9 May 2024

How The Taliban Is Navigating The War In Gaza – Analysis

Kabir Taneja and Shivam Shekhawat

The war in Gaza, now well past the half-year mark with few signs of a long-term resolution, has been an interesting case study to follow from the point of view of the Taliban’s ‘acting’ Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA). The Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, almost four years ago, and has since managed to develop a patchwork of diplomatic and non-diplomatic relationships with neighbouring states, entities, international institutions, and issues.

Even as the Taliban’s position on the crisis has not been in the spotlight, the group has taken a distant yet clear position on the same. On 2 April, the Taliban-run Afghan foreign ministry led by acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, released an overt statement targeting Israeli military action against what was reported to be a consular section of the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus, Syria. However, this was done more so to put its political weight behind Iran’s retaliatory actions.

Myanmar’s faltering junta in a do-or-die offensive


After six disastrous months of serial defeat, Myanmar’s military has finally swung back onto the offensive with a high-stakes campaign already teetering precariously between success and further failure.

Troops have been locked for the past three weeks in the army’s single largest operation in decades aimed at pushing back insurgents of the Karen National Union (KNU) and its People Defense Force (PDF) allies and reasserting full control over the economically vital Thai border trade hub of Myawaddy.

Named Operation Aung Zeya in honor of Alaunghpaya, founder of then-Burma’s 18th-century Konbaung dynasty, the campaign comes as the fortunes of the military are arguably at their lowest ebb since the years following Independence in 1948.

The bid to restore the military’s State Administration Council (SAC) regime’s revenue and reputation will have immediate repercussions in Karen state, situated in the country’s eastern region bordering Thailand.

America’s China Strategy Has a Credibility Problem

Emily Kilcrease

In future crises or conflicts in U.S.-Chinese relations, the economic dimension will be critical. Yet Beijing currently has good reason to doubt the credibility of Washington’s sanctions threats. This is because the United States’s response has been muted in the face of recent Chinese provocations, including Beijing’s efforts to erode democracy in Hong Kong, the dispatching of a spy balloon over the United States, and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Sanctions are a crucial part of the U.S. foreign policy toolkit, and they encompass a broad array of economic restrictions, including financial sanctions, export controls, and trade restrictions. They are intended to coerce entities or individuals into a course of action. The United States has many powerful sanctions at its disposal—including those that could eject major Chinese firms from the global financial system and weaponize the central role of the U.S. dollar in it. But Washington has preferred instead to respond to provocations by imposing controls on a handful of Chinese firms or personal sanctions on Chinese officials. Rather than using more powerful sanctions, the United States has opted for a more limited approach of imposing sanctions related to technology and levying tariffs and trade restrictions to counter China’s economic practices.

US-China Cooperation Remains Possible


When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited Beijing in an effort to stabilize relations with China, many of the issues that he discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping were highly contentious. For example, Blinken warned China against providing materials and technology to aid Russia in its war against Ukraine, and he objected to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and harassment of the Philippines (a United States ally). Other disputes concerned interpretations of America’s “one-China” policy toward Taiwan, and US trade and export controls on the flow of technology to China.

I was visiting Beijing around the same time as the chair of a Sino-American “track two dialogue,” where citizens who are in communication with their respective governments can meet and speak for themselves. Because such talks are unofficial and disavowable, they can sometimes be more candid. That was certainly the case this time, when a delegation from the Aspen Strategy Group met with a group assembled by the influential Central Party School in Beijing – the sixth such meeting between the two institutions over the past decade.

Blinken’s China Visit: Has Rapprochement Run Its Course?

Anushka Saxena

In the past two years, the United States and China have been riding a wave of hyper-diplomacy in a bid to turn down simmering tensions between the two sides. An already tense relationship has been repeatedly pushed to the edge by events such as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August 2022 and the “spy balloon incident” of February 2023.

So when it was announced on April 22 that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be visiting China for the second time in less than a year, it continued the trend of relative optimism. The expectation this time around was that Blinken’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi would at least reaffirm both sides’ commitment to resolving disputes and maintaining stability in ties. What we have instead observed is that disputes between the United States and China have become only more intrinsic and fundamental, and are keeping the two from reaching any significant breakthroughs in settling tensions.

New US strategy looks to blunt Russian and Chinese influence in cyberspace

Sean Lyngaas

The US State Department on Monday released an ambitious new cybersecurity strategy that seeks to curb Russia and China’s digital influence in the developing world and blunt those countries’ alleged efforts to interfere in elections.

With roughly half of the world’s population holding elections in 2024, their vulnerability to “cyber-enabled interference” is “particularly acute” and requires the US to continuously expose hackers and propagandists trying to undermine confidence in democracies, says the strategy, which CNN has reviewed.

“We have communicated and will continue to communicate to Russia and to China that we view interference in our democratic processes in the United States as absolutely unacceptable,” Nate Fick, the State Department’s top cyber diplomat, said in an interview. “Secretary [Antony] Blinken has said it, and I have said it.”

Fick accompanied Blinken on a trip to China last month, where Blinken told CNN that the US has seen evidence of Chinese attempts to “influence and arguably interfere” with the upcoming US elections.

The Houthis May Embolden Beijing - Opinion

Walter Russell Mead

World leaders know that what happens in the Middle East doesn’t stay there. As Israel warns Gazans to evacuate Rafah and negotiators haggle over cease-fire terms, the effect of Middle East hostilities on the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific continues to deepen.

First and most directly, the Middle East war is expanding. On May 4, Iranian state media reported that the Shahid Mahdavi, a former container ship converted to carry and launch fixed-wing drones and helicopters and equipped with sophisticated electronic equipment, had crossed the equator in the Indian Ocean. The move came as the Houthis reiterated their threats to target ships from the Red Sea as far south as the Cape of Good Hope.

These threats aren’t idle. Houthi drones can hit targets more than 1,200 miles from their bases in Yemen, and on April 26 they struck a container ship more than 300 nautical miles southeast of the Horn of Africa. The damage to the MSC Orion was minor and crew members weren’t injured, but the message was clear. Any ship attempting to reach Europe from the Mideast or Indo-Pacific now risks a Houthi attack.

Iranian Proxies Wreak Havoc Beyond the Middle East

Eyal Hulata  & Natalie Ecanow

Three months after exchanging tit-for-tat airstrikes, Iran and Pakistan are patching diplomatic wounds. Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi embarked on a three-day trip to Pakistan on April 22, where he and senior Pakistani leadership committed to strengthening bilateral ties. Reconciliation may be underway, but rest assured, Iran is not done stirring trouble in Pakistan—or beyond.

For years, Iran has encircled Israel with a “ring of fire,” raising proxies on Israel’s borders that are armed and ready to strike at Tehran’s behest. Iran-backed Hezbollah dominates Lebanon, a country stuck in political gridlock without a president and on the brink of economic collapse. Iran exploited the civil war in Syria to transform the country into a forward base for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Iran-backed Houthis plunged Yemen into one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and wreaked global havoc this year by effectively closing off vital Red Sea shipping lanes to commercial traffic. And Iran-backed forces in Iraq are undermining Baghdad’s sovereignty while reportedly looking to destabilize Jordan by arming fighters in the kingdom.

Divisions in the Dirt: The Army's plan for the next big war

Todd South

Thousands of enemy troops pour across the border, invading the sovereign nation of Pirtuni — a staunch U.S. ally.

The “Donovians” rush infantry, armor and anti-aircraft systems across their border — which looks much like Russia — into Pirtuni, which resembles Poland on a map. In response, the “Pirtunians” rapidly assemble their own division to counter the attack, but they need support.

The Army’s 3rd Battalion, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, already in the region working with local forces, lends its aid, and more troops are coming. Thousands of soldiers from the 1st Armored Division quickly arrive, followed by a battalion of Marines and Air Force assets of all stripes are on stand-by.

Pouring over maps stretched out across folding tables inside an abandoned building at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center in California, 1st Armored Division commanders, mission planners, operations and intel officers, and a host of other soldiers try to decide how best to respond to the combined live and simulated campaign — a wargame designed to get them ready for a conventional fight.

U.S. Homeland Missile Defense: Charting A Different Course*

Peppino DeBiaso & Robert Joseph


The United States is approaching a crossroads on homeland missile defense. As a result of rapid progress by nuclear-armed adversaries, missile threats capable of holding American cities hostage will soon outpace U.S. planned missile defense programs and capabilities. If the United States is to halt its growing vulnerability to missile attack, it must decide soon how to adapt its missile defense posture to account for new technologies, advanced capabilities and a deteriorating strategic environment.

There is growing unease about the ability of the homeland missile defense “program of record,” focused on the development of a single new interceptor, to stay ahead of the rogue state ICBM threat from North Korea and, in the likely near future, Iran. In the case of the former, the threat is expanding faster than anticipated. Given the likely decade long development of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI), this threat will almost certainly create a window of vulnerability by 2030. Equally important, the current missile defense program lacks the technology and capability development efforts that could contribute to countering the rising danger of coercive threats from Russia and China, as witnessed by Moscow’s warnings that it is prepared to use nuclear weapons in its war on Ukraine to prevent defeat and the more oblique but still clear threats by Beijing to employ nuclear weapons in a Taiwan conflict.[1] The threat of such limited nuclear use, occurring below the threshold of large-scale attacks, is calculated to persuade U.S. leaders that the risks of responding to aggression are not worth the costs, including the prospect of further escalation.

Don't Believe the Washington War Machine: Putin Is Not Going to Invade Another NATO Ally | Opinion

Rebekah Koffler

The primary reason for continuing to flow billions of dollars in cash and weaponry to Ukraine for what is clearly becoming another Afghanistan, is that if we don't, Putin will march through Europe, invading a NATO country such as Poland or the Baltics. In this case, the U.S. would have to deploy armed forces to fight off the Russians to defend the Europeans. These are the talking points that the Washington Establishment politicians and their fellow commentariat members in the media have been using to convince the American people to continue parting with their hard-earned money. In fact, even Speaker Mike Johnson, who as a rank-and-file Right-wing Congressman opposed the funding of Ukraine's war effort, recently signed off on another massive foreign aid package, $95 billion worth, the bulk of which is designated for Kyiv.

"I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed," said Johnson, justifying the spending of another $61 billion on a what serious analysts assess as a unwinnable war. "I think he might go to the Baltics next. I think he might have a showdown with Poland or one of our NATO allies," asserted Johnson.

Gaza first — The only credible path to Palestinian statehood


In pursuit of normalization with Israel, Saudi officials have called for Israel to accept “a credible, irreversible path to a Palestinian state.” After Oct. 7 this is thoroughly unrealistic; it is rejected, not just by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but by almost the entire Israeli public. If a path to the two-state solution exists at all, it will have to be the exact opposite: an explicitly reversible path. While this will require a new government in Israel, it is not impossible.

The answer lies in starting Palestinian sovereignty in Gaza first, then, after a period of years, if and only if, certain conditions have been met, to then proceed to good-faith final status negotiations that would focus on extending the realm of Palestinian sovereignty to a demilitarized West Bank.

Israel’s Rafah operation, explained

Ellen Ioanes

Israel has begun an aerial and ground offensive in Rafah, the largest city in Gaza that has remained outside of Israel’s direct operational control.

While Israel and the US are claiming it is a limited operation, it’s nevertheless raising fears that the long-threatened, full-scale offensive into the city that houses over 1.4 million displaced Palestinians could be imminent.

Here’s what we know: The Israeli military took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt Tuesday after conducting airstrikes Monday on the southern Palestinian city. It did so one day after ordering at least 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate from the eastern part of the city, prompting scenes of families fleeing north to areas heavily damaged by nearly eight months of fighting. Israel’s war cabinet voted Monday to push forward with the operation, even as ceasefire talks continue in Cairo and Israel.

Israel maintains that four Hamas battalions are operating from the southern city. Rafah is also one of the only places in Gaza that Israeli forces have not destroyed and is the site of two border crossings — critical routes for the humanitarian aid people in Gaza so desperately need.

'The Godfather' in Gaza: What a mafia movie tells us about Hamas war - analysis


There is a scene in the American classic The Godfather when Don Corleone reveals to his family – and to the audience – that the man behind the war against his family is actually rival mafia family head Don Barzini. The film previously featured Barzini as a mediator between several warring families. Corleone says, “I wasn’t sure until this day… It was Barzini all along.” This scene might teach us something about the current war in Gaza.

On May 6, Hamas claimed to have agreed to a hostage and ceasefire deal with Israel. Hamas had been rejecting deals for months, so it came as a surprise. Israel launched an operation in Rafah on May 6 after asking residents to evacuate eastern Rafah. Was it the operation’s pressure that led Hamas to accept a deal?

It turns out the “deal” was different than the one to which Israel had been privy. Instead, according to a report in Axios, there was a kind of bait and switch in which Hamas held talks with the US, Qatar, and Egypt and agreed to a different deal that was much worse for Israel than the previous ones to which Israel had agreed. Axios reported that Israeli officials felt they had been “played” by the US and the mediators in Doha and Cairo.

Wars, Rumors, and Geopolitical Logic


The world faces the danger of a major war. To grasp the magnitude of that threat, it is necessary to go beyond the trajectory of news from Ukraine. It is also necessary on the one hand to seek a balanced appreciation of the variable factor of human will in the management of international crises, and the immutable factors of geographic reality on the other.

The decision in Washington to expand NATO and weaponize Ukraine against Russia was an act of human will; so was the decision in Moscow to respond to this challenge with military force. The permanence of Ukraine’s geographic position, on the other hand, makes this challenge an existential issue for Russia, no less than the control over the Jordan river valley and the Golan Heights is an existential issue for Israel, and the control over its coastal seas is an existential issue for China. A state striving for security can change segments of its space by building Great Walls and Maginot Lines, but it is inseparably bound to the physical framework of its existence: to the location of its land, its position, shape, and size, its resources, and its borders.

The Psychologist Who Convinced Economists that to Err Is Human


The recent passing of psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman is an apt moment to reflect on his invaluable contribution to the field of behavioral economics. While Alexander Pope’s famous assertion that “to err is human” dates back to 1711, it was the pioneering work of Kahneman and his late co-author and friend Amos Tversky in the 1970s and early 1980s that finally persuaded economists to recognize that people often make mistakes.

When I received a fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) four years ago, it was this fundamental breakthrough that motivated me to choose the office – or “study” (to use CASBS terminology) – that Kahneman occupied during his year at the Center in 1977-78. It seemed like the ideal setting to explore Kahneman’s three major economic contributions, which challenged economic theory’s apocryphal “rational actor” by introducing an element of psychological realism into the discipline.

The constituents of America’s strength are under severe strain

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I spent the mid-2000s arguing why Indian foreign policy must make a decisive shift towards the United States. The shadow of the Cold War had not yet dissolved and memories of US support for Pakistan’s proxy war were still alive in the minds of the country’s strategic establishment. The Vajpayee government had initiated a shift in thinking after the 1998 nuclear tests and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was pushing for a major breakthrough in the form of the nuclear deal.

Many in New Delhi — from cabinet ministers to young officers — had misgivings about the relationship and argued that partnering with a superpower would undermine India’s strategic autonomy. With the exception of the formidable K Subrahmanyam, very few were comfortable making the realist argument that a closer alliance with the United States was in India’s interest.

Towards the end of the George W Bush presidency it became fashionable in Washington — and helpful to Barack Obama’s election campaign — to talk about the decline of American power. Fareed Zakaria wrote a book about the post-American world in 2008. This played very well in New Delhi both because the predicted shift in the global balance of power towards Asia was good news, but also because it buttressed the old claim that the United States was on its way down. Time and again I found myself in a minority pointing out that declinism was a favourite American pastime for decades and Americans have been lamenting on the decline of their country for over 200 years.

UK armed forces’ personal data hacked in MoD breach

Tom Ambrose

The Ministry of Defence has suffered a significant data breach and the personal information of UK military personnel has been hacked.

A third-party payroll system used by the MoD, which includes names and bank details of current and past members of the armed forces, was targeted in the attack. A very small number of addresses may also have been accessed.

The department took immediate action and took the external network, operated by a contractor, offline.

Initial investigations found no evidence that data had been removed, according to the BBC and Sky, who first reported the story. The Guardian understands MPs will be addressed on the matter in the Commons on Tuesday, with Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, expected to make a statement in the afternoon.

Ministers will blame hostile and malign actors, but will not name the country behind the hacking.

Hamas’s (Supposed) Consent to the Hostage Deal and the Operation in Rafah: Insights and Recommendations

Tamir Hayman 

I would like to put in order what seems to be contradictory: an unnecessary delay and frankly, for the first time in a month, an Israeli initiative that might lead us to the end of the war.

The hostage deal

Hamas has apparently agreed to the offer. In practice, this is a fundamentally different proposal than the one Israel agreed to. There are two main points of contention: The end of the war and the identity of the prisoners who had been sentenced to life but who will be released as part of the deal. On the first issue, Israel finds the mediators’ proposal acceptable because the phrase “ceasing the war” is not mentioned. The phrase in the proposal “cessation of activity” is vague, and it allows flexibility for renewing the war in the future, should Israel choose. The catch is in the second issue, which doesn’t allow Israel to accept the deal. Israel will waive the right of veto on the decision about the Palestinian prisoners to be released—this is a fundamental matter.

The Crisis of the University

George Friedman

In my book “The Storm Before the Calm,” I wrote that the United States is headed into institutional and socio-economic crises. The institutional crisis, in my view, would primarily concern the way the federal government functions, but it would also implicate the way universities function. The latter is critical because the university is the arena where future technologists, investors and members of Congress establish the foundations of their knowledge.

On the crisis of universities, I see three issues. One is financial; the cost of education has been unsustainable for individuals and the government alike. (The large number of forgiven loans has compounded this problem.) The second is ideological; ideology has been replacing scholarship in the classroom and in the administration buildings. The third is what I would call procedural; the admissions process has tended to screen out social and ethnic groups that seem unattractive to the university’s idiosyncratic values.

‘Russia Feels Like They’re Winning’

Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, a powerful congressional body that oversees U.S. military funding and strategy. Foreign Policy sat down with Smith for a candid discussion on Ukraine, Israel, and China.

What to Expect from Israel’s Rafah Offensive

Jack Detsch

Despite an ongoing eleventh-hour attempt to secure a cease-fire in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday that Israel’s war cabinet had unanimously decided to proceed with its military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which Israeli officials say is Hamas’s last major holdout.

Get Ready For Weaker Growth And Higher Inflation: The Consensus Was Wrong – Analysis

Daniel Lacalle

The weak GDP figure for the first quarter came with a double negative: poor consumer spending and exports, plus a rise in core inflation. The US administration’s enormous fiscal stimulus underscores the importance of considering the weaker-than-expected data.

A deceleration in consumer spending, a decline in the personal savings ratio to 3.6%, and poor exports added to a set of figures for investment that were also negative when we looked at the details.

The gross domestic product is much weaker than the headlines suggest. If we look at consumption, both durable and non-durable goods were flat or down, while the only item that increased modestly was the services factor. Residential and intellectual property boosted investment, while equipment remained weak in the past two quarters. The slump in export growth coincided with a significant increase in imports, which weakened the trade deficit. Government spending continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace, and becomes the main factor to disguise what is evidently a concerning level of growth for a leading economy with enormous potential.

It is precisely because of the unnecessary increase in government spending, designed to bloat GDP and provide a false sense of economic strength that inflation remains elevated and rises over a three—and six-month period.

Ukraine Steps Up Its Charm Offensive In Africa – Analysis

Peter Fabricius

Ukraine has opened several new African embassies, still hoping for a better return on its investment.

While struggling ever harder to prevent Russia from overrunning its territory, Ukraine is persisting with its charm offensive in Africa. In the grinding battle in the east of the country, Ukraine is steadily losing territory, each metre costing untold loss of blood.

Russia now occupies around 26% of Ukrainian territory. Its recent gains have largely been due to right-wing Republicans in the United States (US) House of Representatives blocking aid to Ukraine for the past six months.

In April, the Republicans finally relented, passing a US$60 billion aid package. But it will take time for the weapons to filter through, and meanwhile Russia has stepped up attacks on Ukraine’s frontline and is pounding its power infrastructure, trying to destroy the country’s morale.

Lockheed Martin Launches CJADC2 Demo Satellites

Josh Luckenbaugh

Lockheed Martin recently launched a pair of small satellites the company hopes will showcase how space can enable the Defense Department’s Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept.

CJADC2, as it is called, envisions sensors and weapon systems across every domain connected via an artificial intelligence-enabled network to ensure the right data gets to the right shooter or effector.

Launched March 4, Lockheed Martin’s self-funded Pony Express 2 mission is “really all about Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control,” said Jeff Schrader, vice president for global situational awareness in the company’s space division.

The two satellites are meant to demonstrate three mission areas: autonomous, collaborative data collection; tactical, over-the-horizon communications; and on-edge processing, Schrader said during a Lockheed Martin media briefing.

With these satellites, the company is looking to perform demonstrations with the U.S. government and international partners, he added.