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Defense & Security
Vladimir Putin at United Russia congress

Russia's fateful triangle

by FAES Analysis Group

The news of the death of Alexei Navalny, a symbol of the political opposition to Vladimir Putin's regime, in a prison 60 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, has shocked Western public opinion, but comes as no surprise. Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has resorted to the physical elimination of his political opponents as a tool to stay in power and terrorize the opposition. First he used it against the oligarchs who enriched themselves during Boris Yeltsin's two presidential terms. Then journalists, such as Anna Politovskaya, who criticized him and reported on the Chechen war, were murdered. Then Boris Nemtsov on the Kremlin bridge in 2015, while numerous other opposition politicians were imprisoned. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, several people who opposed the invasion have "committed suicide". Navalny, who had already in 2020 been poisoned with novichok, a chemical nerve agent to whose use only high-ranking government or military officials can have access, had defined Putin's United Russia party as that "of criminals and thieves". He was also the driving force behind the massive anti-regime demonstrations during the winter of 2011-2012 (the largest so far), over alleged electoral fraud in regional elections. The most defiant figure to Putin's regime, Navalny has paid with his life for the one message he insisted on sending to Russians: that they should fight for freedom. Navalny's death is yet another symptom of what is really happening in Putin's Russia. The next presidential elections will be held March 15-17. Putin is certain to win them. The disappearance of the political opposition to the Russian regime has not translated into a mass protest of the population nor - more importantly - into a vote against the government. Boris Nadezdin, baptized by Western journalists as "the candidate for peace" will not be able to run in the elections because the Russian Supreme Court has upheld the decision, taken by the Central Electoral Commission, to invalidate 100,000 signatures endorsing his candidacy, under the generic pretext of "irregularities". Nadezdin advocates an immediate truce and a transition to peace negotiations in trilateral format involving Russia, Ukraine and the West. According to him, the decision on the fate of the territories annexed by Russia should be based on the will of the people who lived there before the conflict. The war in Ukraine, now entering its third year, is the cause of the breakdown of relations between Russia and the West and Russia's growing dependence on the "axis of the sanctioned" (North Korea, Iran and China). Ukraine is losing on the battlefield due to lack of ammunition and war fatigue affecting both its own population and its allies. The prospect of Donald Trump's victory in November this year further darkens its future, as NATO countries will not be able to overcome an eventual suspension of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, as the alliance's secretary general has warned. The war is turning into a competition between the Western and Russian military industries. If Europe does not wake up, Ukraine and its allies will lose everything that Kiev has so far gained, thus fulfilling Russia's goal of turning its neighboring country into a failed state. The Western allies had managed to provide Ukraine with significant political, military and economic support during the two years of war. However, it is not so clear that they are prepared for a long war nor for the containment and deterrence of Russia, although it is well known that investing in deterrence is always cheaper than investing in open warfare. Navalny's death, Putin's electoral victory and the long duration of the war in Ukraine are the fateful triangle that the Kremlin now opposes to the West, a triangle strengthened by the shameful silence of the majority of the Russian population, a silence that is a consequence of the tyranny and information manipulation carried out by the regime, but also of its political apathy.

Defense & Security
Group of Chinese army soldiers in uniform lining up in Tiananmen

China’s Military Buildup: the Biggest Since 1945?

by Greg Austin

The Australian government asserts that China’s military buildup is the largest of any country in post-war history. Their threat perception is overblown. The Australian government claims that China has made the biggest military buildup of any country since 1945. The statement is contained in the 2023 Strategic Review: “China’s military build-up is now the largest and most ambitious of any country since the end of the Second World War.” The claim has been repeated in several media interviews by the Defence Minister Richard Marles in Australia and overseas. Such claims are hard to pin down since analysing them throws up different possible methods for assessing a buildup, let alone its ambition. Nevertheless, on the basis of a normal interpretation of “biggest military buildup” since 1945, the dubious honour falls to the USSR in the 23-year period from 1962 (the Cuban missile crisis) to 1985 when it was engaged in global confrontation with the United States and military confrontation with China on their mutual border. If we compare the surge we saw in the USSR in that 23-year period with the surge in China’s buildup in a similar time span, between 2000-2023, the conclusion is stark. China’s build up is not only smaller in terms of comparative growth rates in key categories of military capability (nuclear warheads, intercontinental missiles, submarines, and principal surface combatants), but the end point in numbers arrived by China at the end of its 23-year buildup are far smaller than those achieved by the USSR in 1985. For example, the USSR had 40,000 nuclear warheads in 1985 and China in 2023 has only 500. The USSR in 1985 had ten times the number of intercontinental and sea-launched nuclear ballistic missiles as China does today. China is currently engaged in a modernisation and likely expansion of its forces in coming years, but the comparison over 23 years between China (2002-2025) and the Soviet period (1962-1985) would not change significantly. For the time being, however, the claim by the Australian government would not appear to be borne out by the facts. There is another contender to join the ranks ahead of China in the record for the biggest military buildup since 1945, and that is the United States in the 23 years from 1949 to 1972. This period began just after the start of the Cold War in 1948, the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949, and the victory of Communist Forces in the Chinese Civil War in the same year. In that period, the US fought two major local wars: in Korea and in Vietnam. The end point of this period is marked by détente between the US and both the USSR and China, and the US-Soviet strategic arms limitation agreements. Table 1 below offers a comparison of numbers for selected categories of military platforms and for nuclear warheads at the end point of the three different buildups over the selected 23-year periods. The data shows that China cannot claim to have the biggest military buildup since 1945, and that it sits well behind the USSR and the US in that effort. Table 1: Platform numbers at the end-point of the buildup US 1972, USSR 1985, CHINA 2023. Source*     US 1972 USSR 1985 PRC 2023 ICBM 1,000 1,396 350 SLBM  656 983 72 N-Warheads  26,516 ~40,000 ~500 Strategic Submarines (SSB or SSBN)  41 70 6 Attack Submarines (SSK and SSN)  94 206 53 Aircraft Carriers  17 3 2 Principal Surface Combatants  242 280 97 Bomber ACFT  455 847 500 Tactical Combat ACFT  7,560 6,300 2,394 Tanks  9,434 52,600 4,200 Artillery  6,318 39,000 7,600   The government’s intent in using the phrase “biggest military buildup” in connection with China is to imply it is the biggest military or strategic threat that Australia and its allies have faced since 1945. This implication is reinforced by the equally questionable claim by the prime minister and many officials over several years that Australia faces its most challenging strategic environment since 1945. This proposition is as easily contradicted by the facts as the claim about biggest military buildup, as analysed in my critique in the journal of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, under the title, “Australia’s Drums of War” published in 2021. China poses clear threats to Australian strategic and military interests, but the pace and scale of its military buildup have only been modest compared with the two historical examples cited. The categories selected for Table 1 relate primarily to China’s capability to project power well beyond its coastal areas and beyond Taiwan. That set of categories used is one often seen in comparisons of national military capabilities in the broad. In contrast, there are categories of platforms where the buildup has been more rapid and consequential, such as in dual-use (conventional or nuclear) intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBM) and smaller ships (corvettes) and patrol craft. Yet these capabilities relate almost entirely to coastal areas or near sea areas, especially for localised contingencies involving Taiwan and/or Japan. The rapid expansion of these lighter and smaller maritime forces and the large number of IRBMs for localised contingencies is what Australia and its allies need to address. In particular, the expansion of the number of smaller patrol craft would be a particularly powerful enabler for unconventional scenarios of strategic pressure by China on Taiwan. It is doubtful that the exaggeration of China’s general military buildup is helpful in achieving that focus. China has good options for irregular operations and subversion against Taiwan that it will almost certainly take before risking a major military confrontation with the US and its allies. *Data is not fully consistent in different sources. For China, the data in Table 1 is based on the US Dept of Defence, “Military and Security Developments in the People’s Republic of China,” October, 2023. Data for the USSR is based on Department of Defense, “Soviet Military Power 1986,” 1986. Data for the US is based on several official US documents. These include ‘The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Military Policy 1969-72,” 2013; Naval History and Heritage Command, “US Ship Force Levels 1886-Present,” undated; US Dept of State, “Transparency in the US Nuclear Weapons Stockpile,” undated; and Congressional Research Service, “US/Soviet Military Balance Statistical Trends’ 1970-1980,” October 1981. The author has also consulted IISS, “The Military Balance 1973,” 1973. Note that the census date for these various sources is not always clear but the author has assumed them to refer to platform holdings during the year indicated in Table 1 even if the publication date is the year following.

Defense & Security
Bomb with the Flag of North Korea

Nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula set to worsen in 2024

by Alistair Burnett

2024 looks set to be an even more perilous year than 2023 on the Korean Peninsula as nuclear threat and counter threat have escalated even further since the beginning of January. On New Year’s Day, South Korea’s defence ministry repeated previous threats to destroy the North Korean “regime” if it uses nuclear weapons. This was a response to North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un’s speech the day before in which he told his military to prepare for possible war. Since then, Kim has said he has given up on the idea of peaceful reunification with South Korea designating it a hostile state and again warned of possible war. In the past week alone, Kim has called for a change in the constitution to designate Seoul as Pyongyang’s “primary foe” and a confidence building military agreement with the South agreed in 2018 has started to fall apart as the South Korean armed forces resumed frontline aerial surveillance in the wake of North Korean artillery exercises near a South Korean island on the maritime border between the two states. The expected change in the constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea’s official name) follows an amendment last year that enshrined nuclear weapons in it. This week has also seen the North testing what it says is a solid-fuelled hypersonic missile and an underwater nuclear drone in response to what some observers say is the largest ever joint naval exercise between South Korea, the United States and Japan. Analysts believe Pyongyang is developing both so-called strategic and tactical nuclear weapons in order to deter the US which is committed to use nuclear weapons in South Korea’s defence. North Korea has been testing more and more advanced ballistic missiles and warheads, some with the range to reach the US and has also said it is developing ship-launched cruise missiles, while the Americans have been mounting repeated shows of force including military exercises using nuclear-capable aircraft and the visit of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea. Last year, the US and South Korea agreed to increase their cooperation on the planning for the use of nuclear weapons following earlier statements by South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, that suggested Seoul might develop its own nuclear weapons. Yoon has since cooled talk of acquiring nuclear weapons, but the debate continues in policy circles. Another escalatory move has been increasing military cooperation between the US, South Korea, and Japan, which also endorses the use of American nuclear weapons in its defence. In the light of this, some analysts see the Korean Peninsula as the most dangerous nuclear flashpoint in a world that currently has no shortage of conflict involving nuclear-armed states in Ukraine and Gaza. Alicia Sanders-Zakre, ICAN’s Policy and Research Coordinator, called for restraint on all sides: “Inflammatory nuclear rhetoric and threats, accompanied by military exercises and weapons tests, ramp up tensions and bring us closer to the brink of catastrophe. All nuclear-armed states, including North Korea and the US, as well as those allied on nuclear policies, such as Japan and South Korea, need to take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions and to break free from the dangerous doctrine of nuclear deterrence. Joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a crucial step to delegitimise nuclear deterrence and eliminate nuclear weapons.” North Korea uses the same justification for its actions as the US, and the other declared nuclear-armed states. Just like Washington, Pyongyang says it is committed to disarmament, but argues the security threats it faces mean it needs nuclear weapons to deter its enemies. The doctrine of deterrence is based on the threat to use nuclear weapons with all the catastrophic consequences that would entail for the whole world. As the states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) declared at their recent meeting in New York: “the renewed advocacy, insistence on and attempts to justify nuclear deterrence as a legitimate security doctrine gives false credence to the value of nuclear weapons for national security and dangerously increases the risk of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation.” The TPNW is growing in strength and has just welcomed its 70th state party while a further 27 countries are signatories. These states recognise that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is a global imperative and they are showing responsible leadership by championing the treaty as the best way to end the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Defense & Security
Map of the Red Sea, with the location encircled

The Red Sea crisis is a new blow to global supply chains.

by Salvador Sánchez Tapia

In March 2021, the container ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal. The six days the canal remained closed raised a wave of concern worldwide as it blocked passage through this strategic route, which handles 30% of the world's container traffic. The incident caused serious delays in global supply chains, with its effects still being felt months after the crisis. The concern over the Ever Given case now pales in comparison to that provoked by attacks from the Houthi rebels, a Yemeni insurgent group, in the vicinity of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, at the entrance of the Red Sea, on the route from European markets through the Suez Canal. In early November 2023, this rebel group began bombarding Israeli and American targets in support of the Palestinian group Hamas. Their attacks, which have extended to commercial traffic venturing through the area, aim to provoke a collapse that forces Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza. Cost overruns and longer distances The impact of this situation on the global economy is not easily quantifiable, but initially, it has led to higher insurance costs for those who continue to use this route. Also, there are additional costs for shipping companies that, to avoid the area, have decided to divert traffic towards the route around the Cape of Good Hope. At 9,000 kilometers and 14 days longer, this route is currently safer than the Suez Canal. Furthermore, it can be expected that sustained tension in this area will eventually lead to an increase in energy prices. Approximately 12% of the world's traded oil passes through the Suez, first passing through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. All of this adds to the extra costs generated by delays resulting from circumnavigating Africa and the possibility of imbalances between supply and demand for inputs. All these factors create a scenario that, if sustained, will likely translate into an increase in consumer prices and a resurgence of inflation. This situation directly affects Europe, but also countries like China or India, not to mention the very negative effect it has on the economy of Egypt, the country that controls the Suez Canal. Difficulties and Risks This is not the only maritime passage facing difficulties. In Panama, the decrease in the depth of the canal, as a result of a prolonged drought, prevents the passage of heavier vessels, which must seek alternatives, often more expensive. Furthermore, it cannot be ruled out that, due to their location in areas of great geostrategic importance, the Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf) or the Strait of Malacca (Southeast Asia) may also become sources of instability, crucial points for international maritime transport. If instability persists, the search for alternative routes becomes an evident necessity. In fact, it is already underway. Besides the one around Africa, other routes to connect Asia and Europe could be explored: the Arctic route, limited by environmental and geopolitical reasons, could contribute, albeit probably modestly, to alleviating the situation. Others that combine land and sea segments could also do so. However, this latter option is complicated by the topography and the difficulty of finding routes that bypass conflict-ridden areas or do not give China the key to access them. Vulnerable Supply Chains Given the difficulties global supply chains have faced in less than five years (the COVID-19 lockdowns, the war in Ukraine, and now the attacks at the entrance of the Red Sea), it is pertinent to consider how to mitigate their vulnerability, whether it is advisable to redesign them, and even if free and globalized trade remains viable as it is known today. Issues such as redundancy in supply chains and diversification of suppliers and markets allow for the creation of resilient systems that ensure the flow of resources. Reconsidering the balance between just-in-time logistics and accumulation logistics to achieve greater autonomy would help cushion the effects of an interruption like the one currently experienced in the Red Sea. The other question is how to create an environment that restores freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal. The United States launched the "Guardian of Prosperity" operation, which has not been supported by all countries trading through the canal and has also raised suspicions among those who see it as an undesirable alignment with Israel or as a safe path to the regional extension of the war in Gaza. Finding a solution that does not involve increased costs at all levels of global supply chains will be difficult. Rather, the goal is to calculate whether this increase compensates for what could be lost if the current situation, increasingly subject to the instability of the international system, is maintained.

Defense & Security
Russian and Iranian flags on matching puzzle pieces

Increased Iran-Russia Military Cooperation After the Ukraine Invasion: Impact of US/Western Sanctions

by Ian Dudgeon

Iran and Russia have entered a closer political, economic, and military relationship during the past two years, the trigger widely seen as the upsurge in defence cooperation following Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This new relationship, described variously as a strategic alignment or strategic partnership, was seen by both Tehran and Moscow as necessary to meet mutual and separate critical national needs due to the restrictive effects on both of US and Western sanctions. Iran’s international affairs, since its 1979 Islamic revolution, have been largely shaped by two factors. The first is Iran’s strong adherence to national autonomy, maximum self-sufficiency, and non-alignment. The latter has included, as far as practical, a balance between East and West, or today, Global South and Global West. However, Iranians are cautious about trusting others. While, therefore, a strategic alignment with Russia, or potentially others, could be acceptable, a formal alliance that compromise’s autonomy, would not. The second factor is Iran’s relationship with the US, and in turn with Europe, other Western countries and the UN, and their use of sanctions to deter or change international adversarial differences. Iran-US relations since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution have been tense and conflicted, and especially with Iranian-supported regional state and non-state militia. Major US concerns include Iran’s support for “state and non-state terrorism,” human rights abuses, missile development, and their potential, some say intent, to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Decades of broadly-based US sanctions, along with EU and UN sanctions, the latter mostly nuclear related, have strongly impacted the nation. The one short period of Iran-US rapprochement commenced in 2016 when President Barack Obama successfully brought Iran onboard as a signatory to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA) or nuclear agreement. Obama’s aim was to firstly resolve the nuclear issue and use this as the stepping-stone to negotiations on other regional security issues. But this two-step process was undone by President Donald Trump‘s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA and reimpose US primary and secondary sanctions. Trump’s action, and President Joe Biden’s subsequent “failure” to rejoin the JCPOA and repeal related US sanctions, bitterly disappointed a large cast of international stakeholders, including Iran’s moderates and other JCPOA signatories. For Iran, the US could not be trusted to seriously seek rapprochement and repeal US sanctions either before, or foreseeably after, this year’s US presidential elections. This distrust extended also to the Europeans and others who would continue to remain subject to US secondary sanctions. Iran saw its future fundamentally with countries that were willing to openly trade with them, notwithstanding US sanctions, and other countries or organisations that were prepared to overlook or actively circumvent or evade sanctions. Multilateral outreach included Iran joining two major non-aligned groups in 2023, the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and BRICS+6 (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa + 6). These comprise some 40 percent and 46 percent respectively of the world’s population, and some 20 percent and 30 percent of global GDP. BRICS also includes some 40 percent of global oil production. Key members of both include Russia, China, and India. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are part of the “+6 members” of BRICS, and are also Dialogue Partners of the SCO. Both organisations offer significant additional political and economic networking opportunities and economic options. Bilaterally, the relationship between Tehran and Moscow, from its imperialist Shah/Tsar and post-revolutionary Iran and USSR/Russia iterations to the late 1980s, has had its share of tensions and conflict, including territorial disputes. The past 30-year period from the early 1990s to 2021, however, has been relatively stable. Geographic proximity, including a maritime border across the Caspian Sea, facilitated a significant increase in trade, reportedly from some US$1 billion in 2005 to US$3.3 billion in 2021. Mutual security interests also saw an increase in regional military cooperation, including joint operations against ISIS in Syria, and increased Russian sales of military equipment to Iran. The relationship changed significantly in early 2022 due to Russia’s increased military equipment needs, and to help offset the broad impact of sanctions imposed by the US, the EU, and others on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Militarily, increased Iranian defence sales to Russia have included a range of munitions, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) systems, and potentially Iranian short range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). The UAV deal includes the construction of a factory for manufacturing thousands of Iranian drones in Russia’s Tartarstan province. In return Russia has sold, or agreed to sell, to Iran a range of advanced weapons systems, including the S-400 air-defence missile, helicopters, and SU 34 fighters. Enhanced cyber and satellite cooperation was also agreed. Russia has also passed to Iran many of the high technology Western weapons systems captured in Ukraine, enabling Iran to evaluate, copy, and develop counter-measures. Significantly, this new level of Iranian-Russian cooperation has lifted the military capability of both, with implications for the Middle East and Ukraine respectively. But how effective have the sanctions been? Iran has been subject to harsh sanctions since 1979, and developed a “resistance economy” involving official and extensive unofficial trade and financing arrangements. Because many related statistics are unreliable or unavailable, official GDP estimates may be highly inaccurate. Importantly, however, and despite fluctuations, the World Bank shows a consistent decline in Iran’s GDP since 1979. For Russia, due to shifting markets and higher prices for oil since early 2022, their GDP contracted some 2 percent only that year compared to a prediction of more than 11 percent, and has mostly recovered since. Economically, despite the challenges of sanctions, bilateral cooperation is strong, both economies still function, and their governments remain stable. Militarily, sanctions have facilitated closer cooperation between Iran and Russia, contrary to US, NATO, and allied interests. Are there areas for the US to negotiate the lifting of sanctions with Iran and Russia? US priorities for Iran could include rejoining the JCPOA, facilitating a reduction or cessation of state and non-state militia attacks against regional Israeli, US, and related maritime targets, and restricting specified military cooperation with Russia. US priorities for Russia could include various ceasefire compromises involving the war in the Ukraine, and restricting specified military cooperation with Iran. And the likelihood of progress? For the reasons above, progress on any issue between the US and Iran is very unlikely before this year’s US presidential elections. If or when afterwards would depend in large part on who was elected. For Russia, a ceasefire compromise in Ukraine could be possible if it gave them “temporary” retention of vast tracts of land captured post-2022. Timing will be dictated by battlefield outcomes, but the US Senate approval on 13 February of an additional US$60 billion of military assistance to the Ukraine, and its likely approval by Congress, makes a ceasefire in the foreseeable future unlikely.

Defense & Security
The Iranian, American and a pirate flag in the Red Sea

‘America is the mother of terrorism’: why the Houthis’ new slogan is important for understanding the Middle East

by Sarah G. Phillips

Yemen’s Houthi militants continue to disrupt shipping in the Red Sea, undeterred by the intensifying Western airstrikes or the group’s re-designation as a “global terrorist” organisation. As their attacks have intensified, the group’s slogan (or sarkha, meaning “scream”) has also gained notoriety. Banners bearing the sarkha dot the streets in areas of Yemen under Houthi control and are brandished by supporters at their rallies. It declares: “God is Great, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam.” (The mentions of the Houthis’ enemies appear in a red font resembling barbed wire). Many commentators are quick to point out the origins of the sarkha can be traced to a motto from the Iranian revolution. The link reveals the longstanding relationship between the Houthis and their principal regional backer, Iran. The sarkha also carries an anti-imperialist message, which has caused some outside analysts to overestimate the Houthis’ local legitimacy and diminish the suffering of ordinary Yemenis living under their brutal and exclusionary rule. Since the Houthis’ re-designation as a global terrorist organisation, another slogan has become prevalent on placards at their rallies. Set against a red background, it reads: “America is the mother of terrorism.” At first glance, this appears to be an extension of the ideological sentiments conveyed in the sarkha. However, this slogan also reflects the complexity of Yemeni views about US counterterrorism interventions and the widespread belief that these have provided terrorist groups with the oxygen they need to survive. Terror groups as a tool of the state The US has long been criticised for disproportionately killing civilians in counterterrorism strikes. Some experts argue this may create more “terrorists” than it kills. Another critique: it was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that originally supported Osama bin Laden and the mujahideen in Afghanistan in an attempt to trap the Soviet Union in an unwinnable war, making the US at least somewhat responsible for what followed. However, there are other layers to these slogans that are less intuitively understood by a Western audience. The West’s reflexive support for authoritarian leaders who claim to be targeting terrorism is widely seen in Yemen (and throughout the Middle East) as fuelling a symbiotic relationship between oppressive regimes, terrorist groups and Western-led military interventions. For many in the region, groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State function, in part, as “tools” that Western-backed authoritarian leaders use to maintain their power. They provide plausible deniability for the violence these leaders use against civilians, or support their pitch that “if I’m gone, terrorists will take over the country”. In Yemen, there is a long history of allegations that Western-backed leaders have: • released al-Qaeda prisoners so they could regroup • facilitated al-Qaeda attacks against local and foreign targets • misdirected US strikes to kill political opponents rather than al-Qaeda leaders. The West’s regional partners, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also been accused of recruiting al-Qaeda members to fight in paramilitary forces against Yemeni opponents. As a result, many Yemenis wouldn’t view al-Qaeda or Islamic State as being completely separate from those in charge of the country. Rather, they often see these terrorist groups as helping to reinforce the status quo. This view is, of course, diametrically opposed to Western understandings of al-Qaeda or Islamic State. In the West, these groups are framed as rebels seeking to overturn the state. But across the region, many believe these relationships defy simple categories like “state versus insurgent” or “friend versus enemy” because terror groups can be both at once. One Yemeni analyst articulated the frustration of trying to explain the symbiotic relationship between terrorist groups and authoritarian leaders in the Middle East: It’s easier to tell a kid that Santa Claus isn’t real than to get foreigners to see what al-Qaeda in Yemen really is. Why the West’s policies are backfiring For the Houthis, America’s alleged role in helping to fuel terrorist groups has been a longstanding part of the group’s messaging. Over a decade ago – two years before the Houthis seized the Yemeni capital and sparked a lengthy war – I visited a northern town where there were several large, freshly painted murals bearing the statement “al-Qaeda is American made”. When I asked residents about the this, they appeared to see the statement as a banal declaration of fact. They were more impressed by the “nice handwriting” than the message. (Like the banners bearing the sarkha, the murals used a red barbed-wire font for the word “America”.) The Houthis’ message about American complicity in terrorism resonates because it works at several levels. It gestures to the violence unleashed by the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, the near-unconditional support the US provides to Israel, and the military, carceral and political support the US and its Western partners provide authoritarian leaders in the region. It also gets at the profound sense within Yemen (and across the region) that the political status quo is sustained by violent regimes. And that terrorist groups like al-Qaeda – and the counterterrorism interventions they invite – are part of how those regimes maintain their power. Of course, the violence the Houthis use to sustain their own power is an irony that should not be lost. The Houthis are widely despised by Yemenis who live under their rule. Even so, their messaging taps into widespread views about the drivers of regional violence that some Western observers have long dismissed. Indeed, the complexities that underpin the Houthis’ new slogan help explain why Western policy across the region will continue to backfire. Put bluntly, people in the region see Western policymakers as blind to their historical record of strengthening the enemies they come to fight. The fact that Western airstrikes are giving the Houthis a legitimacy that was previously unimaginable is ominous. Unfortunately for Yemeni civilians, the Houthis’ stance against Israel will increase their appeal to those who know little of what it is like to live with them. It will also make it even harder for Yemenis to dislodge them from power.

Defense & Security
Map of the Korean Peninsula

Precarious Year Ahead for the Korean Peninsula

by Bruce Klingner

SUMMARY The Korean Peninsula seems always to be on the knife edge of calamity. North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, its more threatening language, and the potential for more provocative and aggressive actions are a volatile combination. Overreacting to Pyongyang’s inflammatory threatening language is dangerous, but so is dismissing potential signals of a resumption of deadly tactical attacks. Indications are that this year will be even busier for Korea watchers who long ago learned to keep both a pot of coffee and a bottle of scotch nearby to deal with the inevitable crises. KEY TAKEAWAYS 1. North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, its more threatening language, and the potential for more provocative and aggressive actions are a volatile combination. 2. Overreacting to Pyongyang’s inflammatory threatening language is dangerous, but so is dismissing potential signals of a resumption of deadly tactical attacks. 3. Reducing the potential for invasion while increasing transparency with respect to military forces can reduce the potential for miscalculation and a military clash. It appears that 2024 is going to be a year for greater North Korean provocations, heightened tensions, and increased potential for tactical military clashes along the inter-Korean border. Pyongyang’s rhetoric and military posture have become more threatening, and the regime recently abandoned a military tension-reduction agreement with Seoul. That said, Pyongyang is unlikely to start a major war with South Korea and the United States deliberately. In other words, put your helmets on, but there’s no need to get under the desk just yet. More Bombastic and Threatening Rhetoric During major speeches in December 2023 and January, North Korean “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un described the Korean Peninsula as being “on the brink of a nuclear war” and called on his military to accelerate preparations for “a great event to suppress the whole territory of South Korea by mobilizing all physical means and forces including nuclear forces.”1 Kim warned that North Korea “does not want war, but we also have no intention of avoiding it” and that a “physical clash can be caused and escalated even by a slight accidental factor in the area along the Military Demarcation Line.”2 Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister, declared similarly that “the safety catch of [the] trigger of the Korean People's Army (KPA) had already been slipped” and that Pyongyang “will launch an immediate military strike if the enemy makes even a slight provocation.”3 Kim Jong-un also abandoned decades of North Korean policy seeking reconciliation and reunification with South Korea, instead describing inter-Korean relations as now being between “two hostile and belligerent states.”4 This declaration is particularly noteworthy because Kim is implicitly criticizing the unification policy of both his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il. Such blasphemous remarks coming from anyone else would have immediate and dire consequences. To emphasize the new policy, Kim disbanded all government agencies devoted to relations with South Korea and demolished the massive monument to Korean unification that had been commissioned by his father Kim Jong-il, describing it as an “eyesore.”5 North Korea backed up its diatribes with artillery fire along the naval boundary off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang fired a total of 350 shells during three consecutive days in early January, and South Korea responded by firing 400 artillery rounds. While all shells remained on each country’s side of the disputed Northern Limit Line that delineates the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, they did land in the former buffer zone created by the 2018 inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement. That bilateral risk-reduction accord had proscribed artillery fire and military drills near the border area. Pyongyang’s nullification of the agreement in November 2023 will return armed North and South Korean troops back to closer contact. Seoul announced that it would resume army, navy, and Marine Corps live-fire artillery drills and regiment-level field maneuvers within five kilometers of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).6 North Korea’s belligerent declarations, along with escalating provocations, may be intended to influence both the April 10 South Korean National Assembly election and the November U.S. presidential election. However, such actions would more likely affirm pre-existing progressive and conservative views rather than they would to induce any voters to change sides. Inexorably Growing Military Threat North Korea has been on a multi-year binge of testing and deploying improved nuclear-capable systems that can target South Korea, Japan, and the continental United States. Most recently, Pyongyang successfully launched a solid-fueled ICBM, a solid-fueled intermediate-range missile with a hypersonic maneuverable warhead, its first military reconnaissance satellite, submarine-launched cruise missiles, and an underwater nuclear-capable drone. Knowing that he is backed in the U.N. Security Council by China and Russia could embolden Kim Jong-un to pursue even more provocative behavior. In the past, Beijing and Moscow were willing to impose U.N. resolutions and sanctions after North Korean ICBM and nuclear tests, but both countries now block new international actions in response to Pyongyang’s repeated violations of previous U.N. resolutions. North Korea could conduct its long-awaited seventh nuclear test—either of a new generation of tactical battlefield nuclear weapons or of Kim’s promised “super large” weapon. In its last nuclear test in 2017, Pyongyang exploded a hydrogen bomb at least 10 times as powerful as the 1945 atomic weapons used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The regime could also launch an ICBM over Japan and demonstrate multiple-warhead or re-entry vehicle capabilities. To date, all ICBM launches have been on a nearly vertical lofted trajectory to avoid flying over other countries. North Korean provocations are expected to increase in the run-up to the annual U.S.–South Korean large-scale military exercises in March. Trilateral Axis of Authoritarianism Pyongyang’s recently strengthened relationship with Moscow is another cause for concern. In return for shipping over a million artillery shells and rockets to Russia for Moscow to use in its attacks on Ukraine, North Korea is likely to receive some military technology. While some experts believe that this could include nuclear warhead, re-entry vehicle, or ICBM technology, Moscow is less likely to provide those “crown jewels” than it is to provide lower-level conventional weapon technology. However, any Russian assistance to improve North Korean weapons is worrisome to the U.S. and its allies. Both China and North Korea responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by increasing their economic and military support to Moscow. There is growing apprehension of the risk of horizontal escalation in which Beijing or Pyongyang could take advantage of the global focus on crises in Ukraine and the Middle East to initiate their own coercive or military actions against Taiwan or South Korea. Clashes but Not War Some experts speculate that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is the most dangerous it has been since the 1950 North Korean invasion of the south and that Kim Jong-un has already made the strategic decision to go to war.7 However, despite its menacing posturing, Pyongyang would not have sent massive amounts of artillery shells and rockets as well as dozens of its new KN-23 missiles to Russia if it were contemplating starting a war with South Korea. Nor has any buildup of North Korea military forces along the inter-Korean border been detected. More probable is another tactical-level military clash along the DMZ or maritime Northern Limit Line. South Korean officials privately comment that they cannot rule out another deadly North Korean attack such as the 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which cumulatively killed 50 South Koreans. Danger of Stumbling Into Major Conflict Both Koreas have been more vocal in their vows to strike preemptively if they perceive—or misperceive—the other side as preparing for an attack. In 2022, North Korea revised its nuclear law and disturbingly lowered the threshold for its use of nuclear weapons. The regime is developing smaller tactical nuclear warheads for deployment to forward-based units, and their proximity to allied forces across the DMZ could lead to a “use it or lose it” strategy for its vulnerable nuclear arsenal during the early stages of a conflict. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has shown a greater willingness to respond firmly to North Korean threats than his predecessor did. He directed enhancement of South Korea’s preemptive attack capabilities and declared, “Should North Korea make a provocation, we will punish it many times over.”8 He told his military to “immediately respond and retaliate before reporting to [higher authorities and] sternly and swiftly smash the enemy’s intentions to stage provocations on the spot.”9 The danger of miscalculated military action is real, even at a tactical level. In 2015, Seoul announced that North Korea had fired 13 artillery shells into South Korea and it had responded with 39 shells into the North. However, a subsequent investigation by United Nations Command revealed that there had been no North Korean military attack. Instead, South Korean counter-battery radar had misinterpreted a nearby lightning storm as inbound artillery fire. Luckily, North Korea did not respond to the unprovoked South Korean action. What Washington Should Do Washington must walk a fine line between maintaining a strong military posture to deter and if necessary respond to North Korean military actions while also minimizing the risk of inadvertent escalation into a strategic war. With this in mind, the U.S. should: • Enhance trilateral security cooperation. The U.S., along with South Korea and Japan, should continue ongoing efforts to increase coordination among their three militaries. South Korean President Yoon acknowledged the importance of Tokyo’s role in a Korean contingency, including the seven U.N. Command bases in Japan. During their August 2023 Camp David summit, the three leaders pledged even more extensive trilateral military exercises, real-time exchange of information on North Korean missile launches, and increased cooperation on ballistic missile defense. The leaders’ commitment to consult and coordinate responses to common security threats was a major step forward in trilateral military cooperation but stopped far short of formal alliance. The three countries should continue and expand the scope of the trilateral combined military exercises that resumed in 2022 after a four-year hiatus. The wide-ranging exercises reversed the degradation in allied deterrence and defense capabilities as did the resumption of U.S. rotational deployment of strategic nuclear-capable assets to the Korean theater of operations. • Ensure that military exercises are strong but constrained in location. The U.S. and its allies should be aware that any large-scale unannounced combined military operations close to North Korea’s borders run the risk of being misinterpreted by Pyongyang as preparations for an allied attack. Therefore, while maintaining high levels of military training, the exercises should be announced beforehand and not conducted close to North Korean forces along the DMZ. Washington should also counsel Seoul against highly escalatory responses to North Korean actions. However, appearing too heavy-handed in trying to curtail a South Korean response to a tactical-level attack risks undermining ongoing U.S. efforts to reassure Seoul of America’s commitment to its defense. After both 2010 North Korean attacks, South Korean officials privately complained that the U.S. had “sat on its ally” and prevented a South Korean retaliation. More recently, North Korea’s growing ability to hit the American homeland with nuclear weapons caused South Koreans to doubt the viability of the U.S. as an ally and led to greater domestic advocacy for an indigenous nuclear weapon program. • Push for risk-reduction talks. There seems to be little potential for a diplomatic off-ramp on the road to crisis with North Korea. Since late 2019, the regime has rejected all U.S. and South Korean entreaties for dialogue on any topic, including provision of humanitarian aid. Nor does Pyongyang’s cancelling the inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement bode well for negotiations. However, the proximity of several militaries to each other, rising suspicions, and mutual threats of preemptive attacks are a recipe for disaster. Washington and Seoul should call on Pyongyang to discuss potential risk-reduction and military confidence-building measures similar to those in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the accompanying Vienna Document of Confidence and Security Building Measures. Reducing the potential for either side to conduct a sudden-start invasion while increasing transparency with respect to military forces can lower tensions by reducing the potential for miscalculation leading to a military clash. Conclusion The Korean Peninsula seems always to be on the knife edge of calamity, but North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, its more threatening language, and the potential for more provocative and aggressive actions are a volatile combination. Overreacting to Pyongyang’s inflammatory threatening language is dangerous, but so is dismissing potential signals of a resumption of deadly tactical attacks. Indications are that this year will be even busier for Korea watchers who long ago learned to keep both a pot of coffee and a bottle of scotch nearby to deal with the inevitable crises.   References: 1- Korea Central News Agency, “Report on 9th Enlarged Plenum of 8th WPK Central Committee,” KCNA Watch, December 31, 2023, (accessed February 5, 2024). https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1704027054-512008976/report-on-9th-enlarged-plenum-of-8th-wpk-central-committee/ 2- Ibid. and Brad Lendon and Gawon Bae, “North Korea’s Kim Vows to Dismantle Father’s Unification Arch as He Declares South Korea ‘Principal Enemy,’” CNN, January 16, 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/01/16/asia/north-korea-kim-unification-arch-intl-hnk/index.html (accessed February 5, 2024). 3- Reuters, “North Korea Vows Military Strike If Any Provocation, Fires Artillery Rounds,” January 7, 2024, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-koreas-kim-yo-jong-vows-immediate-response-provocation-kcna-2024-01-07/ (accessed February 5, 2024). 4- Korea Central News Agency, “Report on 9th Enlarged Plenum of 8th WPK Central Committee.” 5- Lendon and Bae, “North Korea’s Kim Vows to Dismantle Father’s Unification Arch as He Declares South Korea ‘Principal Enemy.’” 6- Chae Yun-hwan, “Military Set to Resume Drills Halted Under 2018 Inter-Korean Accord Buffer Zones,” Yonhap News Agency, January 9, 2024, https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20240109007400315#:~:text=SEOUL%2C%20Jan.,artillery%20firing%2C%20officials%20said%20Tuesday (accessed February 5, 2024). 7- Robert L. Carlin and Siegfried S. Hecker, “Is Kim Jong Un Preparing for War?” Henry L. Stimson Center, 38 North, January 11, 2024, https://www.38north.org/2024/01/is-kim-jong-un-preparing-for-war / (accessed February 5, 2024). 8- Sarah Kim, “After North Declares ‘Hostile’ Relations, Yoon Vows to ‘Punish’ Regime in Case of a Provocation,” Korea Joongang Daily, updated January 18, 2024, https://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/2024-01-16/national/northKorea/Yoon-vows-to-punish-North-Korea-many-times-over-in-case-of-a-provocation-/1959411?detailWord= (accessed February 5, 2024). 9- Hyung-Jin Kim, “North Korea’s Kim Vows to Bolster War Readiness to Repel US-Led Confrontations,” Associated Press, updated December 28, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-kim-party-meeting-missiles-27803fcfbfa9cb2a89d6fb5e824e9c0c (accessed February 5, 2024).

Defense & Security
Flags of Palestine and Israel on a Map of the Middle East.

The Future of the Two-State Solution

by Dennis Altman

There can be no meaningful peace without full recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. Only new leadership and new vision, on both sides, will help. No issue of foreign policy that does not involve direct Australian military participation has caused as much division as the current Gaza War. There are several reasons for this. Since the creation of the state of Israel, Australia has been one of its staunchest supporters. Originally associated with Labor, because of Dr Herbert Evatt’s role in the United Nations and Bob Hawke’s infatuation with Israel, allegiances have shifted. After leaving office Hawke himself became more critical and former Foreign Ministers Gareth Evans and Bob Carr are now among Israel’s most trenchant critics, while the Liberals have embraced the Netanyahu government, seemingly impervious to criticisms of the carnage in Gaza. In part this is due to very effective pro-Israeli lobby groups and a Jewish community, which is one of the most ardently Zionist in the world. Another part is due to a reflexive mirroring of the United States; when Scott Morrison spoke of moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem he was both following President Donald Trump and hoping to win over Jewish voters in the Wentworth by-election. Beyond these factors is a largely unspoken sense of identity with Israel, which projects itself as standing up for western values of democracy within a region marked by turbulence and autocracy. Israeli propaganda has been very effective in highlighting Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism while passing over atrocities performed by their own troops. That sense is increasingly being questioned by younger Australians, who see more clearly than the political class the realities of Israel/Palestine. Israel is unique in that it is a state that defines itself in ethnic terms but effectively governs a population half of whom do not share the definition of being a real Israeli. Yes, Arab citizens in Israel are recognised, but their status is legally other than that of Jewish Israelis. In the occupied West Bank the massive growth of Jewish settlements—now estimated to include over 700,000 people—has created a system that many observers liken to apartheid. Most importantly, it has made the idea of a two-state solution, which is the rhetorical fallback for almost all our politicians, impossible. There are many arguments about why progress towards such a solution, which seemed momentarily possible after the Oslo Accords of 1994, stalled, and both sides share responsibility. But the reality is that Israel, as the dominant power, effectively blocked any moves that might have given meaningful sovereignty to the Palestinians. Indeed it seems the Netanyahu government has gone further. Not only has it encouraged continuing settlements in areas that were designated as part of a Palestinian state, it appears that it tolerated the existence of Hamas in Gaza as a means of weakening the Palestinian Authority and therefore their ability to seek statehood. However the current conflict ends, it will leave behind such deep scars that only a combination of new leadership and new vision on both sides can find peace. There are several scenarios that are being advocated, and there is increasing interest in a single state, with strong communal protection for Jews and Palestinians. [Various possibilities of how this might evolve are discussed in the new edition of After Zionism, edited by Antony Lowenstein and Ahmed Moor]. If both Israelis and Palestinians have equal claims to the land—“From the river to the sea” is a slogan that supporters of both find appropriate—there is a massive imbalance between them. Israel has military might and the support of the United States; the Palestinians have guarded support from Iran and no more than rhetoric from the Arab world. As Gaza is relentlessly bombed, flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi bring businessmen and tourists into Tel Aviv. Crucial to any settlement will be a willingness by Israel’s western defenders to put sufficient pressure on whomever is in government after the current conflict to make major concessions. Not only is the current government deeply tarnished by its security failures, it includes ministers who deny any Palestinian aspirations for sovereignty and speak openly of what can only be described as ethnic cleansing. While the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority is geriatric, corrupt, and incompetent, no Palestinian movement can accept the permanent denial of sovereignty which is Netanyahu’s often stated position. The Albanese government has inched away from total support for Israel, presumably with one eye on domestic sensitivities, inflamed by the Murdoch press, which consistently conflates denunciation of Israel with anti-Semitism. As Penny Wong is consistently attacked by both the Liberals and the Greens the government may well feel they are managing Australia’s response effectively, and Wong’s visit to the Middle East was a nicely calculated diplomatic coup. But there are ways in which Australia might go further, in particular by making it clear that the position of the current Israeli government is unacceptable, both morally and politically. I suspect a stronger stance by Australia would be welcomed by the Biden Administration, which is constrained by the politics of election year, and the president’s own long emotional ties to Israel, from exercising real pressure on the Netanyahu government. If Australia is to sound credible when speaking of human rights abuses in countries such as Myanmar and China, it needs to be willing to address them when it is inconvenient. That a plausible case can be made at the International Court of Justice against Israel on charges of genocide underlines the scale of the carnage currently experienced in Gaza. While it is possible to “stand in solidarity” with Israel in reaction to the brutality of 7 October, it is no longer possible to be “in solidarity” with the Netanyahu government.

Defense & Security
UNRWA distributes food in the Gaza Strip

Funding for refugees has long been politicized − punitive action against UNRWA and Palestinians fits that pattern

by Nicholas R. Micinski , Kelsey Norman

At least a dozen countries, including the U.S., have suspended funding to the UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for delivering aid to Palestinian refugees. This follows allegations made by Israel that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack. The UNRWA responded by dismissing all accused employees and opening an investigation. While the seriousness of the accusations is clear to all, and the U.S. has been keen to downplay the significance of its pause in funding, the action is not in keeping with precedent. Western donors did not, for example, defund other U.N. agencies or peacekeeping operations amid accusations of sexual assault, corruption or complicity in war crimes. In real terms, the funding cuts to the UNRWA will affect 1.7 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza along with an additional 400,000 Palestinians without refugee status, many of whom benefit from the UNRWA’s infrastructure. Some critics have gone further and said depriving the agency of funds amounts to collective punishment against Palestinians. Refugee aid, and humanitarian aid more generally, is theoretically meant to be neutral and impartial. But as experts in migration and international relations, we know funding is often used as a foreign policy tool, whereby allies are rewarded and enemies punished. In this context, we believe the cuts in funding for the UNRWA fit a wider pattern of the politicization of aid to refugees, particularly Palestinian refugees. What is the UNRWA? The UNRWA, short for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was established two years after about 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes during the months leading up to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli war. Prior to the UNRWA’s creation, international and local organizations, many of them religious, provided services to displaced Palestinians. But after surveying the extreme poverty and dire situation pervasive across refugee camps, the U.N. General Assembly, including all Arab states and Israel, voted to create the UNRWA in 1949. Since that time, the UNRWA has been the primary aid organization providing food, medical care, schooling and, in some cases, housing for the 6 million Palestinians living across its five fields: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, as well as the areas that make up the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The mass displacement of Palestinians – known as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” – occurred prior to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defined refugees as anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution owing to “events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951.” Despite a 1967 protocol extending the definition worldwide, Palestinians are still excluded from the primary international system protecting refugees. While the UNRWA is responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, the United Nations also created the U.N. Conciliation Commission for Palestine in 1948 to seek a long-term political solution and “to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.” As a result, the UNRWA does not have a mandate to push for the traditional durable solutions available in other refugee situations. As it happened, the conciliation commission was active only for a few years and has since been sidelined in favor of the U.S.-brokered peace processes. Is the UNRWA political? The UNRWA has been subject to political headwinds since its inception and especially during periods of heightened tension between Palestinians and Israelis. While it is a U.N. organization and thus ostensibly apolitical, it has frequently been criticized by Palestinians, Israelis as well as donor countries, including the United States, for acting politically. The UNRWA performs statelike functions across its five fields – including education, health and infrastructure – but it is restricted in its mandate from performing political or security activities. Initial Palestinian objections to the UNRWA stemmed from the organization’s early focus on economic integration of refugees into host states. Although the UNRWA officially adhered to the U.N. General Assembly’s Resolution 194 that called for the return of Palestine refugees to their homes, U.N., U.K. and U.S. officials searched for means by which to resettle and integrate Palestinians into host states, viewing this as the favorable political solution to the Palestinian refugee situation and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this sense, Palestinians perceived the UNRWA to be both highly political and actively working against their interests. In later decades, the UNRWA switched its primary focus from jobs to education at the urging of Palestinian refugees. But the UNRWA’s education materials were viewed by Israel as further feeding Palestinian militancy, and the Israeli government insisted on checking and approving all materials in Gaza and the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967. While Israel has long been suspicious of the UNRWA’s role in refugee camps and in providing education, the organization’s operation, which is internationally funded, also saves Israel millions of dollars each year in services it would be obliged to deliver as the occupying power. Since the 1960s, the U.S. – UNRWA’s primary donor – and other Western countries have repeatedly expressed their desire to use aid to prevent radicalization among refugees. In response to the increased presence of armed opposition groups, the U.S. attached a provision to its UNRWA aid in 1970, requiring that the “UNRWA take all possible measures to assure that no part of the United States contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) or any other guerrilla-type organization.” The UNRWA adheres to this requirement, even publishing an annual list of its employees so that host governments can vet them, but it also employs 30,000 individuals, the vast majority of whom are Palestinian. Questions over the links of the UNRWA to any militancy has led to the rise of Israeli and international watch groups that document the social media activity of the organization’s large Palestinian staff. Repeated cuts in funding The United States has used its money and power within the U.N. to block criticism of Israel, vetoing at least 45 U.N. resolutions critical of Israel. And the latest freeze is not the first time the U.S. has cut funding to the UNRWA or other U.N. agencies in response to issues pertaining to the status of Palestinians. In 2011, the U.S. cut all funding to UNESCO, the U.N. agency that provides educational and cultural programs around the world, after the agency voted to admit the state of Palestine as a full member. The Obama administration defended the move, claiming it was required by a 1990s law to defund any U.N. body that admitted Palestine as a full member. But the impact of the action was nonetheless severe. Within just four years, UNESCO was forced to cut its staff in half and roll back its operations. President Donald Trump later withdrew the U.S. completely from UNESCO. In 2018, the Trump administration paused its US$60 million contribution to the UNRWA. Trump claimed the pause would create political pressure for Palestinians to negotiate. President Joe Biden restarted U.S. contributions to the UNRWA in 2021. Politicization of refugee aid Palestinian are not the only group to suffer from the politicization of refugee funding. After World War II, states established different international organizations to help refugees but strategically excluded some groups from the refugee definition. For example, the U.S. funded the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to help resettle displaced persons after World War II but resisted Soviet pressure to forcibly repatriate Soviet citizens. The U.S. also created a separate organization, the precursor to the International Organization for Migration, to circumvent Soviet influence. In many ways, the UNRWA’s existence and the exclusion of Palestinian refugees from the wider refugee regime parallels this dynamic. Funding for refugees has also been politicized through the earmarking of voluntary contributions to U.N. agencies. Some agencies receive funding from U.N. dues; but the UNRWA, alongside the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, receive the majority of their funding from voluntary contributions from member states. These contributions can be earmarked for specific activities or locations, leading to donors such as the U.S. or European Union dictating which refugees get aid and which do not. Earmarked contributions amounted to nearly 96% of the UNHCR’s budget, 96% of the IOM’s budget and 74% of UNRWA funding in 2022. As a result, any cuts to UNRWA funding will affect its ability to service Palestinian refugees in Gaza – especially at a time when so many are facing hunger, disease and displacement as a result of war.

Defense & Security
Map of the Middlea East, South Asia and China

Academic Paper: The Arab Levant: From Western to Asian Competition

by Prof. Dr. Walid ‘Abd al-Hay

Introduction Despite the confusion in many writings between “geopolitics” and “geostrategy,” especially in Arabic writings, and despite their overlapping with political geography,[2] we will focus on the geostrategic dimension of the Arab region from a specific angle, which is international projects in the Middle East. We will limit research to Asian projects that may involve competition which might develop from competition to tension, dispute and conflict. After the beginning of the waning of Western influence and its “relatively” contemporary projects, such as the New Middle East, the Greater Middle East and the Arab NATO, two important Asian projects emerged: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) announced in 2013, and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) announced in 2023. First: The Chinese Project Map of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative   Throughout 1949–1967, the Arab-Chinese relationship was captive to an ideological perspective (except for the period 1949–1955, when the picture of the Arab-Zionist conflict was unclear among the Chinese leadership). However, the transformation in this relation went through a transitional phase (1976–1978), then a gradual, quiet, pragmatic perspective prevailed leading to Saudi recognition of China in 1990, and Chinese recognition of Israel in 1992, thus opening the way for the growth of the Chinese-Middle Eastern relationship which was crowned by the BRI announced in 2013.[3] An academic study compares the motives and obstacles of Chinese-Middle Eastern relations, especially Arab relations, as follows:[4] 1. Chinese motives: Or the factors for growth in Arab-Chinese relations: a. The predominance of pragmatism in Chinese political discourse and behavior since 1978. b. The collapse of the Soviet Union has strengthened Chinese pragmatism since 1990. c. China’s increasing need for Arab oil, especially in conservative Arab countries, due to China’s achievement of record economic growth rates. d. The absence of pretexts for “democracy, human rights and bias toward certain religious sects over others, or ethnic tendencies (Kurdish, Berber or other)” in Chinese foreign policy. e. China does not link its aid or its overall relations with the Arab world to strategic political conditions, military presence or particular way of voting in international organizations. f. The increasing Arab tendency among Arab political elites, especially the new ones, to free themselves from the weight of some Western conditions for the relationship with them. g. The attractive force of the Chinese economic and technological development model has constituted an important factor in Arab awareness to the relationship with China. h. The rationality of Chinese decisions concerning the relationship with Arab countries, due to the increase in Chinese specialists in Arab affairs, the expansion of Arabic language teaching in Chinese universities, the spread of Confucius Institutes for teaching Chinese, and the increase in the number of Arab students in Chinese universities. i. The expansion of the base for Arab-Israeli normalization has lifted Chinese embarrassment regarding deepening its relations with Israel since 1992. j. The size of the Arab market on the one hand, and the large purchasing power of an important sector of this market’s consumers on the other hand, constitute an attractive force so that Chinese commodity orientation would be towards the region. 2. The obstacles to the development of Arab-Chinese relations: These include the following: a. The extent to which Chinese economic pragmatism and even mercantilism can curb the political, ideological and military influences of the Chinese Communist Party and some Chinese political elites in the long term. In China, there is a movement led by one of their most prominent thinkers, Wang Jisi, who calls on China to fill the void resulting from the US retreat in the Arab region by expanding its diplomatic and economic presence there. Another Chinese thinker, Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies, sees the necessity of pushing the US to immerse itself in the problems of the Middle East to deviate from restricting Chinese interests in the Pacific Basin.[5] This might be the background behind the tendency of Chinese project experts to expect that the next ten years will witness a shift in the strategy of the BRI, supplementing it with security and political doses.[6] b. A significant percentage of Chinese projects and development aid pledges have not been fulfilled or have not been completed according to the proposed plan, which reduces the credibility of the hoped-for Chinese projects. According to Chinese official reports, the level of direct foreign investments has declined, and there are projects that have been stopped, not to mention the Chinese focus on some sectors that are less important to the countries participating in the BRI, in addition to the burden of Chinese debt interest on the Belt and Road countries as Chinese interest ranges between 4.5 and 6%.[7] c. The corruption and instability in the region may greatly confuse Chinese plans to develop its relations with Arab sides. Given that the rate of political instability in the Arab region is the highest among other political regions, this makes the Chinese project vulnerable to radical transformations in the coming years, which pressures Chinese diplomacy to work on enhancing political stability variables. Taking into account that 23% of the BRI projects in 2022 were in the Middle East, an increase of about 6.5% compared to 2021, we realize why China will work to expand its circle of political mediations to ensure a safe environment for its initiative. This explains the mediation between Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Iran and the possibilities of increasing Chinese diplomatic role in settling the Palestine issue. d. The US determination to disrupt Chinese projects in the region, in light of the competition between them in different regions and issues, and especially in light of the heavy reliance of some Gulf countries on US armaments and protection from regional disturbances, not to mention the depth of US penetration of decision-making bodies in many Arab countries. e. The broad base of religious parties and intellectual movements and the possibility of them exploiting Chinese policies towards the Uyghur minority in the western Chinese provinces (about 12 million Muslims), may constitute a relative obstacle to the Chinese initiative. Second: The Indian Economic Corridor[8] Map of the Economic Corridor: India – Middle East – Europe   Arab-Indian relations extend back to the Sumerian period (3000 years BCE), where Persia formed a corridor for Arabs to India and China. With the advent of Islam, relations between the two sides increased, and even deepened during the colonial period and the emergence of the East India Company. Then there was the division of the Indian continent into Pakistan and India up to the contemporary period. These periods have witnessed cooperation at times and competition at others.[9] Three factors have formed the foundations of Arab-Indian relations in the contemporary period: 1. The role of the Indian National Congress (INC) and its non-aligned policies, which brought Indian politics closer to the Arab position, under the policies of the first Indian Prime Minister after independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, regarding the Palestine issue. A stance strengthened under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1966–1977 and 1980–1984). India was the first non-Arab and non-Muslim country to recognize the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), granting it full diplomatic representation. Although India recognized Israel in 1950, it was until 1992 that diplomatic representation between the two sides took place, the same year China and Israel exchanged diplomatic representation.[10] 2. The increasing Indian need for Arab oil with the increasing rates of Indian development. The continued economic and technological growth in India has led to an increased need for Arab oil, especially since it is the closest energy source to the Indian continent. Until 2023, Arab oil has been covering about 60% of Indian needs, while Arab-Indian trade amounts to $240 billion, most of which with the Gulf countries, including $84 billion with UAE and $53 billion with KSA.[11] 3. The expansion of commercial and demographic relations between India and both Israel and the Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region. Until 2022, Israel was the second source of Indian arms purchases after Russia. The roots of the Indian-Israeli military cooperation extend to the periods of Indian conflict with China (1962 and 1999) and with Pakistan (1965). Israel’s share in Indian arms purchases increased from 4.7% (2010–2015) to 13% (2015–2020). The takeover of the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 represented a major shift in India’s weight in Israel’s military sales, as India has become the largest customer for Israeli arms, purchasing 42.1% of Israel’s military exports, followed by Azerbaijan (13.95%) then Vietnam (8.5%), all of which are Asian countries.[12] As for the Arab world, the volume of Arab-Indian trade amounted to $240 billion, as we mentioned above, in addition to the Indian demographic presence in the region, where according to Indian government figures, there are 8.751 million Indians in the Arabian Gulf, including more than 3 million in UAE and about 2.5 million in KSA.[13] This makes Indians the second largest population group in the Arab Gulf countries after the Saudis. All these factors formed the basis of putting forward the idea of the economic Indian-European corridor via the Middle East. Based on a memorandum of understanding between KSA, the European Union (EU), India, UAE, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and US, the participants in the G20 Summit in September 2023 committed to establish the IMEEC, to stimulate economic development, by enhancing connectivity and economic integration among Asia, the Arabian Gulf and Europe. The corridor will consist of two separate branches: the eastern corridor connecting India to the Arabian Gulf, and the northern corridor connecting the Arabian Gulf to Europe. It will include a railway line that, when completed, will provide an efficient transit network linking existing ports to a network of railways to complement existing sea and land transport routes—allowing transit from and to India, UAE, KSA, Jordan, Israel and Europe. The participants intend to extend electricity and digital communication cables along railway routes, in addition to pipes to export clean hydrogen. This corridor will secure regional supply chains along the railway route in a way that facilitates trade flow and supports the increased focus on environmental, social and governmental impacts, all with the strategic goal of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, enhancing economic unity, generating job opportunities, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, thus leading to a transformative integration of Asia, Europe and the Middle East. In support of this initiative, participants commit to working collectively and expeditiously to arrange and implement all these new transit elements. The project will connect several ports along the way, including Haifa in Israel, Piraeus in Greece and three ports on the western coast of India: Mundra, Kandla and Jawaharlal Nehru. There are five ports in the Middle East that will be linked to Indian ports, namely Fujairah, Jabal Ali and Abu Dhabi in UAE, in addition to the ports of Dammam and Ras al-Khair in KSA. Third: India-China Competition Most of the political units in the Arab Levant were formed during the 20th century as a result of understandings, divisions and maneuvers between European countries (since the Arab Revolt until the defeat of the Ottoman State, Sykes-Picot, the Balfour Declaration, the establishment of Israel, etc.). Thus, it is not possible to separate the geographical map or the political conditions in this region from this European, English, French, Italian and German competition. Currently, there are two neighboring Asian countries that are rising and competing economically and technologically, namely India and China, and their rivalry has extended to the Arab region. Remarkably, the relationship between these two countries is dominated by intense competition and although China is India’s second trading partner, hostility and competition are the main characteristic of their relation, as evident in the following indicators:[14] a. The legacy of historical hostility between the two countries which included military clashes for more than six decades, and which have been repeated, albeit with less intensity, in 1962, 1967, 1987, 2018, and 2020 and lastly in December 2022. This conflict is mainly about border areas (about 3000 kilometers), especially in the Himalayas, and about demarcating the borders between the two countries. For while China denies the occurrence of demarcation and demands it, India considers the traditional borders to be the actual borders. Another competition is taking place between the two countries in the South China Sea, especially over oil exploration in this region, in addition they have been weaving alliances against the other. This is evident in the rapprochement between China and Pakistan (India’s traditional enemy) or the Iranian-Chinese rapprochement at the expense of some decline in the Indian-Iranian relationship, not to mention the growth of the Indian-US relationship in light of the deterioration of the US-Chinese relationship, and India’s support for the blockade policies on some Chinese economic sectors. b. with China’s presence in the region’s most important ports of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and although India has been able to relatively improve its relations with these countries. c. India’s participation in the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” which was established in May 2022 and brought together the US, Japan, India and Australia, and which China considered an “Asian NATO” because it calls for deepening military relations among the four countries, in addition to economic and diplomatic cooperation. d. The relationship between Israel and both India and China. In addition to Israel’s participation in the Chinese BRI and the Indian IMEEC, the so-called I2U2 group includes Israel, India, US and UAE, and its goal is to encourage cooperation among private sectors and businessmen in the four countries in water, energy, transportation, space, health, food security and technology, which China perceives as a kind of influence on its project, and it may also create Arab or Iranian problems with India. Fourth: The Theory of the Spread of International Conflicts Most studies of international relations indicate that international conflicts or wars do not remain limited to the direct parties to the conflict. Rather, tracking international conflicts and wars shows, in quantitative terms, that the vast majority of international conflicts have direct or indirect effects on neighboring and distant countries not involved in those conflicts. There is no doubt that the development of means of technical and commercial interconnection and the reduction of time and space, in light of accelerating globalization, have made preventing the repercussions of international conflicts a very complex matter. The influence and spread increase if the countries involved in the competition, conflict, or war are major countries or countries that are geographically adjacent or overlapping demographically. Since Chinese-Indian relations are more tense, and both countries are involved in trade, geo-economic and population relations, in addition to engaging in relations with rival countries in the region (Israel and Iran, Syria and Israel, Yemen and the Gulf states, Syria and Turkey), this affects the relations of the two countries with the Arab countries on the one hand, and it may, on the other hand, add new axes to the competing axes (normalization countries and resistance countries), some of which are closer to China and others closer to India. Moreover, since the major international powers (US, Russia and some European influence) are involved in the general situation of the Middle East, the above dynamics will increase the elements of instability in the region, even though it is already the least stable region in the world.[15] Fifth: The Future of the Region in Light of the Indian-Chinese Competition It is necessary to determine the future of the region in light of the competition between the two Asian poles by raising a number of rhetorical questions: 1. Is the Indian project an “obstruction” to the Chinese project in light of the economic competition between the two countries, and in light of the disputes I mentioned between them? This is said while noting that Indian policy under the BJP rule has become more inclined to US policies, contrary to the Indian policy under the INC rule. Noteworthy to say about 26 Indian parties have recently allied to confront the BJP in the elections scheduled to be held early 2024. The direct support of both US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Indian project reinforces competitive concerns, especially since India is the largest customer of Israeli arms since 2014 after the BJP took control. Here, the Indian economic corridor may be a step to expand Saudi-Israeli normalization under the cover of the Indian project on the one hand, and US competition to disrupt the Chinese project on the other hand. 2. How will KSA reconcile its ties with India and with China if a severe conflict erupts between the two Asian giants? 3. Will the competition between the two projects make reaching strategic decisions in BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization more complicated? Could it paralyze them, given the stark differences among the major powers in this bloc? Was the recent inclusion of “Western-oriented” countries in the BRICS a mere coincidence? or part of a plan targeting China? 4. What are the possibilities of harm to the status of the Suez Canal if the region is crossed by railway from Eilat to Haifa or directly to Haifa while bypassing the canal? Preliminary Indian studies of the project indicate that it reduces the time needed for transporting goods from Haifa to Europe, although there are discrepancies among experts in estimating this period between 4 to 6 days or between 8 to 12 days. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen estimated that it would save 40% of the current time,[16] which threatens the third source of Egyptian income after remittances from workers abroad and tourism. In a study that was published in 2000 by the author, it pointed out to Israeli deliberations to make the Suez Canal less important in international transportation. It also pointed out to the encouragement of Asian projects in this field,[17] constituting a new erosion for Egypt’s economy, after the erosion inflicted by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which reinforces what we have suggested regarding Israeli plans to weaken Egypt in indirect ways.[18] 5. We mentioned earlier that about nine million Indian workers live in the Gulf countries (outnumbering the population of any country in the Gulf Cooperation Council except KSA), and the number of Chinese companies and employees in the Gulf countries is no less than 2.5 million people. Will this be a potential reason for the possibility of unrest between the two parties on Arab soil in case of intensification of competition and conflict between India and China? 6. Western support of the Indian project at the expense of the Chinese project: As we noted, the US, Israel, and EU have welcomed the Indian project. Indeed, media reports said that the Group of Seven (G7) countries pledged at their meeting in Tokyo in May 2023 to collectively mobilize $600 billion by 2027 to to counter the BRI, noting that the Chinese project has been supported by 150 countries and 30 international organizations, mobilizing nearly $1 trillion and creating over 3 thousand projects. The project is targeted for completion by 2049.[19] Will this polarization between the two projects be employed to manage their conflict on Arab soil? 7. Will the Arab countries, especially the Gulf countries (such as KSA and UAE), or those through which either or both projects (the Indian and the Chinese) pass, find themselves faced with the need to choose between the two giants, as Italy did when it announced that it would withdraw from the Chinese project? What about the positions of the nine million Indians if an Arab country takes a position opposed to the Indian position? 8. What are the possibilities and indicators of militarization of the two projects? India has conducted military exercises with some countries in the region, such as KSA, UAE, the Sultanate of Oman and Egypt in 2023,[20] and each time the scope of the exercises between the two sides expands. Since 2019, the Indian Navy has been conducting Operation Sankalp, under which its warships have been tasked with providing security for Indian-flagged vessels, specifically oil tankers, as they navigate the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman amid heightened tensions between Iran, US and others in the region. The Indian Navy has stationed a liaison officer at US Central Command (CENTCOM) in Bahrain, with the same personnel tasked with developing India’s cooperation with the Manama-based Combined Maritime Forces, a 38-nation maritime partnership that also includes Pakistan (India’s traditional adversary). These developments were cemented during the April 2020 2+2 ministerial dialogue between New Delhi and Washington. This clearly indicates two dimensions in Indian planning in the region: the strategic dimension and the economic dimension, which requires asking a central question: How will India reconcile its strategy toward Israel, Iran and KSA with all the differences among these important regional parties? China, for now, has managed to do this by leveraging its economic heft and regional states’ interest in using Beijing as a counterbalance to the US. “India will need to find other ways to strike a balance, specifically in its relations with Iran, which face the sanctions regime Washington has put in place.” Indeed, “New Delhi halted energy imports from Tehran both to comply with sanctions and in a show of intent to the US. This decision has come into question, especially after India picked up cheap Russian crude oil despite sanctions amid the war in Ukraine.”[21] 9. What if the two countries (China and India) begin to militarize their presence at a later stage, as we mentioned in the indicators and possibilities of militarization in the previous point? If the dispute and competition between them escalates, will India China establish bases in the Gulf states, Pakistan, or in the countries of the Horn of Africa from Djibouti to Sudan to protect their interests? This will increase the indicator of militarization in the Middle East. In addition to the Indian policies we mentioned in the course of militarization, China has carried out military activities to protect its citizens in a number of Arab countries or to rescue them during periods of instability, and it established some military bases or facilities for them, which was made clear in the White Paper released in 2019 by China’s State Council Information Office which stipulated the protection of Chinese interests, individuals and bodies abroad. This is not to mention arms sales to countries along the Road and Belt, where for example, 47% of Chinese arms sales during the 2017–2021 period were directed to Pakistan (India’s traditional enemy), while from 2012 to 2021, China’s military exports grew by 290% to KSA and by 77% to the UAE.[22] Conclusion The previous data indicate: 1. The importance of the Arab region to both China and India (as markets, energy sources and large labor absorption sites) makes the two Asian giants more eager to be present in the region. 2. The Chinese-Indian disputes are deep and may push the Arab region to forge political, economic or military connections, in order to manage the Chinese-Indian conflict there, especially in light of the lack of a unified Arab strategy. 3. The Gulf region may experience social unrest if Arab countries adopt policies inconsistent with the orientations of the two Asian countries, and it seems that this possibility is higher with India than with China. 4. If the interests of the two countries expand, the possibilities of militarization of the region are not excluded, which will impact the region’s policies and stability, especially if the Asian competition is accompanied by Western alliances with India, particularly by the US in the Middle East, all in order to confront the Chinese project. 5. Israel is trying to maintain its relations with the two Asian powers, and it appears to be reasonably successful in this aspect, which constitutes a challenge to some regional powers such as Iran, Syria and other Arab resistance wings. This requires the Arab side to support communication with the Indian opposition to the BJP, especially the INC, and to maintain “communication” with the less pragmatic trend in the Chinese Communist Party to benefit from its recommendations towards the region. 6. The strategic prospects of the Indian and Chinese projects indicate two conflicting possibilities: a. Transforming the conflict in the region from a zero-sum conflict into a non-zero-sum conflict by integrating Israel into the heart of Arab-Asian projects, which is what Israel as well as India and China seek. This will expand the circle of common interests among the parties to the projects at the expense of the contradictory interests at the heart of which is the Palestine issue. b. The failure of the first possibility means an increase in Asian competition between the Indian and Chinese projects, which may lead to the militarization of the region and an increase in regional polarization of the two projects. This will drag the region into new conflicts and higher levels of instability, especially since the Western side will remain present in these polarizations during the coming medium period, thus making the situation more complicated. References [1] An expert in futures studies, a former professor in the Department of Political Science at Yarmouk University in Jordan and a holder of Ph.D. in Political Science from Cairo University. He is also a former member of the Board of Trustees of Al-Zaytoonah University of Jordan, Irbid National University, the National Center for Human Rights, the Board of Grievances and the Supreme Council of Media. He has authored 37 books, most of which are focused on future studies in both theoretical and practical terms, and published 120 research papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. [2] The geopolitical concept is centered on the mutual influence between geographic variables and internal and external political behavior while the geostrategic concept is centered on planning based on identifying different geographical areas or regions that are more strategically important in their geographical location to achieve the state’s goals. For example, a country like Afghanistan cannot build a naval fleet since it is landlocked, but the first thing that Britain or Japan might think about is building a fleet. The geostrategic concept plans how to employ the strategic position of the geography to formulate the country’s foreign policy. For example, the strategic value of the location of Afghanistan cannot be compared to the location of Nepal from the perspective of the major and central countries competing on the international stage. The Egyptian writer Gamal Hamdan’s expression “the genius of place” can be considered a geostrategic expression, especially when he refers to the location or place, Egypt’s strategic character, and the heart of the world. See: Gamal Hamdan, Shakhsiyyat Masr: Dirasah fi ‘Abqariyyat al-Makan (Egypt’s Personality: A Study in the Genius of Place) (Dar al-Hilal, 1967), Chapter 25 entitled Egypt’s Strategic Personality and Chapter 26 entitled The Heart of the World. While Ali al-Wardi’s expression of the influence of the desert and the sea on Iraqi social behavior, including his political behavior, is an expression of the reflection of the natural geographical nature on political behavior, which represents geopolitics. See details in: Ali al-Wardi, Shakhsiyyat al-Fard al-‘Iraqi: Bahth fi Nafsiyyat al-Sha‘b al-‘Iraqi ‘ala Daw’ ‘Ilm al-Ijtima‘ al-Hadith (The Personality of the Iraqi Individual: An Investigation into the Psychology of the Iraqi People in Light of Modern Sociology), 2nd edition (London: Dar Laila Publications, 2001), pp. 48-55, and 75-78. See also Jan Wendt, “The Select Methods of Investigations in Geostrategy and Geopolitics,” Political Geography Studies in Central and Eastern Europe, Oradea, 2000, https://depot.ceon.pl/bitstream/handle/123456789/5344/The_select_methods_of_investigations_in_geostrategy_and_geopolitics.pdf?sequence=1 [3] Walid ‘Abd al-Hay, Dirasat Mustaqbaliyyah fi al-‘Alaqat al-Duwaliyyah: Namadhij Tatbiqiyyah (Futures Studies in International Relations: Applied Models) (Beirut: Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 2023), pp. 82-83. [4] Fazzur Rahman Saddiqui, China and The Arab World: Past and Present (New Delhi: Indian Council of World Affairs, Sapru House Paper, 2022), pp. 84-92. [5] Walid Abd al-Hay, Does the Balancing Policy Restrict China’s Role in the Middle East? International Politics Journal, Al-Ahram Foundation, Issue 207, January 2017, p. 26. (in Arabic) [6] Ruby Osman, Bye Bye BRI? Why 3 New Initiatives Will Shape the Next 10 Years of China’s Global Outreach, site of Time, 1/10/2023, https://time.com/6319264/china-belt-and-road-ten-years [7] Christoph Nedopil Wang, “Brief: China Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Investment Report 2021,” site of Green Finance & Development Center, 2/2/2022, https://greenfdc.org/brief-china-belt-and-road-initiative-bri-investment-report-2021; and NC Bipindra, China Completes 10 Years Of $1.4 Trillion BRI Project; Puts South Asia, Barring India & Bhutan, In A Bind, site of The EurAsian Times, 23/7/2023, https://www.eurasiantimes.com/china-completes-10-years-of-1-4-trillion-bri-project-puts [8] Memorandum of Understanding on the Principles of an India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor, site of The White House, 2023, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Project-Gateway-Multilateral-MOU.pdf; and Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, The Geopolitics of the New India-Middle East-Europe Corridor, site of ORF, 29/9/2023, https://www.orfonline.org/research/the-geopolitics-of-the-new-india-middle-east-europe-corridor [9] For further details, see Hojjatollah Hezariyana and Ghaffar Pourbakhtiarb, A Historical Study of the Persian Gulf and Indo-Arab Trade Until the 5th Century AH, Turkish Journal of Computer and Mathematics Education, vol. 12, No. 11, 2021, pp. 6724-6725. [10] Sujata Ashwarya, “India’s policy towards the Arab–Israeli conflict, the Palestinian issue and Israel: the Indira Gandhi years,” Global Discourse journal, Bristol University Press, vol. 13, No. 23, 2022, pp. 2-5. [11] New Trade Initiative Offers India Major Gains in Middle East, site of VOA News, 27/9/2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/new-trade-initiative-offers-india-major-gains-in-middle-east/7287689.html [12] Azad Essa, India and Israel: The arms trade in charts and numbers, site of Middle East Eye, 31/5/2022, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/india-israel-arms-trade-numbers [13] Question No. 583 Indian Workers in Gulf Countries, site of Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, 9/12/2022, https://www.mea.gov.in/lok-sabha.htm?dtl/35979 [14] Derek Grossman, India Is Pushing Back Against China in South Asia, site of The Rand Blog, 21/8/2023, https://www.rand.org/blog/2023/08/india-is-pushing-back-against-china-in-south-asia.html; I2U2: India, Israel, United Arab Emirates, United States, site of U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/i2u2; Vijay Gokhale, Shivshankar Menon, and Tanvi Madan, A big-picture look at the India-China relationship, site of Brookings Institution, 20/9/2023, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/a-big-picture-look-at-the-india-china-relationship; What Kind of Group Is the 4-nation Quad?, site of Learning English, VOA news, 24/5/2022, https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/what-kind-of-group-is-the-4-nation-quad-/6587184.html; YP Rajesh, Krishn Kaushik and Martin Quin Pollard, Xi skipping G20 summit seen as new setback to India-China ties, site of Reuters, 5/9/2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/xi-skipping-g20-summit-seen-new-setback-india-china-ties-2023-09-05; and Aleksandra Gadzala Tirziu, Rising tensions along the Indian-Chinese border, site of Geopolitical Intelligence Services, 8/8/2023, https://www.gisreportsonline.com/r/china-india-border-2 [15] Hasan Alhasan, The China-India Contest in the Middle East, site of The Diplomat, 21/7/2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/the-china-india-contest-in-the-middle-east [16] India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor to counter China?, site of Deutsche Welle (DW), 13/9/2023, https://www.dw.com/en/can-new-india-europe-middle-east-corridor-counter-china/a-66799232 [17] Walid Abd al-Hay, “The Future of the Strategic Position of the Arab World,” Journal of Strategic Issues, Arab Center for Strategic Studies, Issue 4, December 2000, pp. 146-147. (in Arabic) [18] Walid ‘Abd al-Hay, The Future of Egyptian-Israeli Relations from the Israeli Perspective, site of al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 5/6/2023, https://www.alzaytouna.net [19] India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor to counter China?, DW, 13/9/2023. [20] Indian Army to participate in largest ever joint military exercise in Middle East, says MoD, site of The Economic Times, 29/8/2023, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/indian-army-to-participate-in-largest-ever-joint-military-exercise-in-middle-east-says-mod/articleshow/103176080.cms?from=mdr; and India, UAE conclude joint Arabian Gulf naval exercise, site of Arab News, 12/8/2023, https://www.arabnews.com/node/2354021/world [21] Kabir Taneja, How India views China’s diplomacy in the Middle East, site of Middle East Institute, 11/7/2023, https://www.mei.edu/publications/how-india-views-chinas-diplomacy-middle-east [22] For details on China’s militarization activities, see Guo Yuandan and Liu Xuanzun, PLA Navy’s 14 years of missions in blue waters safeguard intl trade routes, win more overseas recognition, site of Global Times, 1/8/2022, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202208/1271933.shtml China increasing arms exports to Middle East and Eastern Europe, site of The Nation, 5/12/2022, https://www.nationthailand.com/world/china/40022762; Chinese Private Security Companies Along the BRI: An Emerging Threat?, site of Modern Diplomacy, 25/9/2020, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/09/25/chinese-private-security-companies-along-the-bri-an- emerging-threat; Chinese army prioritizes protecting China’s overseas interests, site of China Global Television Network (CGTN), 24/7/2019, https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-07-24/Chinese-army-prioritizes-protecting-China-s-overseas-interests-IA9FouJ5ZK/index.html; and Andrea Ghiselli, Continuity and change in China’s strategy to protect overseas interests, site of The Frontier Post, 2021, https://thefrontierpost.com/continuity-and-change-in-chinas-strategy-to-protect-overseas-interests