15 April 2024

“Votes will not be counted”: Indian election disinformation ads and YouTube

To test YouTube’s treatment of election disinformation in India, Access Now and Global Witness submitted 48 advertisements in English, Hindi, and Telugu containing content prohibited by YouTube’s advertising and elections misinformation policies. YouTube reviews ad content before it can run, yet the platform approved every single ad for publication.

We withdrew the ads after YouTube’s approval and before they could be published, to ensure that they did not run on the platform and were not seen by any person using the site. The ad content included voter suppression through false information on changes to the voting age, instructions to vote by text message, and incitement to prevent certain groups from voting.

YouTube’s influence in the largest democratic exercise in history

In the coming weeks, India’s more than 900 million registered voters will decide how to vote in the country’s first general election since 2019. Social media is set to play a key part in this “largest democratic exercise in history”, as a vehicle both for electoral information as well as political campaigning. It must also contend with election disinformation seeking to undermine the integrity of the election process.

Of the major social media platforms, YouTube has taken on particular significance in India’s 2024 general election. Political parties and campaign managers have prioritised growing their user bases on the platform, including by purchasing advertisements and partnering with influencers. Given the combination of these interventions and the popularity of the platform for consuming content in India, recent reporting suggests the upcoming elections “depend on YouTube”.

The country is also of huge importance for YouTube, representing its largest market, with 462 million users, and a major source of future growth. The platform offers advertisers widespread reach in this vast user base.

Sandeep Shastri: Setting the Scene for India’s Elections

Shannon Tiezzi

India’s much-anticipated general elections are set to run from April 19 to June 1, 2024. During those 44 days, Indians will cast their ballots to determine whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) receive a third consecutive term in power – something that most analysts expect to happen. Despite a much-ballyhooed opposition alliance – with the catchy name of INDIA, short for the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance – the coalition has never fully meshed.

What will be foremost on the minds of Indian voters as they head to the polls, and how healthy is India’s democracy as it increasingly heads toward one-party rule? The Diplomat discussed these issues with Dr. Sandeep Shastri, a political scientist who is the pro vice chancellor of the Jain University and director of its Centre for Research in Social Sciences and Education (CERSSE).

Shastri noted that both Hindutva and caste identities play a role in determining voter choices, but so do economic concerns. However, “economic factors seem to have greater salience when it comes to state elections than national elections,” he said.

While the inauguration of the Ram temple in January created much religious fervor in India, how important is it likely to be in influencing voter decisions?

Terrorist Attack in Russia and Islamic State Wilayat Khurasan’s Jihadist Propaganda

Source Link

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 41 Issue 10

Author: Giuliano Bifolchi

Executive Summary

On April 8th, 2024, the Al Azaim Foundation, the Islamic State Wilayat Khurasan’s media branch, released the Voice of Khurasan Issue 34 titled “The Bear Bewildered.” This publication analysed the recent terrorist attack in Moscow defined as a ‘retaliation’ and serves as a call to action aimed at mobilising the Muslim Ummah against perceived Western invasions and advocating for the restoration of the Caliphate.

By vilifying democratic systems, particularly in Bangladesh, the propaganda seeks to undermine faith in established governance structures and rally support for the Islamic State’s agenda.

The magazine defined the violent attack at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow a retaliatory measure against the perceived injustices perpetrated by the global coalition, particularly Russia. Through strategic messaging, the Islamic State aims to justify its violent actions and position itself as a defender of Islamic values against external threats.

The Voice of Khurasan Issue 34 – An Overview

The magazine comprises 83 pages of crafted jihadist propaganda, meticulously designed to convey the core messages and communication strategies of the Islamic State. Within its pages, the publication functions as a strategic instrument, highlighting the perceived injustices endured by Muslims and advocating for the establishment of the Caliphate.

Turkmenistan: A SWOT Analysis

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 41 Issue 5

SpecialEurasia OSINT Team

Turkmenistan, at the crossroads of civilisations, embodies a rich tapestry of history, geopolitics, and natural resources. From its ancient roots as a hub on the Silk Road to its modern-day status as a key player in the global energy market, centuries of conquests, trade, and geopolitical manoeuvring have shaped Turkmenistan’s journey.

This SWOT analysis delves into Turkmenistan’s geopolitical scenario, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, offering insights into the nation’s complex dynamics and future prospects.

Turkmenistan’s Geopolitical Scenario

Turkmenistan’s geopolitical significance stems from its strategic location in Central Asia, nestled between major powers and pivotal trade routes. Over the centuries, the region has been subject to the rule of various empires, from Persian to Russian, each leaving an indelible mark on its cultural landscape.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan emerged as an independent nation, reclaiming its historical legacy while navigating the complexities of modern geopolitics.

One of country’s primary geopolitical assets is its extensive reserves of natural gas, ranking it among the top four nations globally in terms of gas reserves. Turkmenistan’s wealth of resources has positioned it as a pivotal player in the global energy market, garnering strategic partnerships and investment from prominent nations, notably China.

The relationship between Turkmenistan and China is of particular significance, with Beijing emerging as the primary destination for Ashgabat’s natural gas exports. This partnership has deepened over the years, marked by the construction of gas pipelines and bilateral agreements aimed at bolstering economic cooperation. Turkmenistan’s integration into major trade routes, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), underscores its role as a nexus for regional trade and connectivity.

The US–Japan alliance: recalibration for a new era

Robert Ward

Greater agency for Japan in the US–Japan alliance 

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s state visit to the United States between 8 and 14 April was historic. Not only did Kishida address a joint session of the US Congress, becoming only the second Japanese prime minister to do so since Abe Shinzo’s address in 2015, but the visit also included the first trilateral leaders’ summit between Japan, the Philippines and the US and a US–Japan joint statement that in effect recalibrated the now more than 70-years-old bilateral security alliance. Kishida’s visit said much about how significantly Japan has itself changed in recent years in terms of its strategic posture, and it also highlighted Japan’s rapidly rising importance to the US, not only in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond.

The US–Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement is notably long, at over 5,000 words. This compares with just over 2,000 words for the statement issued after the summit between US President Joe Biden and prime minister Suga Yoshihide in April 2021, which was also the first held with a foreign leader in Biden’s presidency. This reflects not only the breadth of areas in which the US and Japan are now cooperating, from defence to economic security, but also an important shift of emphasis towards the practical implementation of functional changes to the relationship. One example of this is the bilateral ‘upgrade’ to ‘respective command and control networks’ to improve interoperability and to strengthen the alliance’s deterrence and response capabilities.

Relatedly, the joint statement underscores the increasing role played by Japan in the alliance in terms of its defence capabilities broadly, as well as in new domains such as space. This trend is not new. One can trace attempts to secure a greater role for Japan in the alliance back to prime minister Nakasone Yasuhiro’s push for ‘autonomous defence’ (jishu bōei ron) in the 1980s. But it was the upgrading of the Guidelines for US–Japan Defence Cooperation in 2015, which was enabled by prime minister Abe Shinzo’s reforms early in his 2012–20 administration, that accelerated the move to greater Japanese agency in the relationship. The joint statement speaks of ‘synchronising strategies’ between the US and Japan. This would not be possible without Japan being able to play a larger role in the relationship.

The Elephant in the Room: An Imminent Danger to the Japan-US Alliance

Yukari Easton

On April 11, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio became only the second Japanese prime minister to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Kishida’s speech was received positively, yet he surprised many with his bold statements.

While acknowledging the current challenges in the world and political climate in the United States, Kishida did not hold back in sharing his concerns. As he urged the United States to continue playing a leading role in the world, he made a thinly veiled criticism of the Republican members (“I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be”).

He also pledged Japan’s continued support to a democratic Ukraine in its fight against Russian expansionism: “Japan will continue to stand with Ukraine.”

While touching upon the Japan-U.S. alliance in a positive and forward-looking way, Kishida also chose to share his worries. “As I often say, Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow,” Kishida warned, while Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, who has been blocking a $95 billion aid package to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, looked on. “Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow?” the Japanese prime minister asked.

Instead of the traditional Japanese focus on soft stories denoting the former foes’ transition to allies, Kishida delivered a blunt assessment of the dangers that the alliance is facing. He went so far as to imply that counterforces to democracy are to be found within the United States. It showed Japan’s urgent concern about the forthcoming U.S. election in November.

As a leader whose country counts the United States as its sole ally, Kishida needed to frankly convey Japan’s worries in terms of the influence that former President Donald Trump, the de-facto Republican presidential nominee, exercises over the current GOP. Given that Trump dismantled traditional Republican foreign policy principles centered around building a strong and global U.S. presence, Kishida sees the upcoming election as much more than a case of traditional partisan policy differences.

Through New Trilateral Defense Partnership, Philippines Eyes More US, Japanese Investments

Jason Gutierrez

The Philippines stands to reap an economic windfall through a new security partnership with the U.S. and Japan that their leaders unveiled at a Washington summit Thursday, in seeking to dull the edge of China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific.

Joe Biden, the U.S. president, hosted Philippine and Japanese leaders Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Fumio Kishida at the White House in what was billed as an inaugural tripartite summit. It came on the heels of surging Chinese assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

As part of a joint statement outlining their collective vision for regional security, the three leaders announced plans for collaborating on economic projects in the Philippines, including developing an infrastructure and high-tech connectivity corridor on the main island of Luzon.

The three allies were careful to describe their new partnership as a defense cooperation pact in nature.

“We meet today as friends and partners, bound by a shared vision and pursuit of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” President Marcos said.

“It is a partnership, borne not out of convenience nor of expediency, but as a natural progression of a deepening relations and robust cooperation amongst our three nations, linked by a profound respect for democracy, good governance, and the rule of law.”

Marcos, the namesake son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, has steered his country back to close relations with the United States, its traditional ally, after those ties had cooled under his predecessor, who drew the Philippines closer to China.

Marcos said the summit was the culmination of cooperation by the three nations that had started even before the historic one-day meeting took place.

Security officials of the three nations already had been meeting to lay the foundation for “trilateral maritime exercises,” and the expansion of annual large-scale maritime exercises between the U.S. and the Philippines, he said.

Historic Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Being Moved To Make Way For Dam – Analysis

Pelbar, Tenzin Pema and Gai Tho

Authorities have begun relocating a 19th-century Tibetan Buddhist monastery in China that is expected to be submerged under water after the completion of the world’s tallest 3D-printed hydropower dam, two sources from the region told Radio Free Asia.

The expansion of the Yangqu hydropower station on the Yellow River – known as the Machu River among the Tibetans – in Qinghai province was started in 2022 and will be completed later this year.

For the past two years, monks from Atsok Gon Dechen Choekhorling Monastery in Dragkar county, or Xinghai in Chinese, have petitioned authorities to rescind relocation orders issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, or NDRC, a Tibetan source said, insisting on not being identified to protect his safety.

But in April 2023 the government’s Department of National Heritage declared that the artifacts and murals inside the monastery were of “no significant value or importance” and that its relocation would proceed, he said.

Chinese authorities have announced to local residents that they will fund the costs of dismantling and reconstructing the monastery, and performing ceremonies and rituals at the relocated area, the sources said.

However, many of the murals and surrounding stupas cannot be physically moved and so will be destroyed.

Tibetans also believe that the place is sacred: That it has been made holier over 135 years of prayers and practice by generations in the same venue.

Disregard for cultural heritage

The dam’s construction, Tibetans say, is yet another example of Beijing’s disregard for their culture, religion and environment.

Looking Ahead after a Year of Conflict in Sudan

Cameron Hudson

After a year of fighting, the situation inside Sudan is desperate. More than 8 million people, half of whom are children, are currently displaced across the country and the wider region. Half the population—25 million people—is experiencing food insecurity. The productive capacity of the country, from farms to factories, has been destroyed, leaving the economy in tatters. By the United Nations’ assessment, Sudan is both the largest displacement crisis and the biggest food crisis in the world today. But even by those grim measures, the situation for Sudan’s people and the wider region is poised to get far worse as fighting extends into a second year.

Anniversaries are typically a time for looking back. But if there is to be any hope to end the bloodshed and needless suffering after a year of war in Sudan, now is the time to look forward with clear eyes about what is at stake in the country and for the region—and perhaps most importantly, what the the international community can and must do before Sudan reaches “a point of no return.”

With much of Sudan’s agricultural land destroyed or fallow as farming communities remain displaced by fighting, this year’s harvest will be Sudan’s worst in a generation. At the same time, both Sudan’s army and its rival, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia, continue to block and destroy international humanitarian assistance, respectively, that might have staved off a worst-case scenario. Save the Children, the global response charity, warns that “230,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers could die in the coming months due to hunger,” far eclipsing battlefield deaths in the conflict.

Regional Impact

The impact on the region from Sudan’s prolonged conflict is no less stark. A recent U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence assessment previewed the risks if Sudan is left on its current course, noting that “Prolonged conflict heightens the risks of conflict spreading beyond Sudan’s borders, external actors joining the fray, and civilians facing death and displacement,” which could lead Sudan to “once again become an ideal environment for terrorist and criminal networks.”

Can The US And Iraq Move Beyond Military Ties? – Analysis

James Durso

Twenty-one years ago, the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq in the erroneous belief that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction and was allied with al-Qaida, the terror group responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

The U.S. created an occupation authority, but failed to restore order and helped spawn the insurgency that bedeviled it by dismissing the entire Iraqi military and the most experienced civil servants. Coalition troops fought a losing battle, regained their footing with the 2007 troop surge, and finally departed in 2011. U.S. troops returned in 2014 to fight the Islamic State and they remain there to this day, though ISIS was largely eliminated by 2019.

In January 2020, Iraq’s parliament voted on a nonbinding measure to remove the U.S. troops from Iraq, but the Americans remain at the request of the Iraqi government. However, in response to the parliament’s 2020 vote, Iraq and the International Coalition changed the mission of the troops from a combat mission to one of advisory and training.

Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, will meet U.S. President Joe Biden on April 15, primarily to discuss the U.S. troop presence.

Though the U.S.-Iraq Higher Military Commission is reviewing the troop presence issue, will the U.S. side stall fearing it may have to agree to a smaller presence and constrained operations? Possibly, so Sudani may want a public commitment from Biden to force the march to a constructive, timely decision.

Aside from the troops issue, Sudani wants to strengthen Baghdad’s ties with Washington, which he considers Iraq’s top bilateral relationship, and to add an economic dimension to Iraq’s ties with America.

When Americans think of Iraq in economic terms it’s all about the oil, but in November 2023 ExxonMobil, America’s biggest oil company, exited Iraq with nothing to show for a decade-long effort. The departure will lower the expectation of other U.S. companies, but Sudani wants to revitalize economic ties, and he will be accompanied by many of the country’s top businessmen.

Don’t Abandon Iraq

Mina Al-Oraibi

Most Iraqi prime ministers serving in the past two decades have at some point asked the U.S. military to leave their country. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made the first public call for a U.S. withdrawal in 2005, followed by Nouri al-Maliki in 2008, Adel Abdul-Mahdi in 2020, and Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the current incumbent, in December 2023. For much of this period, these requests have originated with the Iranian-backed Islamist militia groups operating in Iraq, which have pushed the country’s political leaders to demand a drawdown of U.S. forces.

Iran’s Strategic Patience Dilemma

Hilal Khashan

Iran faces a dilemma in the wake of the Israeli attack last week on its consulate in Damascus, which killed seven senior officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It’s under pressure at home to respond to the strike but is concerned about the possibility of igniting a broader conflict. The escalation comes amid repeated direct attacks on Iranian targets that could weaken its regional power. Over the past few months, Israel has been stepping up attacks on Iranian assets, specifically in Syria. Since October, the rules of engagement between Israel and Iran’s so-called axis of resistance have tilted in Israel’s favor. Israel’s military does not believe that Iran will launch a direct military strike in retaliation for the Damascus attack, but it has taken exceptional precautions by calling up air force reservists and canceling military leaves. The assumption is that Iran will bide its time and pursue a policy of “strategic patience.”

Patience as Policy

In 2015, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was the first to articulate a policy of strategic patience. Obama stressed that the United States’ unique set of challenges required perseverance and used this policy to pursue goals related to democracy, human rights, energy security, climate and nuclear security.

The U.S. applied this strategy in dealing with North Korea by maintaining political dialogue with Pyongyang while keeping open the option of military action. China has also used it with Taiwan, as Beijing awaits the right time to reunite the island with the mainland. In both cases, the United States and China can impose their conditions on their opponents, even though they prefer not to antagonize them. By definition, this concept can be used only by countries that enjoy a surplus of military power over their opponents and have other options but prefer to exhaust diplomatic means before resorting to decisive military force.

Iran, however, cannot prevail over the United States and Israel. It instead uses its regional agents to distract its opponents, pushing them to recognize it as a legitimate partner in managing the region’s affairs while falsely asserting that they are independent in making their decisions.

UK competition watchdog has 'real concerns' over big tech AI dominance

Chris Vallance

Big tech's dominance of the rapidly developing artificial intelligence (AI) market is a matter of "real concern", the competition regulator has warned.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is looking into the new breed of powerful AI tools - foundation models.

They include text and image generators, such as ChatGPT.

The CMA found an "interconnected web" of AI partnerships involving the same firms: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, and chip-maker Nvidia.

"When we started this work, we were curious. Now, with a deeper understanding and having watched developments very closely, we have real concerns," Sarah Cardell, the chief executive of the CMA said.

"The essential challenge we face is how to harness this immensely exciting technology for the benefit of all, while safeguarding against potential exploitation of market power and unintended consequences."

Ms Cardell delivered the warning in a speech on Thursday in Washington.

The CMA said that a small number of incumbent technology firms - already powerful in the most important digital markets - were also now taking the lead with foundation models.

Trained on vast amounts of data, they underpin tools which are transforming workplaces and other aspects of modern life.

DragonFire: UK laser could be used against Russian drones on Ukraine front line

Ian Casey and Jonathan Beale, defence correspondent

A UK high-power laser weapon could be sent to Ukraine to take down Russian drones, the defence secretary says.

According to Grant Shapps, the weapon could have "huge ramifications" for the conflict in Europe.

The DragonFire weapon is expected to be rolled out by 2027, but Mr Shapps said he wanted to "speed up" production and make it available sooner.

It follows a successful trial of the laser, carried out against an aerial target for the first time in January.

The laser was originally expected to be operational by 2032, but new reforms intended to speed up government procurement of weapons mean that it will now be ready five years earlier.

Despite this, the defence secretary told reporters while on a visit to Porton Down military research centre near Salisbury that he wanted to speed this up even further.

"Let's say that it didn't have to be 100% perfect in order for Ukrainians perhaps to get their hands on it," he said.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) says the faster timetable comes in response to the "rapidly changing threat environment" faced by the UK.

"It's designed to not wait until we have this at 99.9% perfection before it goes into the field, but get it to sort of 70% and then get it out there and then develop it from there," Mr Shapps said.

Ukraine war: How to check Russia’s momentum


To the dismay of many in Ukraine and beyond, Russia has proven more resilient and adaptive than its performance in the early days of the war indicated. I recently returned from my latest visit to Ukraine, where I spoke with government and military officials as well as think tanks and journalists. The most important insight from my visit was confirmation that Russia now has the strategic momentum in the war.

Russia has recovered psychologically from the shock of its early failures. The Russian president and his government now possess a renewed sense of optimism about the trajectory of Russian operations. The Russian military in the past two years has undertaken a transformation in its warfighting capability, something that it should have completed, but did not, in the preceding decade of reform. Russia’s defence industry has significantly increased the output of military materiel while also exploiting Cold War stockpiles and regenerating moth-balled factories.

Russia began the war with maximal objectives but without the military capacity to achieve them. Now, it appears capable of generating the human, materiel and informational resources to subjugate Ukraine in a way it was not capable of when it began its large-scale invasion in February 2022.

Both sides have demonstrated an ability to learn and adapt. Ukraine has arguably shown a superior capacity to undertake tactical or bottom-up adaptation. This has seen it generate an advantage in areas such as drones. Russia has proven superior in strategic adaptation, particularly in areas such as the mobilisation of people and expansion of its industrial output.

Russia is now a more dangerous adversary than it was two years ago. This calls for change in how the war is fought.

Hezbollah and its “Unity of Fronts” Strategy

Rany Ballout

Together with Iran-backed regional militias, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the Houthis in Yemen, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, and other smaller armed groups in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon forms Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance,” an informal alliance that Iran has built up across the Middle East since the inception of the Islamic Republic. Its objectives are to reduce and eliminate the United States’ presence in the Middle East and destroy Israel. Hezbollah has recently initiated its “unity of fronts” strategy to strengthen operational coordination among the various member militias within the axis of resistance and position battlefield capabilities to surround Israel’s borders in anticipation of future battles.

Amid persistent speculation of a sudden wider conflagration at the Lebanon-Israel border, Israel has shown readiness to undertake escalatory risks by conducting deeper strikes inside Lebanon and Syria and high-profile assassinations of senior commanders of Iran and its proxies. Hezbollah appears to be continuously reorienting its rhetoric surrounding its initiated “unity of fronts.” New arguments suggest that it is not only a military strategy but also an ideological, media, and spiritual strategy aimed at resisting any attempt to break its unity. This expanded rhetoric points to shifting propaganda, reflecting continuous efforts to strengthen deliberations about the outcome of its ongoing fighting with Israel, as well as its strategic objective of winning the media battle.

These arguments came from Lebanese analyst and longtime Al Manar’s house commentator, Salem Zahran, who is considered one of the closest commentators to Hezbollah (and broadly the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad). In a recent interview with Al Mayadeen TV, Zahran elaborated on the “unity of fronts” strategy as part of his attempts to demonstrate its part in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war while underscoring the significance of winning the media battle against Israel and the United States. Zahran’s argument focused on what he claimed as Hezbollah’s successful psychological warfare in its historical conflict with Israel while portraying Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah as a master of psychological warfare.

Ukraine’s Three-Front War: Advancing Russians, Depleted Artillery, Exhausted Troops – Analysis

Mike Eckel

The column of Russian armored vehicles carefully approached Chasiv Yar from the east, threading its way along dirt roads, skirting patches of forest, and avoiding Ukrainian-laid minefields while dodging incoming drones and artillery.

The April 4 assault on the Donetsk region city was repelled, according to Ukrainian commanders, open-source intelligence, and reports from soldiers on the ground. But more troublingly for Ukraine’s beleaguered frontline troops was what the grainy black-and-white drone video released by Ukraine’s 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade showed: a potential weakness in Ukraine’s defense, hastily built in some cases, and smarter tactics by Russian forces than earlier in the invasion.

Chasiv Yar is slowly being wiped from the map as Russian jets drop heavy, guided bombs that flatten apartment blocks and elite airborne assault units edge into the city’s eastern outskirts.

Ukrainian forces are exhausted, starved for artillery shells, desperate for reinforcements and rotations, struggling to hold back Russia’s offensive in several locations across the 1,200-kilometer front line. After the loss of the bigger city of Avdiyivka in February, Chasiv Yar is the next crucible, for Ukraine’s troops and for the West’s will to arm and support them.

“The battle for Chasiv Yar…is a litmus test for both sides,” according to Frontelligence Insight, a Ukrainian open-source research organization run by a Ukrainian reserve officer that analyzed the 64th Brigade drone video. “If Ukraine were to lose control of Chasiv Yar, it could have dire consequences as it would provide a direct route for the Russian Army to advance towards key cities in the Donbas, such as Kostyantynivka and Kramatorsk.”

Chasiv Yar “is one of the hottest spots on the front line,” said Oleksiy Melnyk, a retired Ukrainian Air Force officer and former pilot, as Russia moves closer to the goal of occupying the entirety of the two eastern Ukrainian regions that make up the Donbas: Donetsk and Luhansk.

Hezbollah Launches Rockets, Drones Into Israel As US Warns Iran

Jeff Seldin

U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a stern, one-word warning to Iran on Friday as the world braced for Tehran to exact revenge for a deadly Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus, Syria.

“Don’t,” Biden said to reporters following a speech on domestic policy at an event in New York City.

“We are devoted to the defense of Israel,” the president said in response to questions from reporters. “We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel, and Iran will not succeed.”

Biden’s comments followed similar expressions of support from top U.S. defense and diplomatic officials over the past several days and come as the U.S. military takes steps to ensure growing hostilities between Israel and Iran do not engulf the Middle East in a wider war.

“We are moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase protection for U.S. forces,” a U.S. defense official told VOA Friday. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, declined to share additional details.

Even as U.S. officials warned Iran against seeking revenge, a key Iranian proxy sprang into action.

Lebanese Hezbollah late Friday fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said it detected about 40 rockets crossing from Lebanon into Israel, some of which were intercepted by air defense systems.

The IDF also said it was able to intercept two explosive drones that Hezbollah militants had used to target Israel earlier Friday.

It is unclear whether the rocket and drone attacks by Hezbollah were part of an effort by Iran to retaliate for the Israeli strike on Iran’s diplomatic compound earlier this month, which killed three senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, including General Ali Reza Zahdi, who led Iran’s elite Quds force.

‘Lavender’: The AI machine directing Israel’s bombing spree in Gaza

Yuval Abraham

In 2021, a book titled “The Human-Machine Team: How to Create Synergy Between Human and Artificial Intelligence That Will Revolutionize Our World” was released in English under the pen name “Brigadier General Y.S.” In it, the author — a man who we confirmed to be the current commander of the elite Israeli intelligence unit 8200 — makes the case for designing a special machine that could rapidly process massive amounts of data to generate thousands of potential “targets” for military strikes in the heat of a war. Such technology, he writes, would resolve what he described as a “human bottleneck for both locating the new targets and decision-making to approve the targets.”

Such a machine, it turns out, actually exists. A new investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call reveals that the Israeli army has developed an artificial intelligence-based program known as “Lavender,” unveiled here for the first time. According to six Israeli intelligence officers, who have all served in the army during the current war on the Gaza Strip and had first-hand involvement with the use of AI to generate targets for assassination, Lavender has played a central role in the unprecedented bombing of Palestinians, especially during the early stages of the war. In fact, according to the sources, its influence on the military’s operations was such that they essentially treated the outputs of the AI machine “as if it were a human decision.”

Formally, the Lavender system is designed to mark all suspected operatives in the military wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), including low-ranking ones, as potential bombing targets. The sources told +972 and Local Call that, during the first weeks of the war, the army almost completely relied on Lavender, which clocked as many as 37,000 Palestinians as suspected militants — and their homes — for possible air strikes.

How to Stop the Iran Threat: Four Critical Steps America Must Take

Zalmay Khalilzad

The United States and Israel are awaiting a threatened “significant” Iranian response to the attack on its consulate in Syria, but this is just part of a much larger challenge: Iran is accelerating its long-standing goal, a push for regional hegemony. The key manifestation is its current push to get U.S. forces out of Iraq and Syria. Among other things, Tehran is using its proxy militia leaders and pro-Iran-Islamist parties to oblige Iraqi prime minister Mohammad Shia’ Ali Sudani to push Washington for a timetable on full U.S. military withdrawal.

Sudani will meet President Biden on April 15. In advance of this, he has already conveyed that he wants the meeting to focus on the withdrawal. Iran knows that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the loss of the accompanying logistics will make the U.S. military presence in Syria unsustainable.

Sudani must be aware that the withdrawal from Iraq will further strengthen Iranian domination of his country, to which our forces serve as the only effective deterrent. However, his ability to operate is limited. He does not have the backing of a political party or security forces, making him a mere figurehead in a government dominated by those two forces. His position is largely dependent on the will of pro-Iran Shia Islamist parties and pro-Iranian militia forces.

Sudani has maintained good relations with U.S. diplomats and military officials. He is the friendly face of the pro-Iran Islamists and proxy forces vis-à-vis the United States and the region. But it’s important to remember that he is not in charge. At most, he can convey messages from those in charge and act as a mediator.

The Iranian leaders, proxy militias, and parties are putting Sudani in an uncomfortable position: He is being pressed to push for a definitive timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, or he risks losing his job, which he seems determined to keep. At a minimum, he must appear to be seriously trying to accommodate their instructions. He will want the Biden administration to appear to be earnestly considering negotiations for a withdrawal.

Ukrainians contemplate the once unthinkable: Losing the war with Russia

Laura King

Could Ukraine lose this war?

For more than two years, as this country of 44 million people has fought off an all-out invasion by neighboring Russia, a spirit of stubborn optimism prevailed even amid the most frightening moments. Any notion of defeat was unthinkable, an almost taboo topic.

But now the question hovers, flitting in and out of view: What if?

The stalling of crucial American aid, a distinct dimming of the world spotlight, and simple war weariness are all exacting a heavy cost. On the front lines, exhausted Ukrainian troops are rationing ammunition as they fend off the latest Russian advances, and anxiety is mounting along with the military and civilian toll.

“Every day, we’re dying,” said Marta Tomakhiv, 33, standing in a sharp-edged shadow in Kyiv’s main Independence Square, mourning a friend from her western Ukrainian hometown who was killed in battle days earlier in the east.

A Ukrainian serviceman with howitzer weaponry in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on April 11, 2024. 

By and large, Ukrainians still believe they can hold out against a resurgent and powerful foe — if for no other reason, as nearly everyone here points out, than that they are in a fight for their lives.

Fateful days for Israel as war with Iran looms - opinion


These are fateful days for the State of Israel. By the time you read this it could be that Israel will already have been attacked by Iran – either by the Islamic Republic or via proxy – and might have already responded.

The situation might have escalated into an all-out war with Iran, Hezbollah or both, making the Gaza war seem like a long-lost memory in a matter of just a few days.

The situation is tense on all levels of the government and the IDF. On the one hand, the general assessment is that Iran does not want an all-out war and it is with that assessment that the IDF reportedly came to the security cabinet when recommending that missiles be fired at a building in Damascus to kill Iranian General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

Israel assumes that Iran would prefer to contain the situation

While Zahedi became the highest-ranking Iranian military official to be killed since the January 2020 assassination – by the United States – of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, the assumption in Israel was that Iran would prefer to contain the situation. Yes, Iran would respond, but Israel assumed that it would not want an all-out war.

The reason for Iran’s need to respond is Zahedi’s high rank and role. He was a senior Quds Force commander, in charge of units in Lebanon and Syria and appears to have been a critical figure in the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ alliance with Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

No One Actually Knows How AI Will Affect Jobs


Forget artificial intelligence breaking free of human control and taking over the world. A far more pressing concern is how today’s generative AI tools will transform the labor market. Some experts envisage a world of increased productivity and job satisfaction; others, a landscape of mass unemployment and social upheaval.

Someone with a bird's-eye view of the situation is Mary Daly, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, part of the national system responsible for setting monetary policy, maintaining a stable financial system, and ensuring maximal employment. Daly, a labor market economist by training, is especially interested in how generative AI might change the labor market picture.

Daly spoke with WIRED senior editor Will Knight over Zoom. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been talking to early adopter companies about their use of generative AI. What are you seeing—or to ask the question on many people’s minds, are workers being replaced?

More firms than I would have imagined are already looking at it. Some are going to have more opportunities to replace workers, and some more to augment, But overall what I'm seeing is that no firm is using it as a replacement tool alone.

One person I talked to, her company invested in generative AI and used it to help write descriptions of items that they have for sale. They have hundreds of thousands of items, but not all of them are high-margin or are interesting to write about. And so they can keep adding more copywriting staff, or they could use generative AI to write first drafts on these items. Copywriters become auditors, and they do more interesting work.

Governments Must Shape AI’s Future


Last December, the European Union set a global precedent by finalizing the Artificial Intelligence Act, one of the world’s most comprehensive sets of AI rules. Europe’s landmark legislation could signal a broader trend toward more responsive AI policies. But while regulation is necessary, it is insufficient. Beyond imposing restrictions on private AI companies, governments must assume an active role in AI development by designing systems and shaping markets for the common good.

To be sure, AI models are evolving rapidly. When EU regulators released the first draft of the AI Act in April 2021, they hailed it as “future-proof,” only to be left scrambling to update the text in response to the release of ChatGPT a year and a half later. But regulatory efforts are not in vain. For example, the law’s ban on AI in biometric policing will likely remain pertinent, regardless of advances in the technology. Moreover, the risk frameworks contained in the AI Act will help policymakers guard against some of the technology’s most dangerous uses. While AI will develop faster than policy, the law’s fundamental principles will not need to change – though more flexible regulatory tools will be needed to tweak and update rules.

But thinking of the state as only a regulator misses the larger point. Innovation is not just some serendipitous market phenomenon. It has a direction that depends on the conditions in which it emerges, and public policymakers can influence these conditions. The rise of a dominant technological design or business model is the result of a power struggle between various actors – corporations, governmental bodies, academic institutions – with conflicting interests and divergent priorities. Reflecting this struggle, the resulting technology may be more or less centralized, more or less proprietary, and so forth.

The markets that form around new technologies follow the same pattern, with important distributive implications. As the software pioneer Mitch Kapor puts it, “Architecture is politics.” More than regulation, a technology’s design and surrounding infrastructure dictate who can do what with it, and who benefits. For governments, ensuring that transformational innovations produce inclusive and sustainable growth is less about fixing markets, and more about shaping and co-creating them. When governments contribute to innovation through bold, strategic, mission-oriented investments, they can create new markets and crowd-in the private sector.

DragonFire: Royal Navy Warships Will Use Lasers to Hit Drones and Missiles

Peter Suciu

Summary: The Royal Navy is set to revolutionize its warship armament by equipping them with the DragonFire laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) by 2027. This initiative, propelled by over £100 million investment from the UK Ministry of Defense, follows successful demonstrations at the MoD’s Hebrides range. DragonFire offers a cost-effective solution for air defense, costing less than £10 per shot and capable of precise targeting. It combines multiple laser beams to deliver powerful, silent, and invisible strikes capable of disabling drones and missiles efficiently. The UK plans to hasten its deployment, potentially aiding Ukraine with early prototypes, affirming its position at the forefront of military technology.

Move over hypersonic weapons, the Royal Navy is on track to equip its warships by 2027 with a “world-leading” laser beam that travels at the speed of light. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced plans to install the DragonFire on its surface combatants following the platform’s successful demonstration earlier this year.

The laser-directed energy weapon (LDEW) system will continue to undergo further live firings and follows the first successful demonstration that took place at the MoD’s Hebrides range off the northwest coast of Scotland in January. The tests were the culmination of several years of work.

The DragonFire program was first unveiled in 2017.

Cost-Effective Air Defense System

It has been noted that the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza have resulted in the demand for munitions vastly outpacing supply, while it has been seen as increasingly cost-ineffective to counter drones and small anti-ship missiles with expensive air-defense missiles.