

It remains to be seen how far opposition-led predictions of regime collapse are justified but the omens are at best mixed.

The New Autocratic Alliances

Hal Brands

The U.S. alliance system: there’s never been anything quite like it. Ancient Athens helmed the Delian League. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck skillfully played Europe’s alliance game in the nineteenth century. The coalitions that won the world wars were nearly global in scope. But no peacetime alliance network has been so expansive, enduring, and effective as the one Washington has led since World War II. The U.S. alliance system has pacified what once were killing fields; it has forged a balance of power that favors the democracies.

How China Will Be Challenged By a 100-Year Storm


A few years ago, President Xi Jinping started warning that a 100-year big storm is coming. As is typical of the early days of a hurricane, one can now feel it. The circumstances and the mood in China have indisputably changed to become more threatening. These changes are mostly due to big cycle forces.

The most joyous and productive environments are ones that have freedom, civility, and creativity, and ones in which people can make their dreams into great realities with prosperity that is shared by most people. This happened in China from around 1980 until around five years ago. It is quite typical for such booms to produce debt bubbles and big wealth gaps that lead the booms to turn into bubbles that turn into busts. That happened in China at the same time as the global great power conflict intensified, so China is now in the post-bubble and great power conflict part of the Big Cycle that is driven by the five big forces that have changed the mood and the environment. In this piece, I will first describe in brief how the Big Cycle has transpired over roughly the past century, and then I will explain the current picture of what is happening today, with a focus on the challenges that China is facing. This history and these dynamics are complex and important to world history and the global order—everything I write here is how I see it based on my own experience, relationships, and research.

How the Big Cycle in China Transpired to Create the Conditions from the Beginning of the PRC Through the Current Conditions

In the 1930-45 period, there was the last 100-year big storm, which was driven classically by the confluence of 1) a debt bust that triggered a global depression, 2) a civil war in China between the rich rightist-capitalists and the poor leftist-communists (which ended in 1949 when the Communists won), 3) an international great power conflict-war that ended in 1945 when the United States (and, to a much lesser extent, Great Britain and Russia) won, creating the American-led world order, 4) many disruptive acts of nature, and 5) big technological changes. That period ended in the classic ways they end, with a debt and economic collapse, one side winning over the other in the great international war and the new world order beginning (in 1945), and one side winning over the other in the civil war and the new domestic order beginning (in 1949).

US debates while China implements Cyber Force concept


As the US debates establishing an independent Cyber Force, China has made its functional equivalent, the People’s Liberation Army-Strategic Support Force (PLA-SSF), a cornerstone of its military modernization program.

This month, the US think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) released a report calling for the creation of a US Cyber Force to improve national cyber warfare capabilities.

The study highlights the need to address personnel shortages and inefficiencies within the current military structure that hinder the effective recruitment, training, promotion and retention of cyber talent.

The FDD report draws parallels between the establishment of the US Cyber Force with the US Space Force and US Air Force. It notes that all three initiatives were driven by the need to adapt to evolving warfare domains, namely air, space and cyberspace.

The US Cyber Command (US CYBERCOM) is facing a qualified personnel shortage due to the fragmented operational approach of the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The report includes a study drawing on 75 interviews that highlights the grim state of cyber force readiness due to recruitment issues and promotion systems ill-designed for cyberspace operations.

The FDD report recommends establishing the US Cyber Force as an independent service, similar to the US Space Force model. It argues that a dedicated cyber-service is the only solution to overcome the systemic issues plaguing the US’s cyber defense capabilities. Alternative proposals focus on addressing cyber personnel shortages in the military without establishing an independent new force.

The Intelligence Community Would Benefit from Opening the Aperture on China - OPINION

Phuong Hoang & Josh Kerbel

Recently, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) created an important new position: the National Intelligence Officer for China. (Previously, the National Intelligence Council’s China portfolio fell under the auspices of the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia.) It was an eminently sensible action. China occupies an outsized and yet still growing place in the United States’ strategic landscape and having an NIO dedicated exclusively to it will bring much needed focus.

That said, a danger also comes with such intensifying focus: it can lead to excessively narrow, siloed, and artificially discrete perspectives that miss or avoid the increasing complexity (interconnectivity and interdependence) that characterizes the China challenge. China is deeply intertwined with the world beyond it. Every problem or opportunity in the world today has a China aspect, requiring the Intelligence Community (IC) to maintain a complementary—synthetic or holistic—perspective.

The IC historically has struggled with the development of such synthetic perspectives because our formative experience—the Cold War—didn’t demand it, as our adversary was comparatively discrete or contained, unidimensional (largely a military issue), and entirely closed (necessitating a dependence on classified reporting). Moreover, our deeply ingrained cognitive and implicit biases tended toward an analytical or reductive perspective at odds with such synthetic and “big picture” perspectives.

Among countless examples of when an excessively narrow focus contributed to unanticipated outcomes and unintended consequences regarding China, let’s first consider the direct line that was long drawn from economic liberalization/growth to China’s political liberalization and buy-in to the existing international order. That assessment was fundamentally rooted in a narrow, linear, and causal argument that largely ignored a slew of important factors—historical, social, technological, and so forth—that could have drawn into question the inevitability of that causal chain. Instead, the assessment washed out the true complexity of China’s situation and rendered it in simplistic terms.

The axis of evasion: Behind China’s oil trade with Iran and Russia

Kimberly Donovan and Maia Nikoladze

Oil revenue is a lifeline for the Iranian and Russian economies, but Western sanctions have jeopardized both countries’ ability to ship oil and receive payments. In response, Iran and Russia have redirected oil shipments to China—the world’s largest importer of crude oil. In 2023, China saved a reported ten billion dollars by purchasing crude oil from sanctioned countries such as Iran and Russia.

Over the years, Beijing and Tehran have developed an oil trade system that bypasses Western banks and shipping services. Russia adopted Iran’s methods for exporting sanctioned oil after the Group of Seven (G7) allies capped the price of Russian crude oil at sixty dollars per barrel in December 2022.

As a result, Iran, Russia, and China have created an alternative market of sanctioned oil, wherein payments are denominated in Chinese currency. This oil is often carried by “dark fleet” tankers that operate outside of maritime regulations and take steps to obscure their operations.

Oil revenue from China is propping up the Iranian and Russian economies and is undermining Western sanctions. Meanwhile, the use of Chinese currency and payment systems in this market restricts Western jurisdictions’ access to financial transactions data and weakens their sanctions enforcement efforts.

How China manages to import sanctioned Iranian oil

China has developed a way to import Iranian oil while bypassing the Western financial system and shipping services. Iran ships oil to China using dark fleet tankers and receives payments in renminbi through small Chinese banks. The dark fleet tankers operate without transponders to avoid detection. Once oil shipments reach China, they are rebranded as Malaysian or Middle Eastern oil, and bought by “teapots” in China. “Teapots” are small independent refineries that have been absorbing 90 percent of Iran’s total oil exports since Chinese state-owned refiners stopped transacting with Iran due to the fear of sanctions.

The 21st Century's Great Military Rivalry

Graham Allison and Jonah Glick-Unterman 

A quarter-century ago, China conducted what it called “missile tests” bracketing the island of Taiwan to deter it from a move toward independence by demonstrating that China could cut Taiwan’s ocean lifelines. In response, in a show of superiority that forced China to back down, the United States deployed two aircraft carriers to Taiwan’s adjacent waters. If China were to repeat the same missile tests today, it is highly unlikely that the United States would respond as it did in 1996. If U.S. carriers moved that close to the Chinese mainland now, they could be sunk by the DF-21 and DF-26 missiles that China has since developed and deployed.

This article presents three major theses concerning the military rivalry between China and the United States in this century. First, the era of U.S. military primacy is over: dead, buried, and gone—except in the minds of some political leaders and policy analysts who have not examined the hard facts.1 As former Secretary of Defense James Mattis put it starkly in his 2018 National Defense Strategy, “For decades the United States has enjoyed uncontested or dominant superiority in every operating domain. We could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted.”2 But that was then. “Today,” Mattis warned, “every domain is contested—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.”3 As a result, in the past two decades, the United States has been forced to retreat from a strategy based on primacy and dominance to one of deterrence. As President Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his National Security Council colleague Kurt Campbell acknowledged in 2019, “The United States must accept that military primacy will be difficult to restore, given the reach of China’s weapons, and instead focus on deterring China from interfering with its freedom of maneuver and from physically coercing U.S. allies and partners.”4 One of the architects of the Trump administration’s 2018 National Defense Strategy put it less diplomatically and more succinctly: “The era of untrammeled U.S. military superiority is over.”5

Second, while America’s position as a global military superpower remains unique—with power projection capabilities no one can match, more than 50 allies bound by collective defense arrangements, and a network of bases on almost every continent—both China and Russia are now serious military rivals and even peers in particular domains. Russia’s nuclear arsenal has long been recognized as essentially equivalent to America’s, and while China’s nuclear arsenal is much smaller, Beijing has nonetheless deployed a fleet of survivable nuclear forces sufficient to ensure mutually assured destruction. The Department of Defense (DOD) designation of China and Russia as Great Power competitors recognizes that they now have the power to deny U.S. dominance along their borders and in adjacent seas.

Time Is Running Out for Saudi Arabia

Eric Bordenkircher

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry issued a statement about the normalization of relations with Israel on February 7. It declared that Saudi Arabia would not establish relations with Israel until the “brotherly Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights”—the creation and recognition of an independent state with 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital. The statement refined and affirmed comments that Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan made in Davos three weeks earlier.

The announcement leaves Saudi security and interests to chance. The Saudi government is making the realization of relations between two countries, Israel and Saudi Arabia, contingent on the cooperation of a third party, the Palestinians. The need for diplomatic relations between Saud Arabia and Israel grows critical to maintaining security and stability in the Middle East as Iranian aggression escalates and American reliability deteriorates. The longer there are no diplomatic relations, the Saudis become more vulnerable. By conditioning Saudi-Israeli relations, the Kingdom has provided the Palestinians considerable leverage as well as an opportunity to undermine or hold Saudi interests hostage.

The Hamas attacks of October 7 and the subsequent Israeli response froze discussions about Saudi-Israeli diplomatic relations that began during the summer. Realizing relations with Israel is a challenging endeavor for the Kingdom, perceived to be a leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Pursuing those relations in the wake of Israel having displaced, maimed, or killed thousands of Palestinians is diplomatic suicide, a public relations nightmare, and a possible source of domestic unrest.

In the short term, the announcement by the Saudi Foreign Ministry is prudent. Calling for a Palestinian state before recognizing Israel demonstrates astuteness. The monarchy reinforces a long-held belief that regional stability begins with a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Defying that belief would be tantamount to abandoning an Arab brother, especially at a critical time of need; the Kingdom’s image in the Arab and Muslim worlds would be tarnished and its leadership questioned.

The Houthis’ Media Machine Is Going Global

Rashid Mohsen

The Houthis have been around since the 1990s, but only over the past six months has the Yemeni rebel group become a household name in the West. After Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel and the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the Houthis—who are aligned with Hamas—began attacking Western-linked merchant ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global shipping and trade.

While Western governments back Israel, to varying degrees, the Houthis’ attacks have boosted their profile among anti-war activists in the Middle East and also around the world. In Yemen, the group calls million-man protests against Israel’s war on Gaza every Friday; in places as far away as London and New York, protesters chant in support of the rebels’ maritime attacks.

As the Israel-Hamas war enters its sixth month, the Houthis’ media machine has moved quickly to capitalize on the group’s newfound prominence. More than 32,000 Palestinians have died so far in the conflict, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and the Houthis have clamored to portray themselves as being at the vanguard of the Palestinian cause—pledging to continue their attacks until Israel ends the war. “The group’s savvy media experts” are “depicting their attacks as a source of pride to the Arab populations,” said Fahmi Albaheth, an independent digital rights defender and tech expert.

Backed by Iran, the Houthis took the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014, at the start of Yemen’s civil war. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates supported the internationally recognized Yemeni government that the Houthis had ousted. The two Gulf powers’ military campaign against the Houthis has precipitated one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

All the while, the Houthis expanded their domestic influence, in large part through social media and technology. But, until recently, their message hardly resonated beyond Yemen’s borders.


Randy Noorman

Following Russia’s failed attempt at a coup de main beginning on February 24, 2022 and the subsequent transition to what many believed would be a war of maneuver, the roughly six-hundred-mile Russo-Ukrainian front has transformed into a grinding war of attrition. This has fueled discussions on whether or not the conflict has reached a stalemate, or even whether it signals the end of maneuver warfare. With the exception of Ukraine’s spectacular Kharkiv offensive and the recapture of Kherson—though these succeeded for different reasons—neither side has been able to break the deadlock of positional warfare. Even the highly anticipated and much-hyped Ukrainian summer offensive in 2023 fell far short of expectations, with the former Ukrainian commander-in-chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, admitting its failure.

Particularly notable, as Zaluzhnyi pointed out, is that large-scale maneuvers conducted by highly concentrated armored formations and aimed at achieving operational breakthrough have remained conspicuously absent. Instead, small-scale infantry units fighting over elaborate trench systems zigzagging throughout terrain pockmarked by artillery are conjuring images of World War I. Unsurprisingly, comparisons to the First World War’s Western Front have been numerous. Apart from the obvious similarities, however, few have grasped the real dynamics at play and what implications they entail.

Recent publications show that Ukrainian military officials have even accused their American counterparts of not adequately grasping the extent to which technology has changed the modern battlefield. Although US military officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of concentrating a sufficient number of large, armored formations to achieve a breakthrough, the Ukrainians themselves quickly discovered that current battlefield conditions dictate otherwise. As Zaluzhnyi described, “Modern sensors can identify any concentration of forces, and modern precision weapons can destroy it.” This has prevented both sides from concentrating into sufficiently large formations to achieve a breakthrough in the traditional sense. Instead, it forces units to disperse, dig in, or both, further expanding the empty battlefield.

Europe must tighten its borders to combat the Islamist threat

Gavin Mortimer

Europe is on a state of high alert after Friday’s Islamist attack in Moscow that left 137 concertgoers dead. France has raised its security alert to the highest level, and more soldiers will be deployed to patrol the streets and stand guard outside ‘sensitive sites’ including churches, synagogues and schools.

President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Sunday that the group that carried out the Moscow attack, Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-K), an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, had attempted to commit ‘several’ atrocities on French soil in recent months, including an attack in the city of Strasbourg.

Denmark has also stepped up security, as has Italy. At a national security council meeting in Rome on Monday it was agreed to increase the police presence around sites of worship ahead of the Easter weekend.

Like France, Germany has reportedly been the target of previous terrorist plots by IS-K, including an attack against Cologne Cathedral over Christmas. At the beginning of last week, German police arrested two Afghans, allegedly members of IS-K, who are suspected of planning an attack against the Swedish parliament.

How did the two Afghans enter Germany? The German authorities have yet to release any details but the pair may have come across last year, among the 380,000 people who arrived in Europe illegally. Syria and Afghanistan provided the highest number of what the EU border agency describes as ‘irregular crossings’. This trend has continued in 2024. Nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants reached Europe through the eastern Mediterranean in the first two months of this year, a 117 per cent increase on the same period last year. Most were Afghans, Syrians and Egyptians.

It would be nice to think – as the Pope does – that they all have arrived with love in their hearts, ‘gifts’, as the Pontiff said in an address last September. But clearly not all have.

Why Are So Many Young People Getting Cancer? It’s Complicated


Just this month, two young, high-profile public figures announced that they have cancer. First, Olivia Munn, 43, disclosed that she was treated for breast cancer after catching it early. Days later, Kate Middleton, 42, announced she has been receiving treatment for an unspecified form of cancer.

Their diagnoses spotlight a troubling trend: both in the U.S. and around the world, cancer diagnoses are growing more common among adults younger than 50. By 2030, one recent study estimated, the number of these early-onset cancer diagnoses could increase by roughly 30% worldwide—and the number of people who die from their conditions could rise by about 20%.

“The most striking finding in the last decade has been this rise in incidence rates among young adults,” says Ahmedin Jemal, senior vice president of surveillance and health equity science at the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Cancer is still most commonly diagnosed among people older than 65. In the U.S., only about 12% of cancers are diagnosed among adults younger than 50, according to ACS data. A woman in the U.S. has about a one in 17 chance of being diagnosed before she turns 50, while a man has about a one in 29 chance, the ACS says. (Women are more likely to be diagnosed largely because breast cancer is so common.)

But those odds are gradually getting worse. In 2019, about 103 cancers were diagnosed among every 100,000 U.S. adults younger than 50, up from about 100 in 2010, according to a 2023 study in JAMA Network Open. That may seem like a small overall increase, but it’s not a good sign—especially since, during the same period of time, incidence rates among older U.S. adults decreased. “It’s almost like the curves have reversed themselves,” says Dr. Richard Barakat, director of cancer care at Northwell Health in New York.

The Baltimore Bridge Collapse Is About to Get Even Messier


In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the global supply chain and US coastal infrastructure collided in the worst possible way. An enormous container ship, the Dali, slammed into a support of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, crumpling its central span into the Patapsco River and cutting off the city’s port from the Atlantic Ocean. Eighteen hours later, at approximately 7:30 pm Tuesday evening, rescuers called off a search, with six missing people presumed dead.

With the wreckage yet to be cleared, the Port of Baltimore—a critical shipping hub—has suspended all water traffic, according to the Maryland Port Administration, though trucks are still moving goods in and out of the area. Baltimore is the ninth busiest port in the US for international trade, meaning the effects of the crash will ripple across the regional, US, and even global economy for however long the 47-year-old bridge takes to fix—a timeline, experts say, that’s still unclear.

This will be a special pain for the auto, farm equipment, and construction industries, because on the US East Coast, Baltimore handles the most “roll on, roll off” ships—an industry term for those designed to handle wheeled cargo. The port has the special equipment to move these products, workers trained in how to use it, and, critically, a location within an overnight driving distance of the densely populated Eastern Seaboard and heavily farmed Midwest.

Almost 850,000 cars and light trucks came through the port last year. So did 1.3 million tons of farm and construction machinery.

Fortunately for the logistics industry, there are some alternative routes both for ships coming into port and trucks crossing the river. Two tunnels traverse the Patapsco and could take some of the goods and people that once traveled across the Key Bridge, which was also part of Maryland Route 695. Nearby ports, including Norfolk in Virginia, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and Savannah in Georgia, should be able to accept many of the goods usually handled by Baltimore’s port.

Defining and Achieving Success in Ukraine

Frank Hoffman

The Post–Cold War era ended with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s series of strategic miscalculations against Kyiv. But the contest is much larger than a border dispute between Russia and Ukraine. A more overt contest has emerged, pitting Russia’s grievances and illusions against the Western democracies and the vestiges of a rules-based order. That contest is most evident in Ukraine, which has passed through a critical turning point after Russia’s attempted coup de main against the President Zelensky government in the capital failed spectacularly.1 As noted in an insightful April 2022 study, Putin’s initial gambit reflected “the death throes of an imperial delusion,” but also indicated that Russia was preparing for a protracted and deadly struggle.2 The West reveled over the former, and overlooked the portents of Moscow’s preparations.

The U.S. strategy being employed in coordination with our Allies has adapted to changing circumstances, gaining both an appreciation for the conflict’s serious consequences to international order and greater optimism about Ukraine’s chances of success and not just its survival. This strategic reassessment is reflected in the policy goals announcement made by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan: “ . . . what we want to see is a free and independent Ukraine, a weakened and isolated Russia, and a stronger, more unified, more determined West.”3 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin echoed those comments, though his focus on the second policy aim was misunderstood as a unilateral escalation.4 The implications of the policy and the consensus behind these goals is revealed by the accelerated security assistance the United States is providing and by the advance weaponry being supplied. Congress has substantially increased aid to Ukraine for the coming year to over $40 billion.5

The U.S. policy aims are reasonable, although their internal consistency may contain some challenges. A free and independent Ukraine is not necessarily one whose territorial integrity is restored or whose economic survival is assured. A weakened Russia that cannot repeat this debacle has certainly been achieved at this point, given the losses that Moscow incurred by its incompetent management of the war. A cohesive and stronger North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a worthy goal already in evidence given the Alliance’s contributions to Ukraine, and now substantially augmented by the impending accession of Finland and Sweden.6

Is The American Empire Now In Its Ultimate Crisis? – OpEd

Alfred W. McCoy

Empires don’t just fall like toppled trees. Instead, they weaken slowly as a succession of crises drain their strength and confidence until they suddenly begin to disintegrate. So it was with the British, French and Soviet empires; so it now is with imperial America.

Great Britain confronted serious colonial crises in India, Iran and Palestine before plunging headlong into the Suez Canal and imperial collapse in 1956. In the later years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union faced its own challenges in Czechoslovakia, Egypt and Ethiopia before crashing into a brick wall in its war in Afghanistan.

America’s post-Cold War victory lap suffered its own crisis early in this century with disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, looming just over history’s horizon are three more imperial crises in Gaza, Taiwan and Ukraine that could cumulatively turn a slow imperial recessional into an all-too-rapid decline, if not collapse.

As a start, let’s put the very idea of an imperial crisis in perspective. The history of every empire, ancient or modern, has always involved a succession of crises — usually mastered in the empire’s earlier years, only to be ever more disastrously mishandled in its era of decline. Right after World War II, when the United States became history’s most powerful empire, Washington’s leaders skillfully handled just such crises in Greece, Berlin, Italy and France, and somewhat less skillfully but not disastrously in a Korean War that never quite officially ended.

Even after the dual disasters of a bungled covert invasion of Cuba in 1961 and a conventional war in Vietnam that went all too disastrously awry in the 1960s and early 1970s, Washington proved capable of recalibrating effectively enough to outlast the Soviet Union, “win” the Cold War and become the “lone superpower” on this planet.

The Limits of Victory: Evaluating the Employment of Military Power

Michael H. Levine 

On November 28, 1984, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger appeared before the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to deliver a speech titled “The Uses of Military Power.” The previous year had brought mixed results in the deployment of U.S. combat troops overseas. An invasion of the small West Indies country of Grenada wrested regime control from the one-party socialist People’s Revolutionary Government in favor of a relatively stable democracy. In Lebanon, however, the bombing of a Marine Corps barracks complex in Beirut killed 305 troops and civilians, including 241 Americans, and led to the withdrawal of the multinational peacekeeping force months later. Perhaps most central to Secretary Weinberger’s speech was the Vietnam War, an event that two decades later still struck deep into the institutional fabric of the U.S. military.

The Secretary argued that combat forces should be deployed resolutely with “the sole object of winning” in cases where vital national interests are at stake.1 Moreover, the use of force must meet six criteria: vital national interests, wholehearted commitment, clearly defined political and military objectives, congruent ends and means, domestic support, and last resort. Seven years later, many viewed the U.S. triumph in the Gulf War as a vindication of this doctrine. Today, this way of thinking is known as the Powell Doctrine, in reference to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. In the aftermath of the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush gleefully declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”2

The Weinberger Doctrine continues to figure prominently in considerations of strategy today.3 Polls indicate that most Americans have soured on what politicians and pundits on both sides of the political spectrum derisively term forever wars.4 Scarred from the mixed results of the post-9/11 wars, many Americans would prefer a ticker tape standard: unless troops can return as victors in a welcome home parade, the war should not be fought. This is not a new articulation of strategy but, rather, sustains a storied tradition dating back centuries—namely, effective strategy is that which promotes clear desired endstates and then pursues these goals through decisive engagement. This tradition draws its roots from the military revolution of the Napoleonic era, and it remains a valuable foundation for strategic thought. However, the failure to recognize the limits of this doctrine persists and has led to confusion and frustration by citizens and policymakers alike.

The Next Step in Military AI Multilateralism

Michael Depp

As part of the deluge of new artificial intelligence (AI) policy documents surrounding the AI Safety Summit in November 2023, the United States released a long-awaited update to its Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy. The most momentous part of the update was the addition of new signatories that joined the United States in agreeing to the principles, including the U.K., Japan, Australia, Singapore, Libya, and the Dominican Republic. This document is not a binding treaty, nor is it a detailed framework for international regulation of military AI. It is, however, a blueprint for a growing consensus on military use of AI, one that will herald a safer and more stable use of this technology in international politics. To further this mission, the United States needs to continue to add more signatories to the declaration and push for consensus on the nuclear norms that were removed from the original version.


The political declaration is the United States’s attempt to set the tone for the debate on military AI and autonomy. It represents a positive American vision of international AI regulation in the face of numerous calls for an international regime. It also comes at the same time as renewed interest aimed at banning lethal autonomous weapons in the UN General Assembly and the resumption of the Group of Governmental Experts, which will discuss autonomous weapons in more detail. The United States has historically resisted full bans in favor of a softer approach of “responsible use,” which the document attempts to concretely outline in advance of these upcoming conversations.

A first draft of the declaration, released in February 2023 to much fanfare, essentially restated the principles from other U.S. policy documents as protonorms. The document itself was a good blueprint for how to responsibly use AI and autonomy, but its main failing was that the United States was largely speaking alone. Not a single other nation signed on to it publicly. For the United States to be a global AI leader, someone had to be in its camp, and that was, at least publicly, not so when the document was released.