16 April 2024

What to Know About India’s 2024 Election


The world’s biggest election will take place next week when 960 million eligible voters from a population of 1.4 billion Indians cast their ballot to decide who will fill the 543 seats of the Lok Sabha, the more powerful lower house of Parliament—and who will become India’s next prime minister.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is competing against a coalition of more than a dozen opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress, which once ruled over the nation for more than 50 years. At the center of the contest is incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first rose to power in 2014 on the promise of economic reform and a Hindu nationalist mandate. If he wins again, Modi will match the record of India’s first prime minister, the Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru, by staying in power for three consecutive terms.

The election is a long and costly exercise: Voting begins on April 19, staggered in seven sequential phases over the course of six weeks, with the results announced on June 4. Similar to 2019, when India last held an election, this year’s election will see over a million polling booths set up across the country, with nearly 15 million polling personnel helping to administer the vote through electronic voting machines. All this is carefully planned and executed by the Election Commission of India. While the 2019 election, which cost $8.5 billion, was seen to be the world’s most expensive election by some estimates, this year’s vote is expected to exceed even that number.

Below, everything you need to know about India’s next election.

How does India’s election work?

Following the British parliamentary system that was in place in India until the country’s independence in 1947, India’s democracy is a multiparty parliamentary system with a bicameral legislature. That means that the party or coalition of parties that wins a majority will form a government and nominate a candidate for prime minister. To secure a majority, a party or coalition must get 272 seats.

The Moscow Terrorist Attack: Pro-Islamic State Narratives and their Wider Implications

Meili Criezis


On 22 March 2024, four gunmen entered Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia and carried out an attack killing 139 people. Later that same evening, Amaq News Agency released a short announcement stating that “Islamic State fighters attacked a large gathering of Christians in the city of ‘Krasnogorsk’…and they killed and wounded hundreds and inflicted great damage on the place before safety withdrawing to their bases.” On 23 March, Amaq produced a more detailed follow-up statement (along with a blurred image of the terrorists) saying the concert venue location had been surveilled prior to the attack and that four “Islamic State fighters” carried out the operation with “machine guns, pistols, knives and incendiary bombs” among other details. The Moscow attack also received a mentioning in Islamic State spokesman Abu Hudhaifa al-Ansari’s recent Al Furqan audio speech release. [Translations provided by Aymenn Al-Tamimi]

IS central media also released an official claim repeating the information shared from the Amaq releases, and as Aaron Zelin emphasised, the claim itself did not attribute the attack to Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP/IS-K) or indeed any IS province. However, Zelin additionally states that the lack of a more specified claim at the province level “doesn’t mean ISKP networks weren’t involved,” suggesting that “the way IS does its external operations claims are a bit more nuanced than its regional attack claims.” A US official shared with the Associated Press that “US agencies said that IS-K was responsible for the attack.” The Kremlin, on the other hand, accused Ukraine, the United States, and Britain of being behind the attack. Two weeks before the attack, the US abided by its ‘duty to warn’ tenet and tried to warn Russia of an imminent attack. Central Asian migrants in Russia, especially Tajik nationals, have also faced further heightened xenophobia, discrimination, and violence following the 22 March attack.

Following the terrorist attack and IS’s official claim, pro-IS supporters expressed excitement and circulated propaganda. This Insight examines some prominent responses expressed across their public social media channels and analyses their wider implications.

Virtual Battlegrounds: Understanding the Online Campaign of Baloch Separatist Groups in Pakistan

Sajid Aziz


Heavy breathing fills the audio as the head-mounted camera captures a gun, apparently an M203 Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher, its focus fixed on a distant security outpost. As the camera moves, a couple of other fighters with their heads and faces wrapped in chadors can be seen as they slowly climb up a rugged mountain. The fighter aims and launches a grenade attack upon the target. The explosion reverberates through the air, followed by a background song in Brahvi, one of the two main languages Baloch people speak. Various angles capture the impact of the attack, including a drone shot. As the grenade hits the target and a plume of dust and smoke rises in the sky, one of the fighters cries for victory. The video ends with a militant planting the flag of ‘an independent Balochistan’ on the debris of the bombed-out security outpost.

This was a trailer video released last year by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), one of the separatist militant organisations fighting for an independent Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest but least populated province. Grievances in Balochistan have emanated from a lack of political rights, the exploitation of its rich mineral and energy resources, and perceived inequities in development initiatives, such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

This Insight contends that the escalation of the separatist insurgency in Balochistan has been accompanied by an increased utilisation of cyberspace, facilitated by widespread internet and phone access. This has complicated counterterrorism efforts for governmental authorities and technology firms, necessitating greater cooperation to address this evolving threat.

The Evolution of Baloch Insurgency

Gwadar, the hub of the CPEC, has become a microcosm of the strained relationship between ethnic Baloch people and the state of Pakistan. The state has seen the development of the port city as central to its vision of economic transformation, a source of nation-building, a hub for regional connectivity, and thrusting Balochistan into a new era of development and modernity. For local communities, Gwadar has become a “site of anxiety and fear”

Vietnam Paints Billionaire’s Death Sentence as a Victory for Clean Governance. It’s Not


It’s Southeast Asia’s biggest ever fraud, amounting to $12.5 billion and embroiling some of Vietnam’s top bankers and officials. And on Thursday, a Ho Chi Minh City court reached its verdict: a death sentence for Truong My Lan, a highflying 67-year-old businesswoman who began life hawking cosmetics from a market stall in the southern city before in 1992 founding Van Thinh Phat, a sprawling company which developed luxury apartments, offices, hotels, and shopping malls.

In 2011, Lan was enlisted to shepherd the merger of the troubled Saigon Joint Commercial Bank, or SCB, with two other lenders in a plan overseen by the Vietnam Central Bank. But until her arrest in 2022, she stands accused of using SCB as her personal piggybank, embezzling billions via illegal loans to herself and confederates through thousands of shell companies at home and overseas. The verdict is the first death sentence for a private businessperson for financial crime.

The case has sent shockwaves through Vietnam’s business community and is the highest profile collar of Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s sweeping “Blazing Furnace” anti-corruption campaign. The full impact of Lan’s sentence—a family member told Reuters she intends to appeal—is not yet known though there are clear implications for international firms looking to Vietnam as they diversify supply chains away from China.

“This trial is probably the exemplar of Vietnam’s effort to crack down on corruption not only in the state sector but also in private spaces,” says Nguyen Khác Giang, a visiting fellow at the Vietnam Studies Program of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

That Vietnam sought to make an example of Lan was clear. A guilty verdict in the trial that began just weeks ago may never have been in doubt, as befits a one-party autocracy, but this was no shadowy judgment far from public view. Lan was tried alongside 84 defendants, including her husband (who was sentenced to nine years in prison), close relatives, 45 SCB staff (including three executives given life prison sentences), 15 former officers from the Vietnam State Bank, three officials from the Government Inspectorate and one from the State Audit Office. Proceedings involved 10 state prosecutors, some 200 lawyers, and 2,700 witnesses. Evidence filled 104 boxes and weighed six tons. Local media were provided detailed briefings by party cadres typically schooled in deep secrecy.

PRC Support Underpins Russia’s War Against Ukraine

Executive Summary:
  • PRC aid to Russia is multidomain and underpins much of Moscow’s ability to continue to wage war in Ukraine.
  • Attempts have been made to institutionalize the Sino-Russian relationship, deepening the military aspect in particular. The relationship between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin nevertheless remains its driving force.
  • Readouts from Sino-Russian and Sino-Ukrainian meetings suggest that Beijing is not wholly aligned with Moscow’s, and there is clear opposition to the war within sections of the PRC elite. This may mean little if Xi Jinping cannot be persuaded to signal a change in approach.
Toward the end of March, Li Hui (李辉), Special Representative of the Government for Eurasian Affairs, held a briefing on his second round of shuttle diplomacy in Ukraine (MFA, March 22). According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs readout from his meetings in Ukraine, he “held frank and friendly talks on Sino-Ukrainian relations and the Ukrainian crisis” (MFA, March 8). The Ukrainian side provides more detail on the meetings, noting that they informed their interlocutor of “cases of Russia’s gross violation of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War” and of their efforts to “return Ukrainian citizens illegally detained by the Russian Federation and abducted children” (President of Ukraine, March 7).

Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Geng Shuang (耿爽) announced this week that the PRC “has always maintained an objective and impartial position” on the war in Ukraine and “advocated that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected” (Xinhua, April 11). To many observers, this rhetoric appears out of step with the reality of the PRC’s position. Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Roman Mashovets emphasized to Li that “components from third countries” are “becoming part of the weapons used against Ukrainian civilians.” Reading between the lines of the readout, Ukraine wants Beijing to do more to pressure Moscow and to restrict the ways in which it is assisting in the destruction of Ukraine, however indirectly.

Chinese Purchases Of U.S. Land Come Under Spotlight

Ben Solis

One of the most important under-the-radar issues in the 2024 election could be the practice of Chinese nationals and companies buying up vast swaths of American land.

In recent months, a number of states, mostly led by conservatives, have taken action to halt the practice of Chinese entities buying large tracts of farmland, ranchland, and timber claims. However, without strong federal action, which President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have been unwilling to pursue, the practice could continue to imperil America’s physical and economic security.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who in March signed a law that bars China and five other countries from purchasing farmland in her state, has warned that China is “buying up our entire food supply chain and when America can’t feed itself and we rely on another country to feed us it becomes a national security issue.” Montana, Virginia, North Dakota, and Florida are among other states that have passed similar bans.

But those efforts haven’t been enough to stop the growth in Chinese land acquisitions.

According to “The Land Report 100,” an annual ranking of the largest landowners in the United States that has been cited by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, this year a Chinese national made an appearance on the list for the first time. Tianqiao Chen, who moved to San Francisco in 2017 and is worth an estimated $4 billion, recently purchased nearly 200,000 acres of timber land in Oregon, putting him at number 82 on the list.

While the “official” narrative on Chen is that he made his fortune from founding online gaming company Shanda Interactive, sources with whom I spoke said that may not be the whole story.

How Will Israel Respond to the Iranian Attack?

Daniel Byman

The latest Iranian salvo against Israel is raising fears that a regional war will engulf the Middle East. On Saturday, Iran launched a large drone and missile attack against Israel and seized an Israeli-linked container ship in the Strait of Hormuz. These attacks followed the Israeli assassination of several senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leaders in Syria.

How Did Russia Use Anti-Western Narratives To Justify Intervening In Syria?

Eleni Anagnostopoulou

The Syrian unrest is one of the manifestations of the Arab Spring, a series of pro-democracy uprisings that spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011. On March 15 of the same year, protests demanding regime change and democratisation were initiated in Syria. The government responded by using repression and excessive violence. The opposition soon took arms and began to form militias, escalating the situation into a violent civil conflict in 2012 and then into a complicated internationalised conflict as multiple warring parties started receiving support from foreign actors. The armed conflict triggered the most severe refugee crisis since the Second World War, evolving into a regional crisis (UCDP, 2022a; Cengiz, 2020). A number of anti-government insurgent groups have participated in the conflict, including Jabhat al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army (UCDP, 2022b).

The G8 summit in June 2013 arguably reaffirmed the alignment between the Russian government and the Assad regime. Moscow’s support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has taken many forms. Russia vetoed resolutions and sanctions against the Syrian regime relating to violence against civilians, including but not limited to sieges and aerial bombardment as collective punishment tactics, constrained Western intervention by invoking Chapter VII of the United Nations (UN) Charter on the authorisation of military action for humanitarian purposes, and provided Assad with material support (Allison, 2013a; Charap, 2013; Council on Foreign Relations, 2021). My work focuses on Russia’s overt and large-scale military intervention in the Syrian hostilities, which ensued in September 2015. The Syrian conflict is the first case of Russian military engagement outside the post-Soviet space (Rezvani, 2020).

The literature on the subject of Russia’s longstanding military involvement in Syria is extensive. From a geostrategic standpoint, for example, the arms trade between Russia and Syria, Syria’s energy production, and the Russian naval base on Tartus are presented as causal mechanisms for Russia’s decision to defend the Assad regime militarily (Bellamy, 2014; Rezvani, 2020; Marten, 2015). 

A Million Dollar Middle East Peace Plan


One night at the dinner table in the American Colony—the lovely boutique watering hole in East Jerusalem—I overheard an elderly American heiress proclaiming that she would give a million dollars to anyone who could solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was 1956, and I was just five-years-old, but I tugged my father’s sleeve, and said, “Daddy, we have to win this prize.”

I spent my entire childhood in the Middle East, the son of an American diplomat. It was nothing exceptional—except that Zelig-like, I lived through all the wars of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And then as a young man I married the only daughter of two survivors of the Shoah. I have always worked hard to see both sides of this tragic, seemingly intractable conflict. But I am now fed up with these bad actors and their tribal bloodbaths.

All these many years later, the ‘troubles’ in the ‘dangerous neighborhood persist. Indeed, things have gotten worse. Just look at the horrifying atrocities of October 7, 2023 when some 1,200 Israelis were butchered. And just look at the indiscriminate killing of over 30,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians in Gaza in the current war. Alarming incidents of blatant anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia fuel a toxic atmosphere across much of the globe. The tide of extremism on all sides has risen, and civil society voices of moderation are largely deemed irrelevant.

Short-sighted leaders on both sides are fueling a new generation of violence and hatred. Hamas’s bloody terrorism is bad enough, but I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow the current war expands to Lebanon or Iran—or if a radiation ‘dirty’ bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, making parts of the city uninhabitable. The only good news is that the political careers of both Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas are clearly coming to an end. Both of these deplorable leaders have led their peoples to a dead end.

This conflict is so dangerous that the time has come for the international community to impose a solution. Here is what needs to be done.

Israel Is Facing an Iraq-like Quagmire

Michael Hirsh

Almost from the moment of “Israel’s 9/11”—even as U.S. President Joe Biden flew to Israel after the Oct. 7 catastrophe to show his complete support—the Biden administration began warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government not to make the same mistakes the United States did after its own 9/11.

How Iran Really Sees the Israel-Hamas War

Sina Toossi

The Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, dubbed the “Al-Aqsa Storm,” was a historic turning point in the region, according to Iranian Minister of Intelligence Esmaeil Khatib. “In our view, the conditions in Israel after the Al-Aqsa Storm are historical, and in my opinion, it is the starting point of history itself. … Operation Al-Aqsa Storm eliminated one of the most strategic and fundamental plans of the United States in the region,” he declared on Oct. 30.

Experts react: Iran just unleashed a major attack on Israel. What’s next?

Jonathan Panikoff,  Daniel E. Mouton, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Holly Dagres, Danny Citrinowicz, Tuqa Nusairat, Thomas S. Warrick, Carmiel Arbit, Alex Plitsas, R. Clarke Cooper, Masoud Mostajabi 

The war is out of the shadows. Using drones and missiles, Iran unleashed a large-scale attack on Israel tonight. The two countries have long been engaged in a “shadow war,” with Iran using its proxies and Israel undertaking targeted assassinations. Most recently, an Israeli strike in Syria killed several top commanders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), leading to Iran’s widely anticipated response. What will Israel do next? Has a broader regional war begun? What role will the United States play? Our experts weigh in below.

The Middle East is on the precipice of a regional war no one seems to want

Iran’s launch of ballistic missiles, in conjunction with over one hundred drones, puts the region on the precipice of a broader war that almost no one seems to actually want; one that most actors—the United States, Arab states, even Hezbollah—have sought to avoid over the last six months.

But the reality is, this is not an expansion of the war in Gaza; it’s a corollary to it. This response by Iran to Israel’s killing of Mohammad Reza Zahedi and six other IRGC officers in Syria almost two weeks ago doesn’t just move the situation up the escalatory ladder—it obliterates the ladder. Iran’s response, supported by Hezbollah, goes far beyond a proportional response.

This marks the first time Iran has launched a direct attack on Israel, and in doing so, it shatters the previous conflict threshold in the long-running war between Israel and Iran, bringing it out of the shadows and into the light.

At best, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is almost certain to respond and take steps to attack Iranian targets, probably in Iran, in a manner that will be specific and contained and won’t lead to another significant Iranian response. At worst, the Israeli response will be intense and include the bombardment of important Iranian sites.

Israel says Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles, 99% of which were intercepted


Booms and air raid sirens sounded across Israel early Sunday after Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in an unprecedented revenge mission that pushed the Middle East closer to a regionwide war. A military spokesman said the launches numbered more than 300 but 99% of them were intercepted.

Calling the outcome “a very significant strategic success,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Iran fired 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles. Of those, several ballistic missiles reached Israeli territory, causing minor damage to an air base.

Rescuers said a 7-year-old girl in a Bedouin Arab town was seriously wounded in southern Israel, apparently in a missile strike, though they said police were still investigating the circumstances of her injuries.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said U.S. forces helped Israel down “nearly all” the drones and missiles and pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response.

The Iranian attack, less than two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike in Syria that killed two Iranian generals in an Iranian consular building, marked the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Condemnation from the United Nations chief and others was swift, with France saying Iran “is risking a potential military escalation,” Britain calling the attack “reckless” and Germany saying Iran and its proxies “must stop it immediately.”

Hagari said the vast majority of the intercepts came outside Israel’s borders, including 10 cruise missiles that were intercepted by warplanes.

PRC Exploitation of Russian Intelligence Networks in Europe

Filip Jirouš

Executive Summary:
  • Russian-cultivated circles overlap with People’s Republic of China (PRC) intelligence networks. These intersections include politicians on both extremes of Europe’s political spectrum, and across countries which include Belgium, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
  • “Daniel Woo,” a PRC state security officer, is a key figure connecting many of the network’s members. Woo has successfully influence debates in the German Bundestag and paid Belgian lawmakers to disseminate propaganda.
  • State security networks further overlap with observer missions, lending legitimacy to Russian-organized elections in occupied territories in Ukraine.
  • The networks extend to political parties leading polls for some of this year’s European Parliament and EU member state elections.
  • Some action has already been taken. The Czech government sanctioned Voice of Europe, a media organization controlled by Russia through Viktor Medvedchuk, an oligarch charged with treason in Ukraine. Subsequently, Polish authorities arrested its legal representative.
Revelations about Russian intelligence assets in Europe expose overlaps with influence operations run by spy agencies from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Western mainstream media outlets have covered the Russian cases, but the ways in which PRC intelligence has been tapping into the same networks—including operations revealed in China Brief—have received little attention (The New York Times, March 29; China Brief, December 3, 2021). These overlaps exist at the level of both individual people and organizations, and they have the potential to disrupt European democratic processes.

New Russian Attempts to Capture European Politics

Two recent investigations have exposed Russian intelligence operations targeting European politics in unprecedented detail. For the first time, extensive allegations identify members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as having worked with Russian spy networks, in some cases in exchange for monetary rewards.

Letter from Jerusalem: what future do Palestinians have in the ancient city?

Bruno Maçães

There used to be two ways to arrive in Jerusalem: from the sea to the west and from the deserts to the east. These days, most international visitors come by train from Ben Gurion Airport. I arrive from the east, having crossed the Allenby Bridge, or King Hussein Bridge, one of Israel’s border crossings with Jordan. To my surprise there is no barbed wire here. There are no walls. No separation barriers. And the Jordan river seems like a stream you could easily leap over. After the border crossing, my bus drives through the Judaean Desert, across which Moses gazed at the promised land, a spectacular wilderness of sandy dunes, rocky crags, wadis and cliffs. The distances here are short and Jerusalem is soon in view, announced by the 55-metre water tower on top of Mount Scopus.

A few days after I arrive, I meet Sari Nusseibeh at the American Colony Hotel on Nablus Road, across the street from his family home. Nusseibeh is the descendant of a Jerusalem family that goes all the way back to the Arab conquest in the seventh century, a family that has been distinguished with the honour of holding the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the empty tomb of Christ. Now 75, he spends most of his time in the garden of the same house he grew up in, just metres from the school he attended as a boy. It would be a mistake to think that Jerusalem has not changed since his youth. “For a long time there was no water tower on Mount Scopus,” he tells me. “As you came from the east, you would see only some landmarks like the Augusta Victoria tower. I arrived from Jericho a few days ago, and as I looked up, I again saw this new landscape, this stretch of buildings, from the south in Ma’ale Adumim all the way to Pisgat Ze’ev. And arriving from the north, there used to be fields, lots of fields, olive trees, as you came up to Jerusalem.”

I drive around those Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, which are illegal according to international law, steadily expanding and now also gentrifying. The new sections of the settlement Pisgat Ze’ev, named after the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, are posher than West Jerusalem and overlook three Palestinian centres in the valley below: Shuafat, Shuafat refugee camp, and Anata. These villages are surrounded by a concrete wall, the separation barrier. A large segment of the Palestinians living inside are unable to leave because they do not have a Jerusalem identity card. 

The Math on Ukraine Doesn’t Add Up

J. D. Vance

President Biden wants the world to believe that the biggest obstacle facing Ukraine is Republicans and our lack of commitment to the global community. This is wrong.

Ukraine’s challenge is not the G.O.P.; it’s math. Ukraine needs more soldiers than it can field, even with draconian conscription policies. And it needs more matériel than the United States can provide. This reality must inform any future Ukraine policy, from further congressional aid to the diplomatic course set by the president.

The Biden administration has applied increasing pressure on Republicans to pass a supplemental aid package of more than $60 billion to Ukraine. I voted against this package in the Senate and remain opposed to virtually any proposal for the United States to continue funding this war. Mr. Biden has failed to articulate even basic facts about what Ukraine needs and how this aid will change the reality on the ground.

The most fundamental question: How much does Ukraine need and how much can we actually provide? Mr. Biden suggests that a $60 billion supplemental means the difference between victory and defeat in a major war between Russia and Ukraine. That is also wrong. This $60 billion is a fraction of what it would take to turn the tide in Ukraine’s favor. But this is not just a matter of dollars. Fundamentally, we lack the capacity to manufacture the amount of weapons Ukraine needs us to supply to win the war.

Consider our ability to produce 155-millimeter artillery shells. Last year, Ukraine’s defense minister estimated that the country’s base-line requirement for these shells was over four million per year but that it could fire up to seven million if that many were available. Since the start of the conflict, the United States has gone to great lengths to ramp up production of 155-millimeter shells. We’ve roughly doubled our capacity and can now produce 360,000 per year — less than a tenth of what Ukraine says it needs. The administration’s goal is to get this to 1.2 million — 30 percent of what’s needed — by the end of 2025. This would cost the American taxpayers dearly while yielding an unpleasantly familiar result: failure abroad.

Macron’s explosive home front in the Gaza war


In the days after Hamas struck Israel, French President Emmanuel Macron made a national address vowing his “unreserved solidarity” with Israel.

A month later, he swerved to redress the balance, organizing a conference to support Gaza, joining calls for a cease-fire. In the days and months following Israel’s ground operation and airstrikes, Macron has amped up his support for Gaza, organizing aid airdrops with Jordan and even dispatching a helicopter carrier-turned-hospital ship to treat a trickle of sick Palestinians allowed in Egypt.

Throughout the six months of war between Israel and Hamas, Macron has repeatedly vowed to do everything he could to combat the return of antisemitism in France, including during a ceremony for a Jewish organization at the Elysée a few weeks ago.

The day after the ceremony, he was in Marseille consoling a woman who cried as she pleaded with him: “Mr. President, we need to do something about the Palestinians … don’t let these children die.”

In France, Macron has strived to strike a balance between France’s large and deeply divided Muslim and Jewish communities — the biggest ones in Europe.

“We are doing our utmost, but we are not there, we don’t control things,” Macron answered as he held the shoulder of the woman in Marseille.

The global economy’s uneven recovery

Eswar Prasad

The chances for a swift, uniform rebound from the COVID-19 crisis have dimmed, and the world economy now faces sharply divergent growth prospects. Although the latest update of the Brookings-Financial Times Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery (TIGER) offers some grounds for optimism, it also raises renewed concerns. Vaccination euphoria has been tempered by slow vaccine rollouts in most countries, while fresh waves of COVID-19 infections are threatening many economies’ growth trajectories.

The US and China are shaping up to be the main drivers of global growth in 2021. Household consumption and business investment have surged in both economies, along with measures of private-sector confidence. Industrial production has rebounded in most countries, firming up commodity prices and international trade. Nonetheless, the US, China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea will probably be the only major economies to exceed pre-pandemic GDP levels by the end of this year. In most other regions, the 2020 recession will most likely leave longer-lasting scars on both GDP and employment.

Hamas has a secret weapon no one talks about: Western stupidity

Casey Babb

Since the advent of social media, the world has undergone an unprecedented period of mass stupefaction. To put it bluntly – large groups of people on both the left and the right are getting dumber faster. Sadly, this trend has proven to be tremendously beneficial for Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group hell-bent on Israel’s destruction.

In his 2022 article “Why the Past Ten Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt explains how online echo chambers have significantly weakened people’s ability to communicate with one another – particularly those with opposing views. As Haidt notes, tribalistic enmity which has been amplified and accelerated by things like Facebook’s Like and Share buttons, or X’s retweet function, has not only corroded nuanced thought and conversation, it has “supercharged” confirmation bias, the most significant obstacle to “good thinking.” However, what Haidt doesn’t address is how beneficial this tsunami of stupidity has been to the most nefarious people on earth – including terrorists.

From jihadis in Beirut to extremists in Tehran, the erosion of thoughtful conversation combined with an explosion of algorithmically enabled animosity has emboldened the world’s most dangerous groups, particularly Hamas. Indeed, since their heinous attacks in Israel on October 7, Hamas appears to be winning the war of public opinion in the West – not through strategically designed information campaigns – but through an international army of thoughtless individuals with an aversion to critical thinking and any information that could, God forbid, potentially challenge their worldviews.

For years, we have known that the Internet has been – as Charlie Warzel recently described it – a “window” through which virtually everyone on the planet has observed many of the most heinous acts ever committed. In fact, despite my own best efforts, I’ve been exposed to a variety of terrible videos and gruesome content which, in many ways, has shaped my perspective on the world. From the barbaric execution of the late great Daniel Pearl (to whom I dedicated my PhD dissertation) in Pakistan in 2002, to the sadistic murder of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh by ISIS in 2015, to footage of Hamas’s massacre in Israel, recorded violence on the Internet has become sadly familiar. 

Is This Israel’s Forever War?

Keith Gessen

Natasha Hall grew up in Arlington, Virginia, in the nineteen-eighties. Her mother, who was originally from Jordan, was an accountant at the World Bank; her father, who was a Vietnam War vet and marine biologist, worked at the Environmental Protection Agency. During the summers, they would sometimes visit her mother’s family in Jordan; in 1996, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, they were able to visit the West Bank. Hall, then thirteen, had heard about the territory’s occupation, but she was surprised by the obvious and quotidian restrictions on Palestinians’ lives. She remembers seeing people lined up at checkpoints with their hands on their heads, facing a wall. When the 9/11 attacks took place, she was in her first week of college. From what Hall already knew of the world, she immediately feared what the U.S. would do in response. She decided to study foreign policy. Shortly after graduating, she went to the Middle East and stayed there, on and off, for the next twenty years.

The foreign-policy world in Washington, D.C., is filled with people who have gone abroad and had a formative experience. Hall’s was the long American “war on terror.” In the late two-thousands, she worked for the rand Corporation on evaluating reconstruction efforts in Iraq. (They were not going well.) In 2012, she took a job in government, travelling all over the world and interviewing refugees who wished to resettle in the U.S. But the process was slow, and, when it came to the conflict that had by then become her greatest area of focus, the Syrian civil war, the United States took so few people. She moved to Istanbul to work with Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, a volunteer organization that helped civilians caught up in Bashar al-Assad’s brutal counter-insurgency campaign. Hall saw people surviving in conditions in which survival seemed impossible. She saw what Western resources and preparation could and could not do. “Every time we would find a way to protect people, they”—the Syrian regime and its Russian backers—“would up the ante,” she told me. Russian fighter jets “were wiping out whole neighborhoods. 

How US Intelligence and an American Company Feed Israel’s Killing Machine in Gaza


Israeli city of Ramat HaSharon, is a crossroad where the Trans-Samaria Highway bisects the Coastal Highway. It is also a key crossroad for Israel’s human and technical spies. On the east side of the highway is Hertzog Camp and to the west is Dane Camp. Together, the 462 acres of land make up Camp Moshe Dayan‑the most secret military base in the country.

Surrounded by a variety of intrusion-prevention devices and high steel fences topped with barbed wire, Camp Dayan is home to a number of highly sensitive military intelligence instillations, including its central training base; the advanced Targeting Center; Unit 81, a secret technology unit attached to the Special Operations Division; and the IDF Signals Intelligence College.

But by far the most secret is the headquarters of Unit 8200, which specializes in eavesdropping, codebreaking, and cyber warfare—Israel’s equivalent of the American National Security Agency. One of Unit 8200’s newest and most important organizations is the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Center, which, according to a spokesman, was responsible for developing the AI systems that “transformed the entire concept of targets in the IDF.” Back in 2021, the Israeli military described its 11-day war on Gaza as the world’s first “AI war.” Israel’s ongoing invasion of Gaza offers a more recent—and devastating—example.

More than 70 years ago, that same patch of land was home to the Palestinian village of Ajleel, until the residents were killed or forced to abandon their homes and flee in fear during the Nakba in 1948. Now, soldiers and intelligence specialists are being trained at Camp Moshe Dayan to finish the job—to bomb, shoot, or starve to death the descendants of the Palestinians forced into the squalor of militarily occupied Gaza decades ago.

Earlier this month saw a continuation of that effort, with the targeting of three well-marked and fully approved aid vehicles belonging to World Central Kitchen, killing their seven occupants and ensuring that the food would never reach those dying of starvation. The targeting was precise—placing missiles dead center in the aid agency’s rooftop logos. Israel, however, said it was simply a mistake, similar to the “mistaken” killing of nearly 200 other aid workers in just a matter of months—more than all the aid workers killed in all the wars in the rest of the world over the last 30 years combined, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

The Tragedy of Haiti

Ravi Agrawal

The ongoing crisis in Haiti represents the biggest security crisis in the Americas—and maybe even the Western Hemisphere—right now. And yet it gets little attention. Around 80 percent of Port-au-Prince is controlled by gangs, and it has driven tens of thousands of people to flee in the last few weeks. The airports and seaports are shut down. Food and aid are scarce. State institutions are largely in ruins.

CCP Cyber Sovereignty Contains Lessons For AI’s Future

Matthew J. Dagher-Margosian

Executive Summary:
  • Xi Jinping is unequivocal that US-China AI cooperation is contingent on Western AI technology flowing into the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • Broken promises from past US-China technology transfers suggest the PRC will once again use US technology to strengthen censorship and surveillance domestically and then export these technologies to aid other authoritarian regimes.
  • The emerging framework of “AI sovereignty,” born out of a previous framework for “cyber sovereignty,” emphasizes a nation’s right to regulate AI according to its own values and interests. The PRC positions itself as a leader in this discourse.
  • The PRC is lobbying for artificial intelligence (AI) sovereignty globally and is already exporting AI technologies to other authoritarian regimes, raising concerns about the potential impact on global democracy and human rights.
For the past decade, the priorities of “economic security, national security, and security in other areas” have driven Xi Jinping’s pursuit of advanced technologies (Xinhua, June 9, 2014). The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has launched countless policies to achieve “self-reliance” in technologies like software, semiconductors, mobile phone operating systems, and robotics (Quishi, July 31, 2023; STCN, November 14, 2023). For Xi, self-reliance is predicated on mistrust of the West. He has previously warned that “Western countries believe that the master will starve if he passes on his knowledge to his apprentice” and argued that the PRC “must focus on our own innovation” (People.cn, April 19, 2018). This has led to Western IT equipment, iPhones, and Microsoft operating systems being replaced with domestic technology across the PRC (WSJ, March 7).

Tech Leaders Once Cried for AI Regulation. Now the Message Is ‘Slow Down’


The other night I attended a press dinner hosted by an enterprise company called Box. Other guests included the leaders of two data-oriented companies, Datadog and MongoDB. Usually the executives at these soirees are on their best behavior, especially when the discussion is on the record, like this one. So I was startled by an exchange with Box CEO Aaron Levie, who told us he had a hard stop at dessert because he was flying that night to Washington, DC. He was headed to a special-interest-thon called TechNet Day, where Silicon Valley gets to speed-date with dozens of Congress critters to shape what the (uninvited) public will have to live with. And what did he want from that legislation? “As little as possible,” Levie replied. “I will be single-handedly responsible for stopping the government.”

He was joking about that. Sort of. He went on to say that while regulating clear abuses of AI like deepfakes makes sense, it’s way too early to consider restraints like forcing companies to submit large language models to government-approved AI cops, or scanning chatbots for things like bias or the ability to hack real-life infrastructure. He pointed to Europe, which has already adopted restraints on AI as an example of what not to do. “What Europe is doing is quite risky,” he said. “There's this view in the EU that if you regulate first, you kind of create an atmosphere of innovation,” Levie said. “That empirically has been proven wrong.”

Levie’s remarks fly in the face of what has become a standard position among Silicon Valley’s AI elites like Sam Altman. “Yes, regulate us!” they say. But Levie notes that when it comes to exactly what the laws should say, the consensus falls apart. “We as a tech industry do not know what we're actually asking for,” Levie said, “I have not been to a dinner with more than five AI people where there's a single agreement on how you would regulate AI.” Not that it matters—Levie thinks that dreams of a sweeping AI bill are doomed. “The good news is there's no way the US would ever be coordinated in this kind of way. There simply will not be an AI Act in the US.”

Google Contract Shows Deal With Israel Defense Ministry


Google provides cloud computing services to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and the tech giant has negotiated deepening its partnership during Israel’s war in Gaza, a company document viewed by TIME shows.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense, according to the document, has its own “landing zone” into Google Cloud—a secure entry point to Google-provided computing infrastructure, which would allow the ministry to store and process data, and access AI services.

The ministry sought consulting assistance from Google to expand its Google Cloud access, seeking to allow “multiple units” to access automation technologies, according to a draft contract dated March 27, 2024. The contract shows Google billing the Israeli Ministry of Defense over $1 million for the consulting service.

The version of the contract viewed by TIME was not signed by Google or the Ministry of Defense. But a March 27 comment on the document, by a Google employee requesting an executable copy of the contract, said the signatures would be “completed offline as it’s an Israel/Nimbus deal.” Google also gave the ministry a 15% discount on the original price of consulting fees as a result of the “Nimbus framework,” the document says.

Project Nimbus is a controversial $1.2 billion cloud computing and AI agreement between the Israeli government and two tech companies: Google and Amazon. Reports in the Israeli press have previously indicated that Google and Amazon are contractually barred from preventing specific arms of the Israeli state using their technology under Project Nimbus. But this is the first time the existence of a contract showing that the Israeli Ministry of Defense is a Google Cloud customer has been made public.