18 April 2024

Can India Defend Against A Massed Drone Attack From China Like The One Iran Launched On Israel?


Two days ago, Israel, with the help of the US, successfully defended against a large missile and drone attack from Iran.

Of the more than 325 projectiles — 185 drones, 110 ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles — fired by Iran, Israel claims that close to 99 per cent were intercepted, with only a few, estimated to be seven, falling at an air force base in Israel causing minor damage.

This raises the question — What if India faced a saturated long-range drone attack by either Pakistan or China?

Can India defend against such a hypothetical massed saturated attack?

Drones — unlike ballistic missiles that follow a ballistic trajectory and fly high in the air, which is detectable by radars — fly at a very low altitude like a slow-moving cruise missile, making them very difficult to detect. Unless the defender has prior information or early warning mechanisms and systems in place, it becomes very difficult to intercept until the drones have come uncomfortably close.

The Israelis had prior warnings that Iran would strike them within the next 24 to 48 hours. This allowed the IDF and its allies to be ready for the attack.

However, knowing the attack will take place is one thing, but having real-time information about the attack is another. The latter allows the defender to place adequate assets in the right quantity at the right place and at the right time.

The Israelis, with the help of their American, British, French, and Arabian allies, had sufficient real-time information about the attack. As soon as the missiles and drones took off from Iranian territory, Israel’s Arabian allies, like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, shared accurate radar tracks of the drones with the US and Israel, giving ample time to the Israeli Air Force to be on correct locations to shoot down the drones.

The Hot Peace Between China and India

François Godement

Relations between China and Japan have often been characterized as a “cold peace.” As such, they have been stormy enough to create a massive rejection of China in Japan’s public opinion, and a solidification of the Japan-U.S. alliance, which entered a new stage with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s state visit to the United States this week. Yet, economic relations have always been strong, with a degree of dependence of Japanese firms on China, and a Chinese reliance on Japan’s market as well.

Not so with India. Flashes of actual conflict have happened, none as protracted as the triple challenge from China over Ladakh, Sikkim, and, indirectly, Arunachal Pradesh, since 2020. Soldiers from both sides have died in combat. China has built a network of bunkers, tunnels and fortified villages. India has mobilized 100,000 soldiers close to the front line and worked on its own logistical infrastructure.

Even a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Arunachal Pradesh, a region that has been India’s since the British drew up the McMahon line in 1914, is enough to incur the ire of the Chinese government. Beijing always reminds India that it claims the state as Chinese land, as successive governments in Beijing never accepted the 1914 delimitation.

Therefore, this is at best a hot peace. India’s public opinion has gone the way of Japan’s, and New Delhi has increasingly turned westward – toward the United States, France, and others such as Israel – to supplement its aging Russian armament connection.

Yet, relations between China and India have never completely broken down. Certainly, India has taken steps to limit the China risk in its infrastructure and society – banning China from ports and rail construction, prohibiting Chinese apps, keeping Chinese telecoms out of Indian procurement, and rebuffing plans for massive BYD and Great Wall Motors automobile investments. This does not apply, however, to the overall trade and investment relationship.

In Pakistan, Fears of Deportation Plague Afghan Refugees Waiting for Resettlement

Mohammad Iqbal Sekandari

When the United States and other NATO nations left Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control in August 2021, hundreds of thousands of Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan. Almost three years later, many still remain, trapped in resettlement limbo – including roughly 20,000 Afghans awaiting promised visas to the United States.

Now, these Afghans face the grave threat of deportation back to their homeland, with Pakistan’s deadline for the second phase of deportation imminent: April 15.

Most fled Afghanistan originally because they had spent years working with U.S. troops and Western organizations. Due to the lengthy U.S. resettlement process, however, they still don’t have the Special Immigration Visas or P-1/P-2 visas they need. Without these documents, the Afghans face forced deportation to their native land, where many are likely to be detained and fiercely persecuted. Taliban leaders, in addition to targeting human rights advocates, journalists, and civil activists, are actively searching for people who worked with U.S. and NATO troops.

The United States has failed to resettle, or even protect, these vulnerable – and eligible – Afghans. The U.S. embassy did contact Pakistani authorities in November and issued protection letters to all Afghans now registered with the United States Refugee Admission Program, but to little effect.

Despite possessing these letters, many Afghan refugees waiting for resettlement were sent home in the first deportation phase in November. Pakistani officials largely ignored the letters – according to them the letters have no legal value – because the U.S. embassy and Pakistani authorities do not yet have an official agreement on the issue.

Germany Walks The Talk On Southeast Asia – Analysis

Chhengpor Aun

Germany observed its Southeast Asia Week in March 2024, hosting Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. These visits highlighted the resolve of Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ‘traffic light’ coalition to walk the talk on engaging Southeast Asia and to pursue a de-risking strategy towards China.

In 2020, Germany became a party to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia as it rolled out its first ‘Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific’, mapped out by then-chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. The guideline provides a roadmap for Germany to partner with ASEAN to boost trade and investment ties, fight climate change and defend the liberal international order.

Germany’s Southeast Asia overture is motivated by incumbent Chancellor Scholz’s aim to reduce dependence on China — a lesson learned from Berlin’s reliance on Russia before the invasion of Ukraine. Germany’s 2023 strategic paper on China referred to Beijing as a simultaneous ‘partner, competitor and systemic rival’.

By inviting Anwar, Marcos and Srettha to Berlin, Scholzsent a strong message to German businesses to speed up the drive towards de-risking, diversifying supply hubs and relocating plants from China by turning to Southeast Asia. Germany is also looking to Southeast Asia for supplies of critical minerals needed for the green transition, with Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand on the radar as potential suppliers.

Southeast Asia is a natural partner for Germany and the European Union in times of global uncertainty as a result of geopolitical competition and geoeconomic fragmentation. If Donald Trump returns to the White House in January 2025, EU–ASEAN cooperation will be more important than ever in upholding the norms of a rules-based international order and multilateralism.

Can China play a role in avoiding an all-out war in the Middle East?

Nectar Gan and Simone McCarthy

China has voiced “deep concern” over escalating tensions in the Middle East after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles in an unprecedented attack on Israel, raising the prospect of a wider conflagration in a region where Beijing has pledged to play peacemaker and promote its own security vision.

“(China) calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent further escalation,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday, framing the latest tensions as “a spillover from the Gaza conflict” – which it said should be put to an end as soon as possible.

“China calls on the international community, especially countries with influence, to play a constructive role for the peace and stability of the region,” the ministry added.

The Iranian strikes, which Tehran said were retaliation for the bombing of an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus on April 1 that it attributed to Israel, marked the first time the Islamic Republic has launched a direct assault on Israel from its soil.

In a call with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated that Beijing “strongly condemns and firmly opposes” the April 1 attack, a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry said.

Wang did not condemn Iran’s retaliation. China noted Iran’s statement that its action was limited and an “act of self-defense” and appreciated Tehran’s stress on “not targeting regional and neighboring countries,” Wang said, according to the readout.

Bombs and viruses: The shadowy history of Israel’s attacks on Iranian soil

Israel’s leaders have signalled that they are weighing their options on how to respond to Iran’s attack early Sunday morning, when Tehran targeted its archenemy with more than 300 missiles and drones.

Iran’s attack, which followed an Israeli strike last week on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, that killed 13 people was historic: It was the first time Tehran had directly targeted Israeli soil, despite decades of hostility. Until Sunday, many of Iran’s allies in the so-called axis of resistance — especially the Palestinian group Hamas, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthis and armed groups in Iraq and Syria — were the ones who launched missiles and drones at Israel.

But if Israel were to hit back militarily inside Iran, it wouldn’t be the first time. Far from it.

For years, Israel has focused on one target within Iran in particular: the country’s nuclear programme. Israel has long accused Iran of clandestinely building a nuclear bomb that could threaten its existence — and has publicly, and frequently, spoken of its diplomatic and intelligence-driven efforts to derail those alleged efforts. Iran denies that it has had a military nuclear programme, while arguing that it has the right to access civil nuclear energy.

As Israel prepares its response, here’s a look at the range of attacks in Iran — from drone strikes and cyberattacks to assassinations of scientists and the theft of secrets — that Israel has either accepted it was behind or is accused of having orchestrated.

Iran Attack Means an Even Tougher Balancing Act for the U.S. in the Middle East

Steven A. Cook

What is Washington’s main challenge in the aftermath of Iran’s attack on Israel?

The Joe Biden administration has to balance both its desire to prevent the intensification of what is already a regional conflict and Washington’s long held interest in helping to ensure Israeli security. Despite the successful defense of their territory (with U.S. and other partners), the Israelis have indicated that they cannot allow Iran’s attack go unanswered given the unprecedented nature of the barrage on Israeli territory. Reports suggest that President Biden has made it clear to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he does not support an Israeli response. To Israeli decision makers, this is clearly not a green light to respond, but it also may not be a red light. Given the likely political pressure with the Israeli government and public to respond to Iran, Netanyahu may very well choose to interpret the President’s words as a yellow light. This means the Israelis would be on their own, but that may suit them under the circumstances.

Should we expect a beefed up U.S. military and diplomatic effort to counter Iran and its axis of resistance (and what should we make of Jordan’s response and other regional reactions to the attack)?

Yes, the U.S. military presence in the region will remain significant. The White House has already announced a diplomatic initiative among its Group of Seven partners to sanction Iran.

Much has been made of the Jordanian air force’s successful efforts to shoot down Iranian drones. This is a testament to the durability of the 1994 peace treaty despite very difficult relations between Jordan and Israel in the last six months, the Jordanian leadership’s desire to avoid an escalation of the regional conflict that began on October 7, and, importantly, how much Jordan’s King Abdullah values his strategic ties with the United States.

Iran’s Regional Armed Network

Kali Robinson and Will Merrow

In the four decades since its Islamic Revolution, Iran has formed and supported an expanding number of allied fighting forces throughout the Middle East. Iran’s Quds Force, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), serves as the main point of contact with these groups, providing them with training, weaponry, and funds to promote Iranian regional objectives. Fighters from Shiite Muslim–majority countries such as Iraq and Lebanon compose Iran’s main proxies, but groups from the Sunni-majority Palestinian territories, Syria, and Yemen have also formed associations with Iran. At the heart of this network is Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militant group infamous for terrorist acts, which has helped Iran bridge Shiite Arab–Persian divides. Hezbollah also helped Iran support the Bashar al-Assad regime in the civil war in Syria, where it worked to bring other militias to the regime’s defense.

What are Iran’s motives?

Groups acting on Iran’s behalf have often attacked U.S. forces, and experts say Iran hopes to further leverage its growing network of partners to bolster its drive for regional hegemony and remove Western powers from the region. In recent years, Iran has sought to improve cooperation among these forces to form a more united “axis of resistance” against mutual enemies, experts say.

Israel Repelled Iran’s Huge Attack. But Only With Help From U.S. and Arab Partners.- Analysis

Yaroslav Trofimov

Saturday’s Iranian strike on Israel was huge by any standard. Tehran launched more than 170 explosive-laden drones, around 120 ballistic missiles and about 30 cruise missiles, according to Israel. The damage could have been catastrophic. As it turned out, almost all were intercepted.

That success was due to a combination of Israel’s sophisticated air-defense system and critical assistance provided by the U.S. and other Western and Arab partners. American, British and Jordanian warplanes played an especially important role in downing drones. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were destroyed before they even reached Israeli airspace.

Whether Israel and its supporters can replicate that performance under the conditions of an all-out war—this weekend’s salvo from Iran, clearly telegraphed in advance, was the opposite of a surprise attack—is an open question, as is Israel’s ability to defend itself without outside help.

That is a key consideration as Israel and the U.S. consider responses to what is a new strategic reality, created by Iran’s first direct military attack on Israeli territory since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Israel’s war cabinet met in Tel Aviv on Sunday as the country’s leaders weighed their options, and Western officials said they believed Israel’s response could come quickly, as soon as Monday.

Striking back hard on Iranian soil could invite far more devastating retaliation. But not responding at all, or too weakly, could also erode deterrence, making Israel and others more vulnerable to future Iranian barrages.

How the U.S. Forged a Fragile Middle Eastern Alliance to Repel Iran’s Israel Attack

David S. Cloud, Dov Lieber, Stephen Kalin and Summer Said

As hundreds of Iranian drones and missiles winged across the Middle East Saturday night, a defensive line of radars, jet fighters, warships and air-defense batteries from Israel, the U.S. and a half dozen other countries was already activated against the long-feared attack from Iran.

Almost nothing got through to Israel.

The formidable display of collective defense was the culmination of a decades-old but elusive U.S. goal to forge closer military ties between Israel and its longtime Arab adversaries in an effort to counter a growing common threat from Iran.

But the U.S.-led effort to protect Israel in the days and hours before the Iranian attack had to overcome numerous obstacles, including fears by Gulf countries at being seen as coming to Israel’s aid at a time when relations are badly strained by the war in Gaza.

Much of the cooperation Saturday night that led to the shooting down of the Iranian-directed barrage needed to be forged on the fly, and many details about the role played by Saudi Arabia and other key Arab governments are being closely held.

Israeli and the U.S. forces intercepted most of the Iranian drones and missiles. But they were able to do so in part because Arab countries quietly passed along intelligence about Tehran’s attack plans, opened their airspace to warplanes, shared radar tracking information or, in some cases, supplied their own forces to help, officials said.

Israel And Hamas Play Whack-A-Mole – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

Despite its devastating human and physical cost, Israel’s effort to destroy Hamas has a whack-a-mole aspect.

Even though Israel asserts it has killed 12,000 of Hama’s estimated 40,000 fighters and wounded or captured thousands more, Hamas retains a presence in swaths of Gaza.

It has been able to re-establish itself, to varying degrees, in areas Israel says it has largely cleansed of militants of Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups.

Continued fighting and Israeli strikes across Gaza in areas it has evacuated suggest it is attacking, among others, positions Hamas re-occupies.

Hamas’ ability to play whack-a-mole is evidence that although Israel has severely damaged the group’s infrastructure, diminished its rank and file, and probably killed (only) one of its top leaders, Israel has failed to destroy Hamas seven months into the war, one of the core goals of its campaign.

Earlier this month, Hamas operatives armed with batons began patrolling the streets of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, days after Israeli troops withdrew from the city. Palestinian fighters last week fired rockets from northern Gaza at Kibbutz Aza in Israel.

In February, the Biden administration asked Israel to stop targeting Hamas’ police force that was providing security for aid trucks entering Gaza and attempting to restore a semblance of law and order.

“In the absence of an alternative governance structure and continued inaction, Israel effectively perpetuates Hamas’ civilian rule in Gaza, aiding in its resurgence for years to come,” commented Israeli journalist Yoav Zitun.

United Nations Issues: US Funding of UN Peacekeeping – Analysis

Luisa Blanchfield

The United States is the single largest financial contributor to United Nations (U.N.) peacekeeping activities. Congress authorizes and appropriates U.S. contributions, and it has an ongoing interest in ensuring such funding is used as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The United States, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, plays a key role in establishing, renewing, and funding U.N. peacekeeping operations. For 2024, the United Nations assessed the U.S. share of U.N. peacekeeping at 26.94%; however, since 1994 Congress has capped the U.S. payment at 25% due to concerns that U.S. assessments are too high. Congress appropriated $1.37 billion to most U.N. peacekeeping activities for FY2024 (up to the 25% cap). Due to the gap between the U.N. assessment and the 25% cap, the United States has accumulated over $1.1 billion in arrears since FY2017. President Biden’s FY2025 budget request would fund the U.N. peacekeeping operations up to the 25% cap.

Overview of U.N. Peacekeeping

The United Nations currently operates 11 U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide, with more than 70,000 military, police, and civilian personnel from over 100 countries. The Security Council adopts a resolution to establish each operation and specify how it will be funded. Historically, the Council has authorized the U.N. General Assembly to create a separate assessed account for each operation to be supported by member states’ contributions. In recent years, due to concerns about budget shortfalls, the General Assembly has pooled peacekeeping funding to allow for increased financial flexibility.

Iran Issues Fresh Threat to U.S.

Khaleda Rahman

Iran has warned Israel of a larger attack should it retaliate against its drone and missile assault, adding that U.S. bases would be targeted if Washington supports Israel in any military operation against Tehran.

Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel late on Saturday, in response to an April 1 strike widely blamed on Israel on an Iranian consular building in Damascus, Syria, that killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals.

U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. forces helped Israel down "nearly all" the drones and missiles. He said he would convene a meeting of allies on Sunday "to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran's brazen attack."

Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, told state television that Iran's response "will be much larger than tonight's military action if Israel retaliates against Iran."

Bagheri said that Tehran has communicated to the U.S. through the Swiss Embassy, which handles U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of diplomatic relations, that any backing of Israeli retaliation against Iran would result in U.S. regional bases being targeted.

"If the U.S. participates in the next aggressive actions by [Israel] through the bases it has in the [Middle East] region or the military facilities it has in the region and this information is confirmed for us, its bases in the region will not be safe," he said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said the country had taught Israel "an unforgettable lesson," according to the state-run IRNA news agency. He also warned that "any new adventure against Iran's interest would be met with a firm and regrettable response."

Iran is trying to create a new normal with its attack. Here’s how Israel and the US should respond.

William F. Wechsler

Iran’s supreme leader took his time to consider how and where to respond to Israel’s strike in Damascus on April 1. The United States and Israel should similarly take time to consider what he likely intended to accomplish with this weekend’s retaliation and what messages he was trying to send.

Most immediately, Tehran clearly intended to deter Israel from once again targeting its diplomatic facilities—locations that it previously thought were safe enough to use for military purposes. Israel’s longstanding “war between the wars” has put Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officers at risk when operating near Israel’s borders, so Tehran is undoubtedly loath to see its remaining sanctuaries become an accepted part of the battlefield.

Operationally, Iran sent an unmistakable signal that it wanted to avoid a further escalation that could spark a truly regional war. It chose long-range attacks that could be readily thwarted by known Israeli defenses and pointedly did not target any US facilities. It did this all while issuing extraordinary statements (in English) that “the matter can be deemed concluded” and that “U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!” (emphasis in the original).

While Hamas might be desperate for a wider conflagration, its patron Iran is certainly quite satisfied by the post-October 7 status quo, from which it benefits immensely. For many people across the region, awash with images of Palestinian suffering, their perceptions of Iran have never been more positive, as it alone is “standing up” to Israel—previously through its proxies and now directly as well. Reports of Jordan actively defending Israel from Iran further exacerbate the dichotomy between Tehran, which presents itself as the leader of the resistance against the ”Zionist entity,” and Arab governments that are seen by many of their citizens as secretly doing Israel’s bidding.

Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program has fallen off the front pages and continues to progress largely unimpeded, already leaping past milestones that were once widely regarded to be unacceptable. Moreover, Iran has thus far avoided any real risk to Hezbollah, the crown jewel of its proxy network since Hezbollah’s second-strike capacity helps deter an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Iran seeks US withdrawal from the region; the last thing it wants is to provoke a wider regional war that would risk a direct US-Iran military confrontation.

An Essential Part of Modern Life That Armies Should Never Attack Again

Peter Fairley

In late March, after two years of withering attacks on Ukraine, Russia knocked out half of Ukraine’s power supply. Up to that point, Russia’s missiles and kamikaze drones had mostly targeted the Ukrainian substations that push electricity from power plants to consumers. But this time they hit the plants themselves, severely damaging and destroying hydroelectric and fossil fuel stations — all of which are difficult to repair or replace.

When power stops, life grinds to a halt. Lights go out. Sewage treatment stops. Clean water stops. Electric cars, buses and trolleys stop. Elevators stop, trapping older and disabled people. For many, home heating, refrigeration, cooking and clothes washing stops, along with medical devices such as oxygen generators.

Even though the world’s dependence on electricity for all of this and more is growing, power grids are still legitimate military targets, according to both international law and our own military rule book. But there are small, promising signs that could be changing. Early last month, before Russia’s most damaging assaults, the International Criminal Court in The Hague concluded that the country’s pummeling of Ukraine’s power system had already crossed the line and issued arrest warrants for a pair of senior Russian commanders, Adm. Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov and Lt. Gen. Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash, whose units are accused of launching the missiles. (Russia has denied committing war crimes.)

It was the world’s first prosecution of combatants for attacks on a power grid and an important first step toward recognizing electricity’s growing centrality to modern life. But the global community must now draw bright lines for combatants in future conflicts — and strengthen the hand of future prosecutors — by codifying specific protections for power grids. The international community already attempts to do that for select infrastructure, including hospitals, dams and nuclear power plants, via the Geneva Conventions. It’s time to add power grids to that privileged roster.

A stunning victory with the shield creates an opening for Israel - Opinion

David Ignatius

After six frustrating months in Gaza, Israel finally won a decisive victory against its adversaries by blunting Iran’s all-out missile attack Saturday night with an astonishing display of high-tech military prowess.

“A good defense is the best offense” is a truism in sports. Israel demonstrated that this precept might apply to modern warfare, as well. In neutering an Iranian barrage — which included more than 100 ballistic missiles, 150 drones and 30 cruise missiles — Israel showed that in combat, the shield can be as powerful as the sword.

“It was a worst-case scenario in what Iran launched, but a best case in terms of the outcome,” Brett McGurk, the Middle East director for the National Security Council, said in an interview. He was one of the top officials who worked closely with President Biden during what officials described as a nerve-racking 12 minutes when the ballistic missiles were on their way to targets in Israel and nobody knew if the defenses would hold.

The missile war this weekend was the bookend to Israel’s bold but risky April 1 airstrike on Tehran’s consulate in Damascus, which killed seven officers in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two senior leaders. Now, Israel’s stunning success at fending off Iran’s reprisal for that attack could mark a psychological turning point in the trauma of the Gaza war. Israel has felt weak and embattled since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack, and increasingly isolated internationally as it tried to crush Hamas in its lairs underneath a desperate Palestinian civilian population. But the symbolic imagery reversed Saturday night.

With its Iron Dome missile defense systems, Israel became the implacable defender, shielding Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem as well as its own population. Israel, for a change, seemed to have the world on its side as it countered the Iranian assault. Britain and France joined the United States in shooting down the Iranian volley. Sources said Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab countries quietly joined in the integrated air defense, too. And Group of Seven Western nations talked Sunday morning about possible joint sanctions against Iran.

The Warship’s Remote Operator: Who Is the Captain Now?

Manal Cheema, Ariel Sarandinaki

On Jan. 16, four of the U.S. Navy’s unmanned surface vessel (USV) prototypes (meaning a vessel that can operate without a human crew) recently returned from operations in the Western Pacific. Over several months in late 2023, these vessels—named Ranger, Mariner, Sea Hunter, and Sea Hawk—made port calls to Japan, Guam, Australia, and other nations, as part of a multilateral exercise to test the operation of unmanned systems. According to the Navy, this deployment was focused, at least in part, on command and control. During their time at sea, Navy researchers tested several ways to control the vessels using various configurations of operators and consoles—both from ashore at an Unmanned Operations Center in Port Hueneme, California, and at sea from another U.S. Navy ship in the region. Ranger and Mariner in particular were “testing more advanced autonomy features under the supervision of a civilian crew which [was] under orders to observe, but not interfere unless absolutely necessary.”

The advent of USVs for military use has raised important questions, such as: Does international law prohibit or restrict the use of USVs in peacetime or in conflict? What body of law, established or novel, should govern their use? Perhaps most importantly, who is responsible for missteps or miscalculations in the use of these vessels? Among these inquiries—which are largely the basis of observers’ and policymakers’ discussions—two central questions remain mostly unexamined. First, would the presence of a civilian master mariner aboard a U.S. military USV affect the vessel’s status under international law? Second, how would the ability of this civilian—or any human aboard the ship—to override a USV’s preset orders or parameters impact the remote commanding officer’s responsibility for any wrongful conduct?

The onus is now on Israel as Iran makes its move

Emile Hokayem

On Saturday night, a long-awaited Iranian strike on Israel started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Even before the hundreds of drones, cruise and ballistic missiles fired hit Israel, Tehran’s diplomatic mission at the UN issued a statement announcing the end of that round. The incoming projectiles were intercepted above the skies of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel by an international coalition, and no serious damage or casualties were reported.

This was the most dangerous step yet in the complex, high-stakes shadowboxing surrounding the Israel-Hamas war, tipping it into the light. Ever since October 7, Iran and Israel have been locked into a worsening stand-off, in which Israel repeatedly bloodies Iran’s face as the latter haltingly dances around while avoiding throwing a punch.

These have been difficult times for Iran. Tehran has relished Israel’s diminished standing over its Gaza war, western moral embarrassment and Arab outrage. Its relative restraint has generated precious goodwill from its neighbours, partially reversing its long-standing isolation. But these gains have been fragile, and the ruling clique has known all along that a direct war with Israel may not only jeopardise its regional position but could also drag in the US and damage the regime itself. 

Last night’s attacks produced enough footage for Iran and its partners to gleefully use for their propaganda. But as Tehran reacted out of humiliation, following Israeli strikes on its Damascus consulate earlier this month, yesterday’s events are likely to be less than satisfying strategically. 

The World Cannot Afford to Ignore the Poorest Countries


They are home to a quarter of humanity – 1.9 billion people. They possess prized natural resources, including one-fifth of the world’s copper and gold reserves, as well as many of the rare metals essential for the transition to clean energy. Their working-age populations are set to expand for the next five decades amid demographic decline nearly everywhere else. Yet a historic reversal is underway among the world’s 75 countries eligible for grants and low-interest loans from the World Bank’s International Development Association.

For the first time this century, the income gap relative to the wealthiest economies is widening in roughly half of IDA countries. And while these countries are midway through what could be a lost decade, the rest of the world is largely averting its gaze. IDA countries have an extreme-poverty rate eight times higher than the global average. They account for 70% of all extreme poverty, and they are home to 90% of people facing hunger or malnutrition. Many of their national governments, meanwhile, are paralyzed, and half are either in debt distress or at high risk of it.

The flow of foreign capital has largely dried up for IDA countries. In 2022, for the first time in 16 years, private creditors took more in principal repayments than they put in via loan disbursements to IDA governments and government-guaranteed entities. Financing from foreign governments dwindled to an 11-year low. The remaining lifeline has been multilateral development banks, especially the World Bank, which provided more than half of the $26 billion in loans that IDA governments received from multilateral creditors in 2022.

The World Is Still on Fire


The world is facing the worst five-year span in three decades. Higher interest rates have left developing countries crushed by debt, and half of the poorest economies haven’t recovered to where they were before the pandemic. Growth is weak across large swaths of the world, and inflation remains persistently high. And behind it all, the thermometer keeps inching up. Last year was the warmest on record, as is true of nearly every month.

For the last several years, world leaders have made big promises and laid out bold plans to mitigate the climate crisis and help poor countries adapt. They pledged that the World Bank would transform itself to work on climate change, and that the multilateral system would get new money and lend more aggressively with the resources it has, including to meet concessional needs. An agreement between creditors would provide debt relief to countries that most needed it. And where public money was insufficient, the multilateral system would be able to catalyze private investment in developing countries.

Despite the bold rhetoric, 2023 was a disaster in terms of support for the developing world. As the chart below demonstrates, the private sector collected $68 billion more in interest and principal repayments than it lent to the developing world. Amazingly, international financial institutions and assistance agencies withdrew another $40 billion, and net concessional assistance from international financial institutions was only $2 billion, even as famine spread. “Billions to trillions,” the catchphrase for the World Bank’s plan to mobilize private-sector money for development, has become “millions in, billions out.”

Ukraine War Maps Reveal Possible Russian Advances Into Fortress Cities

Ellie Cook

New maps show the "backbone" of Ukraine's defense in the eastern Donetsk region, as Kyiv's army chief warns that the situation on the eastern front had "significantly worsened."

Moscow hopes to capture a "group of major cities" in the Donetsk region, including Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Druzhkivka, and Kostyantynivka, U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Saturday.

The settlements, described by the ISW as "fortress cities," sit between 12 and 30 kilometers (7.5 to 18.6 miles) from the current front line. Pokrovsk, a city further south approximately 30 kilometers from the front, also forms part of this defensive belt.

A member of the Ukrainian artillery Brigade 42 near Chasiv Yar on February 27, 2024, in Ukraine. Should Russian forces seize Chasiv Yar, a settlement west of Bakhmut close to Kostyantynivka, Russia would be able to "begin attacking the southern "fortress" cities in the Ukrainian defensive belt directly," the Institute for the Study of War said on Saturday.

The US Army's ability to maneuver rapidly on the battlefield may be over

Michael Peck 

Modern weapons have become so accurate and lethal that soon armies will not be able to maneuver rapidly on the battlefield.

Instead, they will trudge forward under the protection of defensive "bubbles" designed to stop drones and missiles. According to this vision, swift battlefield maneuvers will be replaced by grinding wars of attrition where victory goes to the side that has the most firepower as well as the most resources to replace losses.

It's a grim vision of warfare that has more in common with the slaughter of the First World War than the mechanized blitzkriegs of World War II and Desert Storm, where infantry and armor backed by airpower seized vast territory. But it's a future the West must prepare for, warns Alex Vershinin, a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, in an essay for Britain's Royal United Services Institute think tank.

The Ukraine war has demonstrated that — at least for now — firepower dominates maneuver. Russian and Ukrainian have painfully learned that with surveillance and attack drones constantly overhead, emerging from cover is dangerous and slow. Long-range guided missiles and shells can decimate armored columns that dare to thrust through minefields and layered defenses covered by artillery and airpower. Instead of sweeping offensives, the Ukraine war has become a largely static conflict where immense preparations are made for attacks that might gain an obscure village or a few square miles of territory before the attacker halts to dig in and regroup.

"It is easier to mass fires than forces," Vershinin said in the RUSI analysis. "Deep maneuver, which requires the massing of combat power, is no longer possible because any massed force will be destroyed by indirect fires before it can achieve success in depth. Instead, a ground offensive requires a tight protective bubble to ward off enemy strike systems."


Fabian Villalobos and Scott Savitz

Deception is as old as warfare. Ancient tales across cultures describe cunning and creative tactics, such as the Trojan Horse, employed to defeat adversaries. The deceiving force gains advantage by both confusing the adversary and preserving its combat power. Ultimately, deception is a critical combat enabler that requires deliberate planning, creative practitioners, and limited resources.

And yet, US military deception capabilities have been allowed to atrophy—despite the proven value of deception, which can be traced to the US military’s earliest operations. General George Washington’s surprise crossing of the Delaware during the American Revolution originally included a clever diversion. Allied deceptions in World War II caused German commanders to anticipate attacks in the wrong places, most notably leading them to concentrate forces at Calais when the Allies landed at Normandy.

Deception also enabled rapid victory with limited casualties during Operation Desert Storm. Intelligence indicated that Saddam Hussein expected an amphibious landing from the Persian Gulf and a drive north into Kuwait by coalition forces from Saudi territory. Capitalizing on that intelligence, the United States signaled this intent with decoys while disguising the movement of its forces to the west for a surprise “left hook” that cut off Iraqi forces within Kuwait. This induced the collapse, mass surrender, and flight of Iraqi forces within four days of ground combat. Deception planners used Magruder’s Principle—named for a general from the American Civil War—to reinforce Saddam Hussein’s preexisting beliefs to deceive him and achieve victory.

Despite the profusion of unmanned systems, satellite constellations, sensors, and other methods of tracking troop movement over the last thirty years, Magruder’s Principle and other deception techniques are still applicable today. Military forces must still deceive and assume they are being deceived. Ukraine demonstrated deception’s enduring relevance in November 2022, when it continually indicated that it planned to push against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, then made a surprise thrust to the south.

'Where do we go from here?' Half a year since October 7- opinion


Half a year has passed since October 7, and every Israeli is now asking themselves, “Where do we go from here?” Time is frozen. We all understand that something has changed in us, but the nature of this change is not yet clear. This is because the crisis started much earlier.

The Simchat Torah attack caught Israel at its most difficult social moment since the establishment of the state. Society was divided into two hostile camps. At times it felt like a civil war over everything in our society. We split into subgroups with not only different interest, but also a different set of values and different perceptions of the common good.

We not only lost the ability to speak to each other but also the will. We told ourselves we were

Israeli soldiers walk past Israeli tanks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel October 15, 2023.

Then came the attack. The shock, the shudder, the thousands of victims, the kidnapped, and the displaced Israelis – we put aside our differences and mobilized for one another.

This feeling swept all sectors of society. Emergency initiatives and donation distribution centers were established by people on the left and the right; the center and the periphery; Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Mizrahim; conservatives and liberals; in the Bedouin settlements and in ultra-Orthodox society.

Enhancing Cybersecurity in Outer Space

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Recently, there have been several cybersecurity policy announcements relevant to outer space. The European Space Agency (ESA) came out with a policy document, ESA Security for Space: Shaping the Future, Protecting the Present, in November 2023. This was brought with the goal of “protect[ing] ESA critical space infrastructure.” In December 2023, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Space Security: Best Practices Guide in order “to bolster mission cybersecurity efforts for both public sector and private sector space activities.”

This came against the backdrop of U.S. intelligence agencies warning that the U.S. space sector could be infiltrated by foreign spy agencies. In a directive issued in August 2023, the FBI, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) raised an alert that certain foreign intelligence agencies were employing a series of measures, including cyberattacks and strategic investment (including joint ventures and acquisitions), to target the space industry. In terms of national security implications, the directive noted that cyberattacks or other means are aimed at “collecting sensitive data related to satellite payloads; disrupting and degrading U.S. satellite communications, remote sensing, and imaging capabilities; degrading the United States’ ability to provide critical services during emergencies; identifying vulnerabilities and targeting U.S. commercial space infrastructure during conflict.”

Earlier, in April 2023, a Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) report made the case for identifying outer space as 17th critical infrastructure sector, with the goal of adopting enhanced cybersecurity measures among satellite operators. The 24-page report made stakeholder-specific recommendations including prioritizing the development of norms and standards in partnership with other like-minded partners.