US Strikes 'Iran-Linked Weapons Site
Two US F-15s carried out a strike on an Iran-linked weapons storage facility in eastern Syria on Wednesday in response to attacks against American personnel, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. As many as nine people affiliated with Iran-backed groups were killed in Wednesday's strike on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a war monitor said.
This is the second time in roughly two weeks that the United States has targeted a location in Syria it said was tied to Iran, which supports an array of groups that Washington blames for a spike in attacks on its forces in the Middle East. The United States is striving to deter Iran and its proxies from turning the Israel-Hamas fighting into a regional war, but the repeated attacks and strikes in response risk a conflict between Washington and Tehran.
“US military forces conducted a self-defense strike on a facility in eastern Syria used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. This strike was conducted by two US F-15s against a weapons storage facility,” Austin said in a statement. “This precision self-defense strike is a response to a series of attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by IRGC-Quds Force affiliates,” Austin said, adding that the United States “is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities.”
A Syrian war monitor said the Wednesday strike killed nine people affiliated with Iran-backed groups in Syria. Earlier, the US military also hit two facilities in Syria on October 26 that it said were used by the IRGC and affiliated groups, and assessed that those strikes did not cause casualties. Washington said the earlier two were in response to attacks on US personnel, who have been targeted more than 40 times with rockets and drones since October 17.
The surge in attacks on US troops is linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, which began when the militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 people. Israel's military responded with a relentless air, land, and naval assault on Gaza that has reportedly left over 10,000 people dead.
There are roughly 2,500 American troops in Iraq and some 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group. The jihadists once held significant territory in both countries but were pushed back by local ground forces supported by international air strikes in a bloody multi-year conflict.
(With agency inputs)
Rahul Gandhi ke do pyaar hai
With the political slugfest ahead of the assembly elections continuing in Telangana, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi on 26 hit out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his jibe at him being a friend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Owaisi said that Gandhi has two loves of life.
Addressing an election rally in Telangana's Hyderabad, Owaisi said, "Rahul Gandhi ke do pyaar hai (Rahul Gandhi has two love of life) - one Italy because his mother is from there, and other one is PM Modi because he gives him power."
Apart from this, the AIMIM chief attacked Gandhi saying that the people of Amethi chose Smriti Irani over him in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. While Rahul Gandhi.
ALSO READ: Telangana Election 2023 | Rahul Gandhi accuses PM Modi of spreading hatred, says ‘nafrat ke bazaar me...'
Owaisi asked the Congress MP to get married and said he does not have any friends at home, so he thinks about his friends outside. The AIMIM president further said Rahul Gandhi should get married as having someone at home could benefit him as he turned 50.
"I appeal to you, Rahul Gandhi, please don't be single anymore (since) you have turned 50, if you have someone at home you will be good then," Owaisi said.
What did Rahul Gandhi say?
Earlier, while addressing an election rally on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi had said, “Modiji ke hai do yaar, Owaisi aur KCR (PM Modi has two friends- Owaisi and Telangana chief minister and BRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao)."
"KCR (BRS supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) wants Modi to be PM and Modi wants KCR to be CM," he added.
He also aimed at KCR and said that he and all his family members in the Bharat Rashtra Samithi are corrupt, and most money-making ministries are in the hands of KCR's family.
"The most money-making ministries are in the hands of KCR's family. Most of the money is made on land, liquor, and sand, and all of them are under the control of KCR and his family members," Gandhi said.
Telangana is set for assembly polls on November 30 while the counting of votes will take place on December 3 along with Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
With agency inputs.
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US Navy Plane Safely Lands in Hawaii Bay After Runway Overshoot
A U.S. Navy plane overshot a runway and splashed into a bay in Hawaii on Monday, but authorities said all nine people aboard made it safely to shore with no injuries. The Coast Guard responded but rescue operations were quickly called off, said Petty Officer Ryan Fisher, a Coast Guard spokesperson.
“It sounds like all parties involved were rescued,” he said. The P-8A aircraft overshot the runway at a Marine base on Kaneohe Bay, said U.S. Marine Corps spokesperson Gunnery Sgt. Orlando Perez. He did not have further information.
A photo taken by a witness showed the plane floating just offshore, a scene reminiscent of the 2009 “ Miracle on the Hudson ” when a commercial aircraft piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger made an emergency landing on the New York river. All 155 people aboard survived. The P-8A and the Airbus A320 that Sullenberger piloted are roughly the same size.
Diane Dircks and her family had just returned to the dock after rainy weather cut their pontoon boat trip short when her daughter noticed the plane in the water. “We went running over to the end of the dock, and I took some pictures,” she said. They then heard sirens coming from everywhere. Dircks, who is visiting from Illinois, said her daughter keeps a pair of binoculars on her for birdwatching, so she was able to see the plane and the rescue boats arriving. “It was unbelievable,” she said.
The Honolulu Fire Department received a 911 call for a downed aircraft shortly after 2 p.m., spokesperson Malcolm K. Medrano said in an email. It was cloudy and rainy at the time. Visibility was about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), said Thomas Vaughan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Honolulu.
The P-8A is often used to hunt for submarines and reconnaissance and intelligence gathering. It is manufactured by Boeing and shares many parts with the 737 commercial jet. The plane belongs to the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron 4 stationed at Whidbey Island in Washington state. Patrol squadrons were once based at Kaneohe Bay, but now they deploy to Hawaii on a rotational basis.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Honolulu on Oahu. The base houses about 9,300 military personnel and 5,100 family members. It's one of several key military installations on Oahu. The base sits on Kaneohe Bay, which is also home to coral reefs, a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks and a University of Hawaii marine biology research institute.
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Biden, 81, Mixes Up Taylor Swift and
US President Joe Biden on Monday mistakenly referred to American pop star Taylor Swift as ‘Britney' (Spears) during remarks at a Thanksgiving event at the White House. While speaking about the annual tradition, Biden said turkeys named Liberty and Bell had to beat stiff competition for the honor and demonstrate ‘patience.'
“You could say it was even harder than getting a ticket to the Renaissance tour for Britney's tour. She's down in, it's kinda warm in Brazil right now,” Biden said. This yet another faux pas comes as Biden celebrated his 81st birthday by joking repeatedly about his advanced age, even as the White House strongly defended his stamina and batted away polling.'
On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden's age should not be a primary focus. “Our perspective is, it's not about age, it's about the president's experience,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing, where she highlighted that Biden had successfully championed through Congress several major pieces of legislation.
“What we say is we have to judge him by what he's done, not by his numbers,” Jean-Pierre said. “I would put the president's stamina, the president's wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people, against anyone. Anyone, any day of the week.” The US President, for his part, went for humor at the White House event. “By the way, it's my birthday today,” Biden told a crowd on the South Lawn as he pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys Liberty and Bell. “I just want you to know, it's difficult turning 60,” the president added with a chuckle. “Difficult.”
Noting that the pre-Thanksgiving pardoning ceremony dated back 76 years, Biden also said, “I want you to know I wasn't there — for the first one.” The oldest president in US history, Biden for months has used humor to try to defuse the issue — even as polls suggest it's no laughing matter.
An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77 percent of U.S. adults, including 69 percent of Democrats, viewed Biden as too old to be effective for four more years. As he seeks a second term, Biden could be headed for a rematch with former President Donald Trump.
(With agency inputs)
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Iraq’s delicate balancing act with Iran and the US
Baghdad-With the Gaza war threatening to spiral into a wider Middle East conflict, Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month paid an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani. Mr. Sudani faces the delicate task of balancing his country’s ties between America and Iran and stopping Iran-aligned militias from attacking U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq.
The war in Gaza has inflamed Iraq, but sentiments are more nuanced than the country's sectarian divisions might suggest. Shiite militias have grown in power and strength since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the later fight against Islamic State. Though most receive financial and military backing from Iran, they are an integral part of Mr. Sudani's government. But Iraq's Shiite militias are privately resentful of Hamas for risking a regional conflict that could threaten their grip on power. Iraq's militias are also weary of Iran's tendency to encourage them to strike at the U.S., for which they will be the targets of retaliation.
Alongside this, Iraq's elected leaders struggle to satisfy an electorate genuinely outraged by Palestinian casualties while maintaining diplomatic relations with the U.S. in the Iraqi national interest. Iraq's security and economic survival depend on its U.S. ties.
Some of Iraq's Shiite militias have intensified their attacks on America's presence in Iraq. They have claimed responsibility for a series of rocket and drone strikes on U.S. military facilities since the Gaza war began. -
Not all these militias, however, are eager for a full-scale confrontation with Washington, and even less so on behalf of Hamas, a Sunni Islamist group. Officials and militias more in line with Mr. Sudani's position would rather tap into Iraq's $153 billion annual budget, expand their networks of cronies and supporters, and entrench their power. In reality, they have little sympathy for the Palestinian cause, which they associate with Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, who persecuted Shiite dissent at home while supporting the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Since the 2003 invasion, the number of Palestinian refugees in Iraq has dropped from about 34,000 to fewer than 10,000 because of attacks and persecution by militias.
Mr. Sudani, who has the backing of most of the militias, wants to avoid having his country used as a geopolitical chessboard—or as an expendable pawn on someone else's. The Iraqi prime minister has warned Shiite militants not to attack U.S. personnel or interests, saying that such actions harm Iraq's national interests and sovereignty. After meeting with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Sudani flew to Tehran for talks with Iranian officials.
It isn't clear whether Mr. Sudani can maintain this balancing act and prevent the militias from escalating the situation. The few militias that are not part of the Iraqi government have launched more than 40 attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq since Oct. 17, but none of them have resulted in American casualties. Baghdad has said that it has acted on intelligence to thwart even more strikes. The U.S. has refrained from retaliating on Iraqi soil but has warned that it reserves the right to retaliate. The U.S. on Oct. 22 reduced the staff at its embassy and consulate in Iraq and beefed up its air defenses.
Iraq's nightmare is a full-scale war between the U.S. and Iran on its territory in which Baghdad is a powerless observer. This isn't merely hypothetical. As recently as 2019, when a militia rocket killed an American contractor in Iraq, the U.S. and Iran began a cycle of retaliatory strikes that culminated in the assassination of Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad and a barrage of Iranian missiles on U.S. bases in Iraq. The U.S.-Iraq relationship was pushed to the brink of rupture, which was averted only by exceptional diplomacy.
Public opinion also adds an unpredictable element to Iraqi calculations. Many in Iraq privately say they felt repugnance for Hamas's brutal Oct. 7 assault on Israel, the tactics of which reminded people of the Islamic State. But this sympathy is now increasingly overwhelmed by anger about Palestinian civilian casualties, which are omnipresent on TV screens and social-media feeds. America's backing of Israel in turn affords irresistible opportunities for populist figures like Muqtada al-Sadr to rail against the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Despite this, Iraqi leaders know that America's military footprint in Iraq safeguards rather than undermines Baghdad's fragile sovereignty. Continued militia attacks could easily tip this delicate balance, however. For Washington, the question is how to bolster Iraq's emerging pragmatism while preventing the militias from becoming more entangled in the Iraqi government. The militias have avoided direct clashes with American forces, but they remain a threat to U.S. interests in Iraq.
To deter Iran and Iraqi militias, the U.S. needs to broaden its outreach to include the Iraqi Parliament, the Kurdistan Regional Government and other key players. It also needs to resist the temptation to try to wield Iraq as a cudgel against Iran. America's long game should be to empower the Iraqi state and its institutions and avoid turning Iraq into a battlefield in a broader regional war.
Mr. Wahab is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Source: Live Mint
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ICC to invite all World Cup-winning captains in Ahmedabad
The International Cricket Council (ICC) is likely to invite all the former World Cup winning captains to watch the final between India and Australia on Sunday, 19 November. However, doubts remain on 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan of Pakistan. According to the reports Mahndra Singh Dhoni may attend the event alongwith other winning captains of the coveted World Cup.
Meanwhile, The Indian Air Force's aerobatic team Surya Kiran on Friday rehearsed for the air show it is scheduled to perform ahead of the Cricket World Cup final between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium here on November 19, an official said.
The Surya Kiran team held a grand rehearsal at the stadium and will also rehearse on Saturday before the final show, Gujarat Defence PRO said.
According to the PRO, the aerobatic team will enthral people for 10 minutes before the start of the final match to be played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in the Motera area of the city on November 19.
"As of now, an air show has been planned ahead of the final match, for which a rehearsal was held over the stadium on Friday," Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) spokesperson Jagat Patel said.
The Surya Kiran aerobatic team usually comprises nine aircraft and has performed numerous air shows in the country.
The hallmark of their demonstration is loop manoeuvres in victory formation, barrel roll manoeuvres and forming various shapes in the sky using aircraft.
Unbeaten in the tournament, team India delivered an all-round performance in the semis against New Zealand.
India's tenacious number three, Virat Kohli, made history by becoming the first person to achieve fifty hundreds in One Day International cricket. India scored 397/4 to put pressure on New Zealand.
Leading India's efforts with the ball was Shami, who managed to stave off a stubborn New Zealand response spearheaded by Daryl Mitchell's 134, the right-hander's second century against India in the competition.
Shami is now the leading wicket-taker in the competition with 24 from six games at an incredible average of 9.13.
*with agency inputs
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Iran Maintains Steady Expansion of Nuclear Program
Iran continued to expand its nuclear program, including its stockpile of near-weapons-grade enriched uranium in recent months, although it hasn’t accelerated the pace of its production of nuclear fuel amid the current turmoil in the Middle East.
In its confidential quarterly report circulated to member states, the United Nations nuclear agency also said Tehran has largely refused to cooperate on several outstanding disputes, including the country's withdrawal of permission for several European inspectors to continue working there.
Wednesday's International Atomic Energy Agency report showed that while Iran has slowed its accumulation of 60%-enriched uranium since the start of summer, it continues to build up large amounts of material that could be used to fuel nuclear weapons.
Iran added 6.7 kilograms of 60% enriched uranium, taking its stockpile to 128.3 kilograms in the 2 ½ months to Oct. 28, the agency reported. That is enough material—once refined to weapons-grade uranium at 90% purity—to fuel about three nuclear weapons. Iran is the only state without nuclear weapons to produce 60% enriched uranium.
U.S. officials have said it would likely take Iran less than two weeks to produce enough weapons-grade material for a weapon. However, they also have said they believe Tehran hasn't completed research on building an atomic bomb.
Additionally, Iran has more than half a ton of 20% enriched uranium, which experts say would take several weeks to convert into 90% weapons-grade fuel, potentially allowing Tehran to field a number of nuclear weapons in a short period.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for entirely peaceful civilian programs and that it would never develop nuclear weapons.
The IAEA's estimates of Iran's nuclear fuel stockpile were made on Oct. 28, three weeks after the Hamas attack on Israel which killed 1,200 people and unleashed a massive Israeli military offensive in Gaza.
A person close to the agency said Iran had accumulated 60% nuclear fuel at a roughly steady pace of three kilograms a month throughout the latest period, indicating there was no sudden surge in Iran's nuclear program after Oct. 7.
The agency also reported that during the period Iran didn't start operating any new centrifuge cascades, machines that spin enriched uranium into higher levels of purity.
Israel has been at the forefront of efforts to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, including killing Iranian scientists involved in such research, attacking some Iranian nuclear facilities and pushing the international community to keep pressure on Tehran.
In the wake of the Oct. 7 attack, Western countries are concerned that the Israel-Hamas war could spiral into a regional conflict involving Iran, with Iran's proxy forces throughout the region attacking Israeli and U.S. forces. Tehran has long sent weapons and funding to Hamas and openly celebrated the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Earlier this year, the U.S. and Iran attempted to de-escalate tensions, including over Iran's nuclear program. However the U.S. canceled indirect talks with Iran due last month in Oman following the Hamas attack. There has been no sign so far of reviving them.
That leaves Iran effectively as a threshold nuclear state with no clear diplomatic or other plan to defuse the threat. President Biden, like his predecessors, has pledged to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, Iran has stonewalled for years an investigation by the U.N. nuclear agency into unexplained traces of enriched uranium found in the country.
Tehran has removed agency cameras at Iranian nuclear-related facilities, preventing it from developing a clear picture of the full scope of Iran's nuclear program.
Ahead of Wednesday's report, Tehran refused to allow back eight of the IAEA's most experienced inspectors whom it had recently banned from working there.
Write to Laurence Norman at email@example.com
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Takeaways from Biden's High-Stakes Meeting with Xi Jinping Published 35 minutes ago
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC summit in San Francisco, almost exactly one year since their last encounter in Bali, Indonesia, on the margins of another global gathering.
Aside from a bilateral meeting, both leaders shared a lunch with top advisers and strolled the verdant grounds of the luxury estate where their meeting took place. Biden said the meeting included “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we've had” and will lead to stronger dialogue between the two leaders.
The US President said they will “keep the lines of communication open” and Xi is “willing to pick up the phone” — no small thing in the world of high-risk, high-stakes diplomacy between Washington and Beijing. Here's a look at how the day panned out.
Biden left the meeting with commitments on key issues. Xi agreed to help curb the production of the illicit fentanyl that is a deadly component of drugs sold in the United States. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting, said the shift will be a setback for Latin American drug dealers.
“It's going to save lives, and I appreciated President Xi's commitment on this issue,” Biden said at a press conference after his meeting. In addition, Biden and Xi reached an agreement to resume military-to-military communications. That means Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will speak with his Chinese counterpart once someone is named to the job, the official said. Similar engagements will take place up and down the military chain of command. The official said Biden was “very clear” to Xi that such communications between U.S. and China should be institutionalized and that they are “not done as a gift or as a favor to either side.”
Biden said the US and China would talk more about artificial intelligence as well. “We're going to get our experts together and discuss risk and safety issues,” he said. The agreements helped fulfill the White House's goal for the meeting — prove to voters that Biden's dedication to personal diplomacy is paying off.
On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that Biden wanted “practical ways” to show that meeting with Xi can help “defend American interests and also deliver progress on the priorities of the American people.” Zoe Liu, a fellow for China studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, described the meeting between Biden and Xi as a positive step, albeit an incremental one. “These agreements will not change the structural challenges in the bilateral relations, but it paves the way for more detailed working-level discussions, which is more important,” she said.
Beijing has long sought to be treated as an equal by Washington, and Biden sought to leverage those ambitions with Xi to address two devastating wars. In their private session, Biden appealed to Xi to use his influence to try to calm global tensions, particularly to try to pressure Iran not to widen the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
A US official said Biden did most of the talking on the matter, and that Xi mostly listened, and that it was too soon to tell what sort of message China was sending to Tehran and how it was being received. Biden has also pressed Xi to continue to withhold military support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Biden and Xi held a “clear-headed” and “not heated” discussion on Taiwan — the most sensitive topic in the relationship with the greatest potential to spiral into wider conflict. Biden said he reaffirmed the United States' “One China” policy and its belief that any resolution must be peaceful. “I'm not going to change that,” Biden said. “That's not going to change.”
He reiterated, though, that the U.S. would continue to arm Taiwan as a deterrent against any attempt by China to use force to reunify the self-governing island with the mainland. The U.S. had maintained strategic ambiguity about whether it would directly intervene to protect Taiwan in the event of an invasion by Beijing. Xi, a U.S. official said, told Biden he had no plans to invade the island, though Biden chided him for China's massive military build-up around Taiwan. Biden also called on China to avoid meddling in Taiwan's elections next year.
Xi arrived in San Francisco at a time of economic challenges back in China, where an aging population and growing debt have hampered its recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Beijing's description of the meeting, Xi pressed Biden to lift sanctions and change policies on export controls for sensitive equipment.
“Stifling China's technological progress is nothing but a move to contain China's high-quality development and deprive the Chinese people of their right to development,” the readout said. “China's development and growth, driven by its own inherent logic, will not be stopped by external forces.” There's no indication that Biden will agree to take such steps. But even the meeting itself could calm jittery nerves back in China, where there have been signs foreign investment is tapering off.
Biden and Xi go back years, and Biden often repeats the story of their meetings when they were both vice presidents. But on Wednesday, it was Xi's turn to reference their previous encounters during brief public remarks, although he eschewed the embellishments that Biden usually adds to the tale. “It was 12 years ago,” Xi said. “I still remember our interactions very vividly, and it always gives me a lot of thoughts.” Biden also emphasized the length of their relationship and the value of their interactions.
“We haven't always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful,” Biden said. He added that “it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.”
Bilateral meetings aren't always conducive to a personal touch, and Biden and Xi were flanked by advisers on opposite sides of a long table. However, a senior administration official said they spoke about their wives, and Biden wished Xi's wife a happy birthday. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss a private conversation, said Xi was embarrassed, and he admitted that he had forgotten his wife's upcoming birthday because he's been working so hard.
After the summit with Xi on Wednesday, Biden said that he still considers the Chinese president a “dictator”, after he sparked fury from Beijing by making the comparison earlier this year. “Well look he is, I mean he's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who's running a country, a Communist country, that's based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said at the end of a news conference when a reporter asked if he would still use the term to describe Xi.
(With AP inputs)
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From Gaza to Ukraine
These are not happy times. An Israel-Hamas war in Gaza threatens to spread across the Middle East, with America and Iran facing off in the background. The Ukraine war, Europe’s largest since 1945, shows no sign of ending. And Chinese jets and warships now menace Taiwan in growing numbers and with increasing frequency, with looming elections on the island likely to bring more tumult. Civil conflict in Mali, Myanmar and Sudan has worsened in recent weeks, too.
Read our coverage of the Israel-Hamas war and the Ukraine war
A concatenation of crises is hardly unprecedented. Sergey Radchenko, a historian, points to the examples of the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Suez crisis overlapping in 1956, crises in Lebanon and the Taiwan Strait in 1958 and the tumultuous years of 1978-79, when the Chinese invasion of Vietnam, the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan unfolded in quick succession. In 1999 India and Pakistan, newly armed with nuclear missiles, waged a war over Kashmir while NATO bombed Serbian forces in Yugoslavia.
But America and its allies cannot intervene as easily or cheaply as they once did. Adversaries such as China and Russia are more assertive, and working more and more together. So too are non-aligned powers, including India and Turkey, which have growing clout to shape distant events and believe that a new and more favourable order is emerging. And the possibility of a war directly between major powers hangs over the world, forcing countries to keep one eye on the future even as they fight fires today.
Massively multiplayer game
The large powers are becoming more polarised on issues where they might once have pushed in the same direction. In the Middle East, for instance, Russia has moved closer to Hamas, tearing up years of careful diplomacy with Israel. China, which in past wars issued bland statements urging de-escalation, has exploited the crisis to criticise America's role in the region. With the exception of strongmen such as Viktor Orban, Hungary's leader, few Western countries talk to Russia any longer. And even dialogue with China is increasingly dominated by threats and warnings rather than by efforts to tackle joint problems like climate change. A meeting planned between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California on November 15th may prove a case in point, though there are rumblings of an agreement on military applications of artificial intelligence.
Another shift is growing convergence between America's adversaries. “There really is an axis that is emerging between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, which rejects their version of the American-led international order," says Stephen Hadley. He served in America's national security council in the 1970s and the Pentagon in the 1980s before becoming national security adviser to George W. Bush in 2005. The war in Ukraine has cemented the partnership between Russia and China. It is not a formal alliance, but the two countries conducted their sixth joint bomber patrol in the western Pacific in the space of just over four years in June. They followed it up with a joint 13,000km naval patrol in the region in August. Iran and North Korea have both supplied Russia with weaponry in return for military technology. The result is greater entanglement. A crisis involving one enemy is increasingly likely to draw in another.
Moreover, each crisis not only involves more enemies, but also more players in general. The leaders of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea have all attended the past two NATO summits in Europe. Ukraine's counter-offensive this year could not have happened without an infusion of South Korean shells. Turkey has established itself as a key arms supplier throughout the region, reshaping conflicts in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan with its military technology and advisers. European countries are planning more intensively how they might respond to a crisis over Taiwan. Crises thus have more moving parts to them.
That reflects a broader shift in the distribution of economic and political power. The idea of “multipolarity"—a term once confined to scholarship, and which refers to a world in which power is concentrated not in two places, as in the cold war, or in one, as in the American-dominated 1990s, but in several—has entered the diplomatic mainstream. In September, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's foreign minister, noted that America, facing the “long-term consequences of Iraq and Afghanistan"—a nod to two failed wars—and relative economic decline, “is adjusting to a multipolar world".
The argument is debatable. In a recent essay, Jake Sullivan, America's national security adviser, argued that America is in a stronger position now than it was while mired in those wars. “If the United States were still fighting in Afghanistan," he wrote, “it is highly likely that Russia would be doing everything it could right now to help the Taliban pin Washington down there, preventing it from focusing its attention on helping Ukraine." That is plausible. But America's image is undoubtedly bruised.
A poll conducted in February by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank, found that more than 61% of Russians and Chinese, 51% of Turks and 48% of Indians expect a world defined by either multipolarity or Chinese dominance. In his final state-of-the-union speech in January 2016, Barack Obama, then America's president, insisted that on “every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead—they call us." Seven years on, things are less clear-cut.
The result of all this is a sense of disorder. America and its allies see growing threats. Russia and China see opportunities. Middle powers, courted by larger ones, but concerned by the growing dysfunction of institutions like the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations, see both. “A kind of anarchy is creeping into international relations," wrote Shivshankar Menon, who served as India's foreign secretary and national security adviser, in an essay published last year. It was “not anarchy in the strict sense of the term," he explained, “but rather the absence of a central organising principle or hegemon."
That tendency has been compounded by several other trends. One is the climate crisis, which increases the risk of conflict in many parts of the world and, through the green transition, is creating new sources of competition, such as that for critical materials crucial for wind turbines and electric vehicles. The other is the accelerating pace of technological change, with artificial intelligence improving at an exponential rate and with unpredictable consequences. A third is globalisation, which knits crises together in new ways. A war over Taiwan, for instance, would cause acute disruption to the semiconductor industry and thus to the world economy.
The fourth is a rising tide of nationalism and populism, which infects attempts to solve all of these global problems. In a book published in 2021 Colin Kahl, who recently stepped down as the Pentagon's policy chief, and Thomas Wright, a senior official in Mr Biden's national security council, noted that international co-operation seized up during the covid-19 pandemic as countries rushed to close borders and shield themselves. “For all practical purposes the G7 ceased to exist," they noted. “Pandemic politics ultimately dealt the final blow to the old international order."
From dawn to dawn
The new world disorder is putting the institutional capacity of America and its allies under stress while stretching their military capabilities. Start by considering the institutional pressure. The cold war, Mr Hadley argues, was an “organised world". There were global challenges, he acknowledges, but many were subsets of the larger superpower struggle. “For post-cold-war national security advisers," he says, “it's more like cooking on an eight-burner stove with every burner having a pot, and every pot just about to boil over."
A world in which more crises occur together poses two sorts of challenges to the leaders and diplomats tasked with managing them. One is the tactical problem of fighting several fires at once. Crises tend to have a centralising effect, says a former senior British diplomat, with prime ministers or presidents taking personal charge of issues that might otherwise be scattered among foreign and defence ministries. Even in large and powerful states, bureaucratic bandwidth can be surprisingly limited.
Diplomats, immersed in crises, often perceive that their own times are unusually chaotic. Baroness Catherine Ashton, who was the European Union's de facto foreign minister from 2009 to 2014, points out that she was dealing with the Arab spring, Iran's nuclear programme and the Serbia-Kosovo dispute at the same time. “I can remember very clearly, when the Ukraine crisis began," she says, referring to a revolution in Kyiv in 2014, “that I just didn't know if we would have the bandwidth for all of this."
One issue is that competition has turned to conflict. The war in Ukraine has been especially debilitating for diplomacy. Baroness Ashton recalls that when the Ukraine crisis began in 2014, her negotiating team for nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna included Russia's deputy foreign minister. She would travel to Kyiv to condemn Russia's meddling and he to Moscow to condemn the European Union. “Then we'd fly back and all sit down and carry on with the Iran talks." Such fleet-footed compartmentalisation would now be impossible.
America's national security council is a bare-bones operation, in part because Congress is loth to fund White House staff. In an essay published in 2016, Julianne Smith, now America's envoy to NATO, recalled her time as deputy national security adviser to Mr Biden when he was vice-president. “A typical day would often involve four to six hours of back-to-back meetings on anything from Syria to cybersecurity to North Korea," followed by 150 to 500 emails per day. “My ability to plan, think beyond the next day in the office, or significantly deepen my knowledge of any single issue was virtually non-existent."
The expectation that top officials represent their country in a crisis often puts enormous pressure on a handful of people. Antony Blinken, America's secretary of state, has spent almost every waking hour shuttling between Middle Eastern capitals over the past six weeks. He recently flew from the Middle East to Tokyo, for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers, then to India, and on to San Francisco. Mr Sullivan is also spread thinly.
Of pens and swords
Even if diplomats can successfully spin multiple plates, the concurrence of crises presents a larger, strategic problem when it comes to military power. The current crisis in the Middle East shows that military power is a scarce resource—like diplomatic bandwidth. Even in recent years, Pentagon officials would boast that they were finally rebalancing naval power from the Middle East to Asia, after two decades of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, under pressure of events, the trend is reversing.
When the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its escorts entered the Red Sea on November 4th it was the first time an American aircraft-carrier had operated in the Middle East for two years. The exercises it conducted earlier with the USS Gerald R. Ford marked an unusually large show of force. If the war in Gaza drags on or widens, American naval forces may need to choose between sticking around, creating gaps in other parts of the world, including Asia, or emboldening Iran.
Meanwhile, Western officials increasingly think the war in Ukraine could drag on for another five years, with neither Russia nor Ukraine prepared to give in, but neither capable of breaking the stalemate. As the 2020s roll on, the red lights begin to flash. Many American intelligence officials, and some Asian ones, believe that the risk of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is greatest in a window at the end of this decade. Too early, and China is not ready. Too late, and China faces the prospect of demographic decline and a new generation of Western military technology.
Even without a war, the West's military capacity will come under enormous pressure in the coming years. The war in Ukraine has been a reminder of both just how much ammunition is consumed in big wars, but also how meagre Western armouries—and their means of replenishment—really are. America is dramatically upping its production of 155mm artillery shells. Even then, its output in 2025 is likely to be lower than that of Russia in 2024.
The wars in Ukraine and Gaza illustrate these stresses. Israel and Ukraine are fighting two different sorts of war. Ukraine needs long-range missiles to strike Crimea, armoured vehicles to allow infantry to advance in the face of shrapnel, and demining gear to punch through vast minefields. Israel wants air-dropped smart bombs, including bunker busters, and interceptors for its Iron Dome air-defence system, which are being fired at a prodigious rate. But there is overlap, too.
Last year America dipped into its stockpile of shells in Israel to arm Ukraine. In October it had to divert some Ukraine-bound shells to Israel. Both countries also use the Patriot missile-defence system, which takes out planes and larger missiles. So too do other allies in the Middle East: on October 19th Saudi Arabia used a Patriot battery to intercept Israel-bound missiles launched from Yemen. Ukraine's consumption of interceptors is likely to rise sharply over the winter as Russia, having stockpiled missiles for months, unleashes sustained barrages against Ukraine's power grid.
America can probably satisfy both of its friends for the moment. In recent weeks, France and Germany have both pledged to increase assistance to Ukraine. But if either war—or both—drags on, there will be a pinch. “As time goes on, there will be trade-offs as certain key systems are diverted to Israel," writes Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington. “A few systems that Ukraine needs for its counter-offensive may not be available in the numbers that Ukraine would like."
The bigger problem is that, realistically, America could not arm itself and its allies at the same time. “If US production lines are already struggling to keep pace with the exigencies of arming Ukraine," notes Iskander Rehman of Johns Hopkins University in a recent paper on protracted wars, “they would be completely overwhelmed in the event of an actual protracted, peer-to-peer conflict with an adversary such as China."
These challenges point to deeper tensions in American defence strategy. From 1992 onward American military planners held to what was known as the “two-war" standard. America's armed forces had to be ready to fight two simultaneous medium-sized wars against regional powers—think Iraq or Iran—rather than simply a single big war. In 2018 the Trump administration changed this to a “one-war" standard: in practice, a commitment to be able to fight either a war in Europe or in Asia, but not both at the same time. Mr Biden's administration stuck with this approach.
The aim was to instil discipline in the Pentagon and to bring ends in line with means: America's defence budget is virtually flat in real terms, while Chinese defence spending has soared. But the risk, argued critics, was that the one-war standard would tempt enemies to open a second front—which could then force America to either back down or resort to unappealing options, like nuclear threats.
Too many plates
What risks do America and its allies run by being so stretched across diplomatic and military realms? If the war in Ukraine stays an open sore in Europe and the Middle East remains ablaze, the West will struggle gravely should another serious crisis erupt. One risk is that adversaries simply capitalise on chaos elsewhere for their own ends. If America were bogged down in a Pacific war, for instance, Iran would surely feel more confident of getting away with a dash for nuclear weapons.
Even more worrying is the prospect of active collusion. European military planners give weight to the possibility that Russia might conduct menacing manoeuvres during a crisis over Taiwan in order to divert American attention and tie down its allies, preventing them from lending a hand in Asia. As in the cold war, each crisis, no matter how parochial or trivial, might come to be seen as a test of American or Chinese power, drawing each country in.
Then there are the surprises. Western intelligence agencies have their hands full watching China and Russia. Few expected Hamas to throw the Middle East back into turmoil as it did on October 7th. Civil wars and insurgencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan have all been neglected, diplomatically, even as Russian influence in the Sahel continues to grow. Meanwhile on November 10th dozens of Chinese ships circled Philippine vessels, blasting one with water cannon, as the latter attempted to resupply an outpost on Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, which China claims as its own. If the confrontations worsen, the terms of America's defence treaty with the Philippines may oblige it to intervene.
Amid disorder, strategists talk about the importance of “walking and chewing gum". It is a uniquely American metaphor that once referred to performing two trivial activities at once, and now explains the importance of geopolitical multi-tasking. Others are available. In his forthcoming book, “To Run the World", Mr Radchenko, the historian, quotes Zhou Enlai, China's premier, identifying America's predicament in 1964: “If there were just a few more Congos in Africa, a few more Vietnams in Asia, a few more Cubas in Latin America, then America would have to spread ten fingers to ten more places…we can chop them off one by one."
© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com
Source: Live Mint
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Third Round of US Sanctions Against Hamas Focuses on Money Transfers from Iran to Gaza Published 41 minutes ago
The United States on Tuesday said it imposed a third round of sanctions on a group of Hamas officials, members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who work to transfer money from Iran to Gaza, and a Lebanese money exchange service that facilitates the transfers.
The Treasury Department sanctions, coordinated with the United Kingdom, come in response to the surprise Oct 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that left roughly 1,200 people dead or kidnapped.
The sanctions block access to US property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.
This and two previous rounds of sanctions against Hamas and its affiliates are aimed at protecting the international financial system from abuse by Hamas militants and their enablers, the Treasury Department said.
The State Department also is designating a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military leader for diplomatic sanctions.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an emailed statement that together with our partners we are decisively moving to degrade Hamas's financial infrastructure, cut them off from outside funding, and block the new funding channels they seek to finance their heinous acts.
The White House has said it was yet to uncover information that Iran, the principal financial and military sponsor of Hamas, was directly involved in the multipronged Hamas operation against Israel.
However, the US has conducted three strikes over the last two weeks against Iranian-tied weapons depots in Syria to retaliate for the more than 50 rocket and drone attacks that militant groups have launched since Oct 7 against US bases in Iraq and Syria, which have caused dozens of minor injuries among US personnel.
President Joe Biden and other officials in his Democratic administration have travelled to the Middle East to show support for Israel and have tried to tamp down tensions in the escalating war between Israel and Hamas. But those efforts have faced massive setbacks.
More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths.
The shadowy leader of Hamas' military wing, Mohammed Deif, said the Oct 7 assault on Israel was in response to the 16-year blockade of Gaza, Israeli raids inside West Bank cities over the past year, increasing attacks by settlers on Palestinians and the growth of settlements, among other reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared Israel to be at war, said its military would use all of its strength to destroy Hamas' capabilities. All the places that Hamas hides in, operates from,” he said, we will turn them into ruins.
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Takeaways From The Third 2024 Republican Presidential Debate Published 17 minutes ago
Five candidates seeking to halt Donald Trump's march toward the 2024 Republican presidential nomination gathered in Miami on Wednesday for the party's third debate while the former president held a separate campaign rally across town.
Here are some takeaways from the debate:
A night after a stinging series of election losses at the hands of Democrats, the candidates vented their frustrations on the debate stage. “I'm sick of Republicans losing,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.
DeSantis has long contrasted his successful re-election last year in Florida with Republican setbacks in the last few elections, including Trump's loss in 2020. Earlier in the day, his campaign argued that backing Trump cost candidates seats in races such as the one for governor of Kentucky, where Republican Daniel Cameron lost to Democrat Andy Beshear.
Republicans on Wednesday were also smarting from the success of a ballot issue in Ohio that enshrined a right to abortion in the state constitution, as well as the loss of state legislative control in Virginia.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy blamed Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, instead of Trump, for the party's recent performance. “We've become a party of losers,” he lamented. “We have to have accountability in our party.” McDaniel was Trump's hand-picked choice to lead the RNC in 2017, and the committee was a sponsor of Wednesday's debate.
It was clear from the outset that Ramaswamy, whose candidacy has faded since the first debate, was determined to be a spoiler and throw elbows in every direction while on stage. Ramaswamy, a businessman with no political experience, attacked former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and DeSantis right out of the gate.
In an exchange regarding the conflict in Israel, Ramaswamy warned that the two leading candidates on the stage could drag America into a bloody war in Europe, while also channeling speculation that DeSantis wears lifts inside his boots.
“Do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels? Because you've got two of them on stage tonight,” he said in reference to Haley and DeSantis, while invoking the Republican former vice president who was known for his neoconservative views. “They're five-inch heels, and I don't wear them unless I can run in them,” Haley later shot back. “They are not a fashion statement, they are ammunition.”
Ramaswamy wasn't finished going after Haley. During a discussion over banning the Chinese short video app TikTok, he mentioned that Haley's daughter used the platform. “You might want to take care of your family first,” he said.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley countered, adding under her breath, “You're just scum.” Given his lagging poll numbers, the Miami debate could end up being Ramaswamy's final one. Haley won't miss him.
All eyes were on Haley and DeSantis, who were widely expected to go after each other in a bid to establish themselves as the top challenger to Trump in the Republican nominating contest. After circling each other for half the debate, they finally went on the attack over the other's dealings with China.
Both said their opponent had cozied up to Chinese industry as governors – Haley in South Carolina and DeSantis in Florida. Both, unsurprisingly, disagreed, leading to a heated exchange.
While all candidates on the stage portray themselves as tough on China, Haley has taken pains for months to establish herself as the top China hawk in the field. The DeSantis campaign, meanwhile, has tried to attack Haley on that issue, accusing her of welcoming a Chinese company into her state.
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