11 May 2024

The Chilling of the Fourth Estate After 10 Years of Modi

Amrita Singh

“A democracy like India is able to move ahead and function only because there is a vibrant feedback mechanism,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an interview with Newsweek in April, days before voting in the Indian general election began. “Our media plays an important role in this regard.” He added that the “claims of diminishing media freedom” in India were “dubious.”

Move over, Quad; the new Squad has landed


As tensions rise in the South China Sea and the threat of a war over Taiwan becomes more palpable, the US Pentagon is stepping up its regional defense diplomacy in a potent challenge to China’s rising regional threats and ambitions.

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted counterparts from Japan, Australia and the Philippines for what is being privately referred to as a budding new “Squad” defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.

The participants “share a vision for peace, stability and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific” and have “chartered an ambitious course to advance that vision together.” Austin said during a press conference on the sidelines of the defense summit in Hawaii, home to the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).

Hundreds Of Myanmar Junta Troops Surrender Near Bangladesh Border

At least 200 Myanmar junta troops have surrendered after an ethnic minority army captured their headquarters in Rakhine State, near the Bangladesh border, the anti-junta organization said on Monday.

The Arakan Army, which has been fighting the military regime for territory since a year-long ceasefire ended in November 2023, captured a junta camp in Rakhine, last Thursday.

The No.15 Operation Command Headquarters fell to the Arakan Army after a 12-day battle, the latest in a series of setbacks for the junta that seized power in a coup in 2021.

The insurgent force released video footage of hundreds of soldiers and others surrendering.

Some of the 200 soldiers pictured in the videos were captured from five battalions in late March and April, the Arakan Army said in a statement, identifying the battalions as the 552, 564, 565 and 551.

“All of these battalions were captured by a heavy offensive attack between March 25 and May 3,” the group said.


Anne Applebaum

On june 4, 1989, the Polish Communist Party held partially free elections, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately removed the Communists from power. Not long afterward, street protests calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy brought about the end of the Communist regimes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Within a few years, the Soviet Union itself would no longer exist.

Also on June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party ordered the military to remove thousands of students from Tiananmen Square. The students were calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy. Soldiers arrested and killed demonstrators in Beijing and around the country. Later, they systematically tracked down the leaders of the protest movement and forced them to confess and recant. Some spent years in jail. Others managed to elude their pursuers and flee the country forever.

The Danger of Lumping China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran Together | Opinion

Mohammed Soliman

There is a growing consensus that China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are aligning into a modern Tripartite Pact, prompting calls for the United States to formulate a grand strategy aimed at thwarting this perceived Eurasian coalition.

This emerging narrative about a "desperate alignment" between Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, and Teheran is bolstered by recent examples of cooperation. Iranian military leaders want to portray the recent maritime exercise in the northern Indian Ocean, dubbed the "Maritime Security Belt" by China, Russia, and Iran as a budding alignment. Meanwhile, North Korea sent a high-level economic delegation to Iran, and has made efforts to strengthen ties with countries opposing the U.S. Beijing is accused of providing Moscow with an economic and technological lifeline to help it evade U.S. sanctions, and it—along with North Korea and Iran—is also supplying weapons to Russia.

While there may be ideological and strategic bases for the close ties between Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, and Tehran—such as opposing the U.S.-led order and ejecting Washington from their perceived spheres of influence—there is less evidence that these countries can build a cohesive alternative global order or are even capable of carrying out complex coordinated military operations, at least for now.

No, This Is Not a Cold War—Yet

Michael Hirsh

Over the past few years, the Pundit Industrial Complex has gone into high gear on China. A new generation of scholarly, governmental, and journalistic reputations is being built on the idea that the United States has entered a new cold war, with China in the role of the Soviet Union and a reduced Russia as its eager helpmate. Scores of books and articles are being sold, weapons systems developed (including the United States’ first new nuclear warheads in decades), promotions and tenure awarded, and so forth.

Thousands of UK troops hit in suspected Chinese hack on defense ministry


Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD) has been hit by a suspected Chinese cyber-attack that left the personal details of tens of thousands of troops exposed.

The hack targeted a contractor-run MoD payroll system which includes names and bank details of current and former armed forces members.

Every troop apart from the U.K.'s special forces was affected, amounting to around 270,000 people. The breach also includes a few thousand home addresses.

Updating the House of Commons Tuesday afternoon, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps stopped short of directly accusing China of the attack. Beijing has angrily denied involvement.

But Sky News, which first broke the story, reported that Beijing is indeed in the frame. Previous public finger-pointing at China has come after months of work by U.K. security agencies. Officials told POLITICO's London Playbook newsletter their work had not cleared the high bar for public attribution.

Iran is gaining credibility across the Muslim world


Iran’s leadership has been a direct beneficiary of the months-long war in Gaza. With every missile that Israel fires on Gaza, every US veto of a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, and every arrest of an anti-war protester on American university campuses, Iran’s rejection of the US-dominated world order gains more credibility in the Muslim world.

The ruling clerical regime in Iran has built its foreign policy on the pillar of anti-Americanism, rejecting what it frames as the “injustice” of US domination and “bullying” of other countries. Washington’s continued support for Israel’s war on Gaza in the face of an increasing international backlash has only reinforced this narrative.

While the US has tried to backtrack and signal that humanitarian considerations should guide Israel’s conduct of the war, the damage to US credibility has been done. Many around the world – and specifically in Muslim countries – do not see the belated US warnings to Israel as genuine.

And Tehran’s message of anti-Americanism is resonating with large segments of the public in the Muslim world.

Global Saudi: How Europeans Can Work With An Evolving Kingdom – Analysis

Cinzia Bianco

Saudi Arabia’s role on the international stage has fundamentally transformed over the last few years. Previously seen as a reckless and destabilising actor, Riyadh is now in a position to shape regional as well as global trends following the geopolitical shifts triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western retrenchment from the Middle East and North Africa.

By leveraging its energy, financial, and political capital, Saudi Arabia has become a middle power with outsize influence in a multipolar world order. Regional and global leaders have been trekking to the kingdom with new intensity, looking to Riyadh as a key actor to move beyond the war between Israel and Hamas and towards a new, inclusive, and long-term regional security framework.

Israel’s Battle Against Free Speech: The Shuttering Of Al Jazeera – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

“Politics,” as the harsh, albeit successful German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck claimed, “is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.” To that should be added the stark awareness of being prudent, gingerly wise, appropriately cautious. Mind how you go in avoiding any foolishness on the way.

Going after the motley press and news outlets while claiming to be a card-carrying member of the democracy club is far from prudent and more than a touch foolish, bound to make the critics croak and other fellow members decry. And this is exactly what has happened in the context of Israel’s decision to shut down the Qatar-backed station Al Jazeera.

On May 5, police raided the offices of the network at the Ambassador hotel in Jerusalem. According to Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, equipment had been seized in the raid.

The Islamic State: Background, Current Status, And US Policy – Analysis

Clayton Thomas and Abigail G. Martin

The Islamic State (IS) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group. At its 2015 height, the group controlled large areas of Iraq and Syria from which it launched attacks in the region and beyond. While the group no longer controls territory outright in Syria and Iraq, U.S. military officials warn that it continues to operate and has worked to expand its global presence through affiliates in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment (ATA) of the U.S. Intelligence Community assessed that “ISIS will remain a centralized global organization even as it has been forced to rely on regional branches … [and will attempt] to conduct and inspire global attacks against the West and Western interests.” Congress has authorized and overseen the use of various policy tools to counter IS, including kinetic and economic actions.

Origins and Leadership

The Islamic State grew out of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), which comprised former Al Qaeda elements that fought in the insurgency in Iraq. In 2011, some ISI members traveled to Syria to establish a new Al Qaeda affiliate there, known as the Nusra Front. In 2013, then-ISI leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced that ISI and the Nusra Front had merged into the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS/ISIL). Al Qaeda rejected Baghdadi’s move to subsume the Nusra Front under his leadership and severed ties with the group in 2014.

US Policy In Northeast Syria: Toward A Strategic Reconfiguration – Analysis

Mohammed A. Salih

Amid escalating regional tensions since October 7 last year and reports of American contemplations of troop withdrawal from Syria, the US administration should reassess its Syria policy, and consider a long-term, minimalist presence coupled with robust political and diplomatic efforts in the interest of regional security and peace.

The ongoing Middle East tensions underscore the US role in regional stability and the importance of US allies in countering threats. The northeastern (NE) region of Syria, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), plays a crucial role in regional security by preventing the resurgence of ISIS and challenging Iranian aspirations for regional dominance.

However, the United States has shown signs of strategic disarray in addressing this issue, necessitating a fresh approach that goes beyond narrow counterterrorism efforts to recognize the broader strategic value of NE Syria and the SDF. This necessitates a comprehensive reconfiguration of US strategy across various levels to bolster the SDF-controlled region as the core component of its objective of keeping ISIS at bay.

Decline of Senior Officer Integrity and Civilian Control of the Military

Keith T. Holcomb

Public confidence in the military has slipped. One major reason is the politicization of senior military officers, who show an increasing propensity to compromise their integrity to gain influence and achieve both budgetary and policy goals. Their willingness to spin carefully parsed and knowingly misleading testimony and advice compromises civilian control of the military. Simply stated, these generals and admirals are not providing full and complete representations of plans, concepts, and assessments to senior civilians in the executive and legislative branches, thereby depriving them of the unbiased information they require to make decisions required by the Constitution.

In an era of increasing complexity, cleverly constructed narratives that present simplified, politicized positions to the general population have taken on out-sized importance. Senior officers increasingly are attempting to manipulate policy making by intentionally reducing complex reality to simple narratives designed to appeal to partisan audiences.

Integrity has two meanings pertinent to this issue: the common understanding of integrity as honesty and the less common and more formal understanding of integrity as the quality of being whole and complete.

For Israel, ‘Never Again’ Isn’t Just A Hashtag


People love to bemoan the fate of dead Jews who were unable to defend themselves. They’re not too crazy about the living ones who do.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel entered Rafa in Gaza to clear out remnants of a modern-day Nazi organization that’s embedded itself among women and children. Joe Biden, who is giving a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance ceremony in Washington today, tried to stop them.

Holocaust remembrances can often be little more than empty virtue signaling. It takes no moral courage to condemn crimes of the past if you’re not willing to stop the crimes of today. Save your sympathy.

Indeed, perhaps the most self-destructive myth within the modern Jewish American community is that the best way to temper hate is to fund more Holocaust education. It probably causes the opposite reaction. If the Holocaust taught us anything, it’s that Jews can’t wait for others — not even the most educated people in the world — to protect them. As Jeff Jacoby notes, “Israel doesn’t exist because there was a Holocaust. There was a Holocaust because Israel didn’t exist.”

Nearly $1 Trillion and Counting: Does America Spend Too Much on Its Military?

Harrison Kass

Is the U.S. military becoming too expensive? The congressionally approved $95-million foreign aid package, while not technically a military expenditure, has renewed scrutiny on the U.S. military budget, prompting many to wonder: how much is too much?

To answer simply: yes, the United States spends too much on its military. Here’s why.

No other nation comes close

Consider the raw data. The United States spends nearly $900 billion per year on defense.

China, meanwhile, America’s greatest threat and the closest thing to a peer competitor, featuring the second most well-funded military on Earth, spends under $300 billion per year on defense.

And Russia, long advertised as America’s greatest threat, spends under $90 billion per year on defense—just one-tenth of the U.S. defense budget. So, of the more than 200 nations on Earth, no nation comes remotely close to the United States in terms of defense spending.

Three Letters That Could Mean the Aircraft Carrier Age Is Over

Peter Suciu

Summary: The transition from battleships to aircraft carriers as the dominant force in naval warfare is a well-known historical pivot, and now, another transformation is underway with the emergence of unmanned underwater vessels (UUVs). The U.S. Navy, historically slow in adapting to new naval technologies, faces a similar challenge with the rise of UUVs.

-Despite ongoing large-scale shipbuilding projects like the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers and Constellation-class frigates, the Navy's investment in UUVs is relatively minor, with a significant reduction in the budget for small- and medium-sized UUVs.

-However, the strategic potential of UUVs in modern naval warfare is becoming increasingly apparent, with their capabilities to perform dangerous and complex tasks like maritime surveillance, minehunting, and infrastructure protection. As geopolitical tensions, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, continue to escalate, the U.S. Navy is urged to enhance its focus on UUV technology to maintain its competitive edge and adapt to the new dynamics of naval warfare.

The Sad Story of How Viet Cong Commandos 'Sank' an 'Aircraft Carrier'

Maya Carlin

In the 1960s, the USNS Card (T-AKV-40) - an old World War II escort aircraft carrier performing supply-carrying duties at the time - was sunk after 180 pounds of explosives detonated at the ship’s hull.

This tragic event represents the last time an American aircraft carrier was sunk by enemy forces - although the vessel was no longer being used as such.

In the early morning on May 2, 1964, two Viet Cong commandos emerged from a sewer tunnel in Saigon Port carrying 90 pounds of high explosives each plus the components required to make two time bombs.

The sinking of the Card was a stunning victory for the Viet Cong and demonstrated the dangers of a low-tech enemy combatant.

How the 'Aircraft Carrier' Was Attacked

During the mid-1960s, the Port of Saigon was a civilian port under the control of the Republic of Vietnam’s governmental port authority.

How Russia’s Ukraine War Is Undermining World Order

Andreas Umland

There is no doubt that Moscow has shaken the international security system with its full-scale invasion of peaceful Ukraine and subsequent territorial annexations, genocidal policies, open nuclear threats, and abuse of its veto power in the UN Security Council.

After more than ten years of war in Ukraine, the results of Russia’s attack on its purported “brother nation” remain uneven for the Kremlin. On the one hand, its image as a supposed military superpower has suffered disastrously. The war in 2022 became an international embarrassment for the Russian leadership, army, and weapons industry. Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine led to the loss of Western partners, markets, and investors. These and other related setbacks will have far-reaching regional, geopolitical, economic, and possibly even domestic political consequences for Russia.

Moscow’s Achievements

On the other hand, a number of partly ignored and partly underestimated results of Russia’s Ukraine policy have weakened the international order and the West. The invasion launched in February 2022 led to a partial consolidation of the Western bloc: NATO and the EU have moved closer together; Western countries have supplied military and other support to Ukraine; Finland and Sweden have joined NATO; at the same time, the EU is about to start membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and has granted candidate status to Georgia.

Geopolitics And Its Impact On Global Trade And The Dollar – Speech

Gita Gopinath

Series on the Future of the International Monetary System (IMS), Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Global economic ties are changing in ways we have not seen since the end of the Cold War.

After years of shocks—including the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—countries are reevaluating their trading partners based on economic and national security concerns. Foreign direct investment flows are also being re-directed along geopolitical lines. Some countries are reevaluating their heavy reliance on the dollar in their international transactions and reserve holdings.

All of this is not necessarily bad. Given the recent history of events, policymakers are increasingly—and justifiably—focused on building economic resilience. But if the trend continues, we could see a broad retreat from global rules of engagement and, with it, a significant reversal of the gains from economic integration.

Netanyahu Borrows Time By Rejecting Gaza Ceasefire – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

This week’s Gazan short-lived celebration of a ceasefire that was not to be, highlights what is at stake in the seven-month-old war and Israel’s refusal to end the carnage.

Thousands poured into Gazan streets within minutes of Hamas advising it had accepted a Qatar and Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

“We have shown the world that we survived this war as Palestinians. We stood our ground on our land. We survived 212 days of attacks and devastation by the world’s most advanced weapons. We did not leave. We survived on our own with no help from outside,” said Ahmad, a young Gazan, one of the thousands celebrating in the streets of Rafah Hamas’ acceptance of a ceasefire with Israel.

The celebrations were short-lived. They dissipated 90 minutes later as Israel made clear its rejection of the proposal.

“The Hamas proposal is far from meeting Israel’s core demands,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

UK Defence Ministry targeted in cyberattack: Minister

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has been the target of a large-scale cyberattack, a government minister confirmed to British media.

On Tuesday, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told Sky News, which first reported the hack, that the attack was on a system run by an outside firm but was still a “very significant matter”.

It targeted a third-party payroll system used by the Defence Ministry and included the names and bank details of current and former service personnel of the armed forces, Sky News and the BBC reported.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said a “malign actor” has probably compromised the payments system.

“There are indications that a malign actor has compromised the armed forces’ payment network,” Sunak told reporters.

Joe Biden warns of 'ferocious surge' of antisemitism in US

Anthony Zurcher & Aleks Phillips

He said too many people had been "denying, downplaying, rationalising the horrors of the Holocaust".

Mr Biden, 81, also condemned those who he said had forgotten the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

It was some of his most pointed criticism of Hamas since the attack.

"It was Hamas that brutalised Israelis," Mr Biden said. "It was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages. I have not forgotten."

The president also criticised what he characterised as lawless behaviour and hateful rhetoric directed at Jewish people by some pro-Palestinian protesters on US university campuses in recent weeks.

He said that "scapegoating and demonising a minority" threatens all minorities.

‘Sustainable calm’ proposal splits Israel and Hamas

James Landale

There seems to be common ground between most sides about the principles: a ceasefire should take place alongside the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. Various draft agreements have been drawn up, setting out a complex process of how it would all work.

There is some disagreement over the detail of what should happen to whom and when and in what order. Israeli officials say, for example, that its female soldiers should be released earlier than envisaged.

They also say the texts should be clearer that the first 33 hostages to be released must be alive and are worried about not having a veto over which Palestinian prisoners would be released.

These are issues that could potentially be surmounted through negotiation.

But there is a more fundamental sticking point about a core principle that may be harder to get past and that is when the war should end.

Line between cybercrime and cyberwarfare blurring

Paul Budde

THE DISPUTE BETWEEN the Australian Government and Elon Musk illustrates one of the challenges we face in the age of digital societies, economies and politics. An essential aspect of the digital realm is its global nature, rendering national politics less effective when addressing domestic issues.

However, addressing the digital impact on politics requires international cooperation, which is challenging to develop.

Looking at the issue of the video clip that the Australian Government wants X (formerly Twitter) to remove internationally raises questions about the extent of the Australian Government's authority in such matters. Elon Musk gave in and used geo-blocking to prevent the video from being viewed in Australia. However, the Australian Government wants a global ban.

This is going too far for Musk — the conflict shows the limited powers of a national government concerning global digital conflicts and the consequences of such issues.

OpenAI says it can now identify images generated by OpenAI — mostly

Britney Nguyen

OpenAI is tackling an increasingly pressing issue: fake images generated by its own technology.

The AI company announced on Tuesday that it is launching a tool to detect content created by its DALL-E 3 text-to-image generator. The company also said it’s opening applications for a first batch of testers for its image detection classifier, which “predicts the likelihood that an image was generated” by its DALL-E 3.

“Our goal is to enable independent research that assesses the classifier’s effectiveness, analyzes its real-world application, surfaces relevant considerations for such use, and explores the characteristics of AI-generated content,” OpenAI said in a statement.

OpenAI said internal testing of an early version of its classifier showed high accuracy for detecting differences between non-AI generated images and content created by DALL-E 3. The tool correctly detected 98% of DALL-E 3 generated images, while less than 0.5% of non-AI generated images were incorrectly identified as AI generated.