10 April 2024

Belt & Road: Chinese techno-nationalism in Maldives


Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony for President of the Republic of Maldives Mohamed Muizzu in the Northern Hall of the Great Hall of the People prior to their talks in Beijing, capital of China, January 10, 2024. Photo: Xinhua / Ding Haitao

The Maldives’ recent turn toward China and away from India has boosted Beijing’s long-term push for regional control and disrupted New Delhi’s ambition to match Chinese strategic competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific.

On March 12, the Maldives began setting in motion the expulsion of Indian troops on the archipelago, ordered by President Mohamed Muizzu.

As China-Maldives diplomatic alignments strengthen, so also does China’s reach across the contentious Indian Ocean Region, meaning Beijing is well on its way to becoming regional overseer.

China’s expansive Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013, presents Beijing as the Indo-Pacific’s dominant power, with the Maldives having been one of the first countries to join.

Drone Strikes on Myanmar Military Capitol Signify Deteriorating Situation

David Scott Mathieson

Myanmar’s civil war entered a dramatic new phase late last week with an attack by multiple drones against the capital Naypyidaw. An estimated 23 fixed-wing drones targeted the military headquarters and the air force runway at Naypyidaw airport, and reportedly also targeted the residence of the head of the State Administration Council (SAC), Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

While the military impact apparently was negligible, the impact is likely a psychological blow for the regime. Months of battlefield losses for the military have followed the rebels’ major Operation 1027 offensive in Northern Shan State, robust insurgent gains in Arakan, Karen, and Karenni State with Operation 1111, with the loss of some 50 towns, scores of bases of various sizes, hundreds of soldiers killed and captured. Foreign backing for the regime has continued to peel away, especially with Beijing having gone neutral, with only Moscow continuing to provide support.

For the junta to have its inner sanctum violated so dramatically delivers a symbolic shock wave that supersedes its military value. By one count, more than 300 bases and towns in total have been wrested from military control by anti-junta forces since the 2021 coup, including crucial border crossings. Residents of Yangon, which remains the commercial capital of the country, have told Asia Sentinel they are afraid of venturing outside the city.

The Ministry of Defense of the opposition National Unity Government, formed by the rebels in the wake of the junta’s February 2021 military coup, claimed responsibility for the attack several hours afterwards. In a brief statement, the rebels claimed that “Special Force units of the People's Defense Force, alongside Shar Htoo Waw's Kloud Drone Team, targeted the military headquarters. Similarly, the Special Forces of the People's Defense Force (PDF) and the Shar Htoo Waw's Lethal Prop Weapon Team launched attacks on Alar Air Base.” There are unconfirmed reports that a number of officers were injured in the attack on the military HQ.

Chinese hackers are using AI to inflame social tensions in US, Microsoft says

Jonathan Greig

Beijing-linked influence operations have begun to use generative artificial intelligence to amplify controversial domestic issues in places like the U.S. and Taiwan, according to new research.

The campaigns mainly used the technology to create visual content designed to spark conflict ahead of elections, a report published by Microsoft on Thursday found.

AI-generated audio clips featuring a prominent Taiwanese presidential candidate, for example, were posted across social media in an attempt to sway voters to the candidate preferred by Beijing. Although YouTube quickly removed the content before it could reach large numbers of users, the posts illustrated the ability of governments to spin up fake content about practically anything.

“This was the first time that Microsoft Threat Intelligence has witnessed a nation state actor using AI content in attempts to influence a foreign election,” the researchers said.

The same Chinese group has also created a slate of new content featuring AI-generated news anchors and used other AI-created videos to harass Canadian politicians last year.

The fake content is promoted through a network of 175 websites in more than 58 languages and often covers high-profile geopolitical events — especially ones that paint the United States in a negative light.

WWIII could start over Philippines dispute in South China Sea, China 'not respecting' treaties, expert says

Peter Aitken 

Fox News chief national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports on China’s growing aggression in the South China sea.

Beijing warned that World War III could break out in the South China Sea as it increasingly shifts its attention to the Philippines, with territorial disputes driving tensions ever higher.

"Although we have a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, China is not respecting it," Gordon Chang, a China expert and fellow at the Gatestone Institute, told Fox News Digital.

"It was twice last month, on the 5th and the 29th, that the State Department issued written warnings to China that we were prepared to use force to discharge our obligations pursuant to article four of the U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," Chang explained. "That's a warning that we are prepared to go to war."

First reported by MEMRI's China Media Studies Project, the state-owned and -operated news outlet China Daily earlier this week published an op-ed titled "Manila must be warned against horrors of war" by Yang Xiao, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Biden Gaza policy helps China, hurts US interests


A March 25 Security Council cease-fire resolution highlighted once again the vast gap between the US and China on Israel’s war on Gaza. US officials were quick to note that the Biden administration considered the resolution “non-binding” – which China quickly contradicted, pointing to the UN charter.

Nearly six months into Israel’s war on Gaza, US policy in the Middle East is not only damaging its interests in the region but providing substantial geopolitical benefits to China, despite Beijing’s lack of substantive engagement to foster peace. In Washington, competition with China is generally considered the principal US foreign policy challenge. But US Middle East policy is undermining this strategic priority.

In a recent interview, a State Department official who resigned over US policy toward Gaza asked why support for Israel seen as more important than “very significant priorities” such as competition with China, protecting human rights and dealing with climate change.

If Washington is serious about competing with China, it must reconsider and refashion its relationship with Israel and, accordingly, its broader posture in the Middle East.

As in the case of the war in Ukraine, Beijing is pleased that Washington is devoting so much attention to the war in Gaza, leaving less bandwidth to focus on flashpoints in the Indo-Pacific such as Taiwan and the South China Sea. But it’s within the broader geopolitical struggle for influence that the war in Gaza has been a boon for China.

Into the Breach: Countering Chinese Digital Espionage in Routers

Joshua Levine 

For anyone following the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) actions related to digital technology, the specter that Chinese companies could be leveraged to conduct intelligence activities has been ever-present. National security officials and researchers have highlighted how Chinese laws require domestic firms to assist the CCP in national security or counter-espionage operations, with no limit on what that cooperation can entail. These laws empower the CCP to turn any domestic firm’s product into a trojan horse for its malign operations.

The threat of domestic Chinese technology companies bolstering the CCP’s military and intelligence capabilities has prompted congressional responses on several occasions. The first instance involved Huawei and ZTE, Chinese telecommunications firms with ties to the CCP’s military apparatus, leading to laws preventing the purchase or use of their equipment within U.S. telecommunications networks. Vulnerabilities and potential backdoors into technology used by government agencies, including the Department of Defense, were uncovered in drones manufactured by DJI, a Chinese company, leading to their addition to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List. Similar concerns about cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been raised around ZPMC, a Chinese state-owned crane manufacturer, prompting an investigation into the firm. Most recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7521 to mitigate potential security threats posed by TikTok, the popular social media platform owned by Chinese firm ByteDance. Now, another link in the chain that sustains internet connectivity is drawing attention: routers.

Recent reporting and government disclosures have highlighted how CCP digital espionage operations are targeting vulnerabilities in routers in Europe and the United States. Routers are devices that serve as hubs for directing data traffic within and between networks. When you connect to a wireless network at home, work, or school, that connection is facilitated and managed by a router. Insecurities within routers can allow hackers to install malware within networks that can go undetected for years, allowing for remote access, information gathering, and other forms of cyber espionage.

China Proved Way Back in 2007 It Could Sink U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers

Brandon J. Weichert

Summary: In 2007, a Chinese Song-class diesel submarine showcased its stealth by surfacing within torpedo range of the USS Kitty Hawk during a US Navy exercise, demonstrating the vulnerabilities of American naval power. This event, along with China's destruction of a satellite, signaled its growing military capabilities, particularly in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategies and advanced torpedo technology. Despite incidents where both nuclear and non-nuclear submarines have successfully "sunk" US carriers in simulations, the US continues to invest heavily in aircraft carriers without adequate countermeasures against such threats. China's development of advanced torpedoes and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), alongside the over-budget and problematic Ford-class carriers, suggest that the US might be maintaining an outdated model of naval power, overlooking the shifting dynamics of modern naval warfare and the rising capabilities of adversaries like China.

China's Military Advancements: A Growing Threat to US Aircraft Carriers

In 2007, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deployed one of its old Song-class diesel submarines to stalk a US Navy carrier battle group that was conducting a massive military exercise near China’s shores.

The Chinese submarine did something unbelievable.

As the US Navy battle group was going about its business, the crews of her expensive and sophisticated warships all comfortable in the knowledge that they had the best onboard defenses that US tax dollars could buy—and no one in Asia would be crazy enough to dare come close to them while at sea—the Chinese Song-class submarine surfaced within visual (and, therefore, torpedo) range of the battle group’s flagship, the USS Kitty Hawk.

Secretive Chinese military advancements 'could pose threat' to US


China's military is currently undergoing clandestine "progress in modernization" under the leadership of Xi Jinping who wants to thrust his troops into 21st century warfare.

Xi previously announced that he would see to a significant overhaul of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to ensure they are prepared for modern combat, including in areas of space, cyber, intelligence, and electronic warfare.

Experts have begun warning of the secrecy with which this is being conducted and how it could become a "problem" for the US, which is unaware of its adversary's "deficiencies."

Alessio Patalano, an expert in East Asian warfare and author of Postwar Japan as a Seapower, said the PLA has a "transparency problem" as it conducts its "investment and modernization" in secret.

He told Daily Express US: "There is a transparency problem. There is far less transparency in China about its investment and progress in modernization than there is in the US, making it harder to place our deficiencies against theirs."

In the shadow war with Iran, Biden just scored an unheralded victory

Max Boot

Iran and its proxy groups did not launch an all-out assault against Israel and its allies, as Hamas leaders might have hoped, following Hamas’s brutal Oct. 7 incursion into Israel. But Hezbollah, which is trained and armed in Lebanon by Iran, did intensify its rocket attacks on northern Israel; the Houthis in Yemen did begin attacking shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with drones and missiles; and other Iranian-backed proxy groups targeted U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Syria with a barrage of missile and drone strikes.

That semi-covert Iranian campaign reached a dangerous turning point on Jan. 28, when a drone launched by a Tehran-backed militia struck a small U.S. base in Jordan, known as Tower 22, killing three U.S. service members and wounding dozens more. Iran had crossed a U.S. red line. How would Washington respond?

Republican hawks came out in full-throated cry demanding that the U.S. military “strike targets of significance inside Iran” (Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina) or even “Target Tehran” (Sen. John Cornyn of Texas). We don’t know what would have happened if President Biden had taken the senators’ rash advice, but it might have led to a larger war between the United States and Iran.

Luckily, Biden, with his decades of foreign policy experience, chose a more prudent path — but one that still represented a considerable escalation beyond ineffectual U.S. responses to earlier strikes against American bases that had not produced any fatalities.

On Feb. 2, U.S. forces dropped more than 125 precision munitions on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and its affiliated militia groups. The U.S. Air Force even deployed giant B-1 bombers that flew all the way from the continental United States. According to U.S. Central Command: “The facilities that were struck included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, rockets, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicle storage, and logistics and munition supply chain facilities of militia groups and their IRGC sponsors who facilitated attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces.”

The Iran-Israel Quasi-War in Syria

Since the terror attacks of October 7, which led to the massacre of over 1,100 Israeli citizens, the general assumption was that Israel, for the foreseeable future, would focus its attention on Gaza. By diverting its attention from the strip to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, Israel enabled Hamas to conduct such an operation in the first place. Although Israel’s army is conducting a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, its military has not overlooked other hostile fronts. Since the beginning of the conflict with Hamas, Israel has engaged in exchanges with Hezbollah and targeted Iran-backed positions in Syria. While tensions with Hezbollah have relatively de-escalated, it appears that Israel has intensified its attacks in Syria against Iran.

On March 29, Israel conducted one of its deadliest attacks in Syria, striking a facility in southern Aleppo, culminating in the death of forty individuals. Three days later, in an unorthodox move, Israel bombed the Iranian embassy in Damascus, killing seven military officers, including three senior commanders, according to the Iranian government.

The question then arises as to why Israel would risk opening a new front while its military campaign in Gaza is far from concluded. Although this behavior may seem ill-calculated, Israel’s rationale is quite understandable for various reasons.

First, it’s essential to recognize that one of the main reasons Israel was caught off guard by the Hamas attacks was that its attention was diverted to other fronts. Subsequently, Israeli concerns that the war in Gaza might provide Iran and its wide range of proxies with an opportunity to strengthen their presence in Syria are off the mark. Shortly after the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, many sources indicated that Iran was planning to enhance Syria’s aerial defense by deploying the Khordad-15, an advanced medium-to-high-altitude air defense missile system. This system, somewhat resembling the U.S. military’s Patriot system, can engage up to six fighter-jet-sized targets simultaneously from a range of 120 kilometers. Such developments could be quite alarming for Israel, as at the same time, reports suggested that Russia’s Wagner PMC was planning to deliver the Pantsir, a point-defense system, to Hezbollah. Combining the Khordad-15 and Pantsir defense systems could pose severe challenges to Israel’s Air Force.

Israel is pulling some troops from southern Gaza. Now the plan is to clear Hamas from Rafah


JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s military announced Sunday it had withdrawn its forces from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, wrapping up a key phase in its ground offensive against the Hamas militant group and bringing its troop presence in the territory to one of the lowest levels since the six-month war began.

But defense officials said troops were merely regrouping as the army prepares to move into Hamas’ last stronghold, Rafah. “The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” said the military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.

Local broadcaster Channel 13 TV reported that Israel was preparing to begin evacuating Rafah within one week and the process could take several months.

Still, the withdrawal was a milestone as Israel and Hamas marked six months of fighting. Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under army policy, said a “significant force” remained in Gaza to continue targeted operations including in Khan Younis, hometown of the Hamas leader, Yehya Sinwar.

AP video in Khan Younis showed some people returning to a landscape marked by shattered multistory buildings and climbing over debris. Cars were overturned and charred. Southern Gaza’s main hospital, Nasser, was in shambles.

“It’s all just rubble,” a dejected Ahmad Abu al-Rish said. “Animals can’t live here, so how is a human supposed to?”

Massive container ship loses power near NYC’s Verrazzano Bridge days after Baltimore Key Bridge disaster

Chris Nesi

A massive container ship lost propulsion power in the waters around New York City and was brought to a rest near the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge Friday night — less than two weeks after failure on another massive cargo vessel caused it to smash into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The US Coast Guard confirmed that its Vessel Traffic Service received a report that the 89,000-ton M/V APL Qingdao lost propulsion about 8:30 p.m. as it traversed the Kill Van Kull — the shipping lane between Staten Island and Bayonne, New Jersey.

An image shared on X by John Konrad, CEO of maritime-focused news outlet gCaptain, shows the 1,100-foot APL Qingdao floating uncomfortably close to the span that connects Brooklyn and Staten Island.

BREAKING: A NY tugboat captain has reported to @gCaptain “container ship APL QINGDAO lost power while transiting New York harbor. They had 3 escort tugs but 3 more were needed to bring her under control. They regained power & were brought to anchor near the verrazano bridge” pic.twitter.com/Z2IP04xmLs— John Ʌ Konrad V (@johnkonrad) April 7, 2024

In response to the power failure, three tugboats that were escorting the APL Qingdao guided the vessel until it regained propulsion a short time later.

The vessel was brought to a position just north of the bridge, where it anchored.

“Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service New York received a report from the M/V APL Qingdao around 8:30pm, Friday, that the vessel had experienced a loss of propulsion in the Kill Van Kull waterway. The vessel regained propulsion and was assisted to safely anchor in Stapleton Anchorage, outside of the navigable channel just north of the Verrazano Bridge, by three towing vessels,” the Coast Guard said.

Ukraine’s unconventional drone tactics offer Taiwan defence hope, but has it been too slow to adapt?

Liu Zhen

Ukraine’s drones have taken a heavy toll on Russian ships and ports, offering valuable lessons in asymmetrical warfare

While sea control may be gained without stronger warships, Taiwan’s defence industry still relies heavily on US support

Over the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the battle for control at sea has repeatedly tilted in Kyiv’s favour. Without warships of its own, Ukraine has sunk or disabled several vessels from the vaunted Russian navy using only drones. Has the conflict signalled a new era in battle tactics, and are there lessons for Taiwan?
Asymmetrical warfare

Remote-controlled unmanned boats were first used in warfare in World War II. In the decades since, many countries have advanced the technology.

Now, maritime drones are widely considered as a game changer in naval battles as observers watch Ukraine’s successes in hitting the Russian Black Sea Fleet – despite the fact the country had lost almost all of its surface vessels when Russia occupied Crimea in 2014.

Since the war broke out in 2022, Ukraine claims to have sunk or damaged 24 surface ships and one submarine – a third of the Russian fleet – with many of the attacks carried out by its sea drones. The latest hit was in early March when naval drones sank Russia’s newest patrol ship, the Sergei Kotov.

Hamas’s Feud With Palestinian Rivals Adds to Doubts Over Gaza’s Postwar Future

Omar Abdel-Baqui

Much of the friction dates back to 2007, when Hamas forcibly ousted Fatah, the party that controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, from Gaza after winning legislative elections. 

RAMALLAH, West Bank—Signs of a civil conflict between Hamas and its Palestinian rivals are beginning to build, raising far-reaching questions about what a postwar government in Gaza might look like—and how long it might last.

Hamas late last month detained several Palestinian Authority officials in Gaza and tried to prevent an aid convoy overseen by Palestinian Authority staff from traveling in the enclave, accusing them of working with Israel in the first standoff between the two groups since the Oct. 7 attacks that triggered the war. Hamas also said it would set out to arrest more people affiliated with the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

Meanwhile Fatah, the party that controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, last week issued a rare public rebuke of Iran, one of Hamas’s primary funders and supporters. It said it rejects Tehran’s attempts to dictate what happens in the region while also criticizing the creeping influence of other foreign powers in Palestinian affairs.

The spat is a sign of the deep-seated animosity between Hamas and Fatah and how it might complicate any attempt to establish a new administration in Gaza once Israel concludes its military campaign in the strip, now entering its seventh month.

Much of the friction between the two dates back to 2007, when Hamas forcibly ousted Fatah from Gaza after winning legislative elections in the Palestinian territories the year before. Since then the split has widened, with the hard-line Islamists of Hamas periodically accusing the largely secular, Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank of working with Israel and the West.

Inside Donald Trump’s secret, long-shot plan to end the war in Ukraine

Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Michael Birnbaum

Former president Donald Trump has privately said he could end Russia’s war in Ukraine by pressuring Ukraine to give up some territory, according to people familiar with the plan. Some foreign policy experts said Trump’s idea would reward Russian President Vladimir Putin and condone the violation of internationally recognized borders by force.

Trump’s proposal consists of pushing Ukraine to cede Crimea and the Donbas border region to Russia, according to people who discussed it with Trump or his advisers and spoke on the condition of anonymity because those conversations were confidential. That approach, which has not been previously reported, would dramatically reverse President Biden’s policy, which has emphasized curtailing Russian aggression and providing military aid to Ukraine.

As he seeks a return to power, the presumptive Republican nominee has frequently boasted that he could negotiate a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine within 24 hours if elected, even before taking office. But he has repeatedly declined to specify publicly how he would quickly settle a war that has raged for more than two years and killed tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians.

Trump-aligned foreign-policy thinkers have emphasized addressing threats to U.S. interests from China and seeking ways to reverse Russia’s increasing dependence on China for military, industrial and economic assistance. They have also embraced limiting NATO expansion.

Privately, Trump has said that he thinks both Russia and Ukraine “want to save face, they want a way out,” and that people in parts of Ukraine would be okay with being part of Russia, according to a person who has discussed the matter directly with Trump.

For Israel’s war in Gaza, vengeance is a downward spiral

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley

The international community and many Israelis have come to the conclusion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to remain in power.

No matter what.

No matter that his attempts to undermine the independence of the judiciary brought demonstrators out night after night to try to protect Israel’s democracy, and undermined military order as soldiers threatened to boycott duty in protest.

No matter that under his leadership the state of Israel failed its most basic responsibility on October 7, 2023: to protect its citizens.

In response to that attack, the prime minister promised “vengeance” and laid out three priorities:Crush Hamas.
Bring the hostages home.
Ensure no terrorism can be launched from Gaza in the future.

Many observers view these priorities as nearly impossible to achieve through the methods he has used so far to conduct this war. But his methods help ensure his longevity if elections remain delayed until the war is “won.”

The prime minister said from the start that the war would take months. Nearly six months of steady bombing and destruction in the Gaza Strip has had unimaginable results: Many Americans are now questioning whether the war constitutes a genocide and are certain of the use of collective punishment, as US public opinion turns against Israel’s conduct.

One definition of vengeance is “a downward spiral of pain and betrayal.”

Congress needs answers before sending more aid to Ukraine


Many are seeing the current impasse over the future of U.S. aid to Ukraine as the ultimate manifestation of congressional dysfunction. Following several attempts, the Senate in February passed a $95 billion bill that includes most of the Biden administration’s previous requests, minus border funding. That bill sits in limbo in the House, with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who, while signaling he wants a vote on it, has so far been unwilling to bring it to the floor.

Last month House Democrats introduced an arcane “motion to discharge” petition, which could allow supporters to bring the bill to a vote if 218 members agree. While 191 have signed the petition, the odds of finding another 27 appear daunting, given the number of progressive Democrats who oppose military assistance for Israel, and opposition by Republicans to bypassing the Speaker.

This situation — while distressing to the Ukrainians, and it seems, the foreign policy establishment — presents an opportunity to reestablish some measure of congressional control, if only in a limited area. Members of Congress wary of presidential overreach and endless military intervention can use this delay to push the administration to define its strategy for Ukraine more transparently. Such a definition is essential for Congress, and the voters they represent, to evaluate the total costs, in treasure and risk of escalation, of our current policy.

A common task for government bureaucrats is drafting responses to congressional questions for the record sent to their agencies. These QFRs range from in-the-weeds clarifications of budgets to essentially rhetorical questions on why a particular senior administration official is clueless, and everything in between. The best QFRs can cause policymakers to question some of their assumptions. Since the Ukraine war began, the administration's statements have been opaque, often contradictory, and sometimes lacking in elementary logic. We are past the point where the American people deserve straight answers on where this war is going, what our real critical interests are, and how we can best achieve them.

Israel is braced for a second warThe northern threat hangs over the nation

Nicole Lampert

The loud “baa” of a curious sheep feels ridiculously, laughably incongruous; the only other sounds are the bone-shaking booms of the IDF and Hezbollah exchanging artillery in the near distance. Before you join the road to Kibbutz Metzuba, just over a mile from the 30-foot wall that signals the border with Lebanon, a yellow sign warns of the danger of anti-tank missiles. But it is not just tanks they hit: in January, a mother and her son were killed as they drove home to pick up some of their belongings.

Standing proudly on the greenest part of a mainly arid land, the orchards here are filled with avocado and banana trees, their fruit lying unpicked or decomposing on the ground. One labourer from the area who dared to stay was recently shot from inside Lebanon; it is not worth the risk. Since October 7, 18 Israelis — 11 of them IDF — have been killed on this border, while 70,000 of its residents are now refugees in their own country. “Everyone from here has been evacuated,” Moshe Davidovich, a local mayor, tells me. “As you can see, it is an empty and sad place.”

Six months on, while all eyes in the West are on Gaza and the fall-out from Israel’s relentless war to oust Hamas, in the Holy Land there is more concern about what will happen on its northern border. For Israel is fighting a war on six fronts; in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank, as well as against the Houthis, the threat from Syria, and the even greater threat from Iran. On Thursday, anticipating retaliation following the killing of Iranian generals in Damascus, the IDF halted all leave. And nowhere are its fears more pronounced than in the north. How long, many wonder, until one of its daily skirmishes erupts into a full-blown war?

Until October 7, drones and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) rarely troubled Israel’s defences. But Hezbollah has plenty of them — enough, it turns out, to bypass the Iron Dome. Some come with bombs; others take photographs; a few are on “suicide missions” charged with causing as much damage as they can. Sometimes they are sent to simply hover and goad, a menace intended to cause chaos on the ground.

Macron the Hawk Why Europe Should Follow France’s Lead on Ukraine

Célia Belin

Speaking in Prague in early March, Emmanuel Macron warned Europeans that now was not the time to be “cowardly.” This comment came just a week after a conference on Ukraine in Paris, during which the French president told a reporter that the prospect of sending Western troops to Ukraine should not be “excluded.” Europeans, he said, will “do everything that we must so that Russia does not win.” The remarks proved controversial and irritated several allies. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pushed back, distancing himself from Macron’s pronouncements. Leaders in Greece, Spain, Sweden, and the United States also clarified that

Holy War: Red Cows, Gaza and the End of the World

Matthew Tostevin

It is said that this is where the world began—and perhaps where it will end.

The true epicenter of the war in the Holy Land is not the devastated Gaza Strip, under Israeli assault since Hamas' bloody raid last October sparked the region's deadliest conflict in decades. It is a few dozen miles away in Jerusalem, at the holiest and most fiercely contested hilltop on Earth. The war has increased religious tensions and given new impetus to a group of Jews and their evangelical Christian allies who are set on rebuilding an ancient temple where millennium-old Islamic shrines now stand—a suggestion that arouses the horror not only of Palestinians and Muslims worldwide, but of many Jews in Israel and around the globe as well as that of would-be Middle East peacemakers.

Third Temple advocates have been preparing for the day when the temple can be rebuilt, complete with rabbinically-certified red cows shipped from Texas for use in sacrificial purification rituals. The architectural designs are all ready, along the lines of the detailed Biblical descriptions. Robes have been woven and utensils assembled to Biblical specifications for ceremonies at the planned temple.

Who Still Believes in a Two-State Solution?

Martin Indyk

Martin Indyk has probably spent more time and energy than anyone else—certainly more than any other American—trying to find a path to peace among Israel, its neighbors, and the Palestinians. He’s worked on these issues for decades. Indyk served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from July 2013 to June 2014. He served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997, and again from 2000 to 2001. He also served as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1995 and as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the U.S. Department of State from 1997 to 2000.

He spoke to Foreign Affairs Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan on April 1. The conversation covers the prospect of a cease-fire in Gaza; how the Biden administration is, and is not, using its influence to shape Israeli actions; and the possibility that this terrible war could finally move both sides toward a two-state solution.

Why Hamas Attacked—and Why Israel Was Taken by Surprise,” An Interview With Martin Indyk

If you have feedback, email us at podcast@foreignaffairs.com.

The Foreign Affairs Interview is produced by Kate Brannen, Julia Fleming-Dresser, and Molly McAnany; original music by Robin Hilton. Special thanks to Grace Finlayson, Nora Revenaugh, Caitlin Joseph, Asher Ross, Gabrielle Sierra, and Markus Zakaria.

Six months on, how close is Israel to eliminating Hamas?

Merlyn Thomas & Jake Horton

It has been nearly six months since Hamas fighters broke through from Gaza into Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking hundreds hostage.

In response, Israel vowed to "crush and destroy Hamas" so that it no longer posed any threat, and to bring all the hostages home.

In the brutal war that has followed, at least 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and large parts of Gaza have been destroyed.

Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters and destroyed much of the vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza, which Hamas has used to carry out attacks.

BBC Verify has combed through public statements and social media posts by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and assessed the evidence behind Israel's stated aims.

How many Hamas leaders have been killed?

Before 7 October, Hamas was thought to have about 30,000 fighters in Gaza, according to reports quoting IDF commanders.

Many of Hamas's senior political figures such as Ismail Haniyeh, widely considered to be the group's overall leader, live abroad. But many of its military leadership structure are thought to be inside Gaza.

In a recent statement, the IDF said it had killed about 13,000 Hamas fighters since the start of the war, although it did not say how it calculated that figure.

Exclusive: Google Workers Revolt Over $1.2 Billion Contract With Israel


In midtown Manhattan on March 4, Google’s managing director for Israel, Barak Regev, was addressing a conference promoting the Israeli tech industry when a member of the audience stood up in protest. “I am a Google Cloud software engineer, and I refuse to build technology that powers genocide, apartheid, or surveillance,” shouted the protester, wearing an orange t-shirt emblazoned with a white Google logo. “No tech for apartheid!”

The Google worker, a 23-year-old software engineer named Eddie Hatfield, was booed by the audience and quickly bundled out of the room, a video of the event shows. After a pause, Regev addressed the act of protest. “One of the privileges of working in a company which represents democratic values is giving space for different opinions,” he told the crowd.

Three days later, Google fired Hatfield.

Hatfield is part of a growing movement inside Google that is calling on the company to drop Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract with Israel, jointly held with Amazon. The protest group, called No Tech for Apartheid, now has around 40 Google employees closely involved in organizing, according to members, who say there are hundreds more workers sympathetic to their goals. TIME spoke to five current and five former Google workers for this story, many of whom described a growing sense of anger at the possibility of Google aiding Israel in its war in Gaza. Two of the former Google workers said they had resigned from Google in the last month in protest against Project Nimbus. These resignations, and Hatfield’s identity, have not previously been reported.

Satellite Cybersecurity, Iran, And The Israel-Hamas War – OpEd

Sarah Katz

In light of Iran’s recent launch of three satellites into space, geopolitical concerns could increase surrounding the country’s intermittent threats toward the West and Israel amidst the post-October 7 Israel-Hamas war. Indeed, despite Tehran thus far avoiding direct involvement in the war, Iran has loomed via proxies such as Hamas and Yemen’s Houthi rebels to intimidate both Israel as well as the U.S. for its support of Israel. With Iranian nuclear and satellite capabilities on the rise, Israel and Western entities should remain watchful for potential indirect attempts to disrupt Israeli and Western equivalents, particularly for communication and surveillance hindrance purposes in the face of Israeli attacks on Iranian military personnel.

Alongside the obvious danger of attacks on government satellite systems, attacks on commercial satellites could also risk data loss. Such loss or theft could prove perilous in the hands of hacktivists and nation-state actors alike, including obstructed visibility into Iran’s nuclear activities. Further, for both federal and commercial systems, respectively, stolen defense-related data as well as the protected health information (PHI) of patients cared for by hospitals with affected satellites could be fatal.

In addition to the well-known distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and supply chain methods of attack used to overwhelm and infiltrate respectively, backdoor attacks present a more elusive attack that exploits vulnerabilities in aerospace systems. To explore this subject in greater depth, MIT-trained Assistant Professor at Cornell University’s Aerospace ADVERSARY Lab, Dr. Gregory Falco, LEED AP, was consulted. Dr. Falco detailed the following (text minimally revised for context):

Why Does Israel Need F-15EX Fighters?

David Wallace

Amidst Israel’s ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip and concerns over an increased Iranian role in the war, reports are emerging that Israel may acquire the new F-15EX soon. Following Israel’s bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Syria, serious questions must be raised concerning the operational intentions Israel has for this aircraft. An analysis of the fixed-wing combat aircraft of Israel’s primary adversaries in the region and an analysis of the ranges of the existing Israeli Air Force further illustrates the F-15EX’s purpose – to be able to conduct deep strike operations in a contested air environment.

The F-15EX, like the F-15, is an air superiority fighter with limited ground attack capabilities. The F-15EX is the latest upgrade of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas’ F-15 multi-role strike fighter which entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1976. As a result of the termination of the F-22 production line, the 116th U.S. Congress decided to procure 144 F-15EXs to add more air superiority fighters to the USAF fleet. The F-15EX can carry 12 AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and has next-generation electronic warfare systems that serve to enhance the survivability of the aircraft by jamming adversary systems.