A backhoe breaks and remove parts of the Al-Jawhara building, as a worker recycles metal iron rods from the rubble of the building, which was damaged by Israeli airstrikes during Israel’s war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers last May, in the central of al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The Gaza Strip has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four bruising wars with Israel in just over a decade, it has lots of rubble. Local businesses are now finding ways to cash in on the chunks of smashed concrete, bricks and debris left behind by years of conflict. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)ASSOCIATED PRESSMoreEDITH M. LEDERERTue, January 25, 2022, 4:18 PM·4 min read
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in some cases civilians may be mistaken for combatants and be attacked. In others, he said, fighters don’t try to minimize harm and use explosive weapons in crowded areas that lead to devastating suffering for ordinary people who face life-long disabilities and grave psychological trauma.
As examples, he told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in urban settings during wars that during last year’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants dozens of schools and health care facilities were damaged and nearly 800,000 people were left without piped water.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html
In Afghanistan, an explosive attack outside a high school in the capital, Kabul, last May killed 90 students, mainly girls, and injured an additional 240 people, he said.
Guterres said the risk of harm to civilians “rises when combatants move among them and put military facilities and equipment near civilian infrastructure.”
The secretary-general said urban warfare also put civilians at risk of sieges and blockades that have led to starvation. It also forces millions of people from their homes “contributing to record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people,” and it creates millions of tons of debris that affect the environment and people’s health, he said.
“Four years after the destruction of 80% of housing in Mosul, Iraq, an estimated 300,000 people were still displaced,” he said.
“The frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable; it is a choice,” Guterres said.
Israel’s former chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has warned that the country is heading towards a one-state reality with the Palestinians, and with it, the “destruction of the Zionist dream.”
Eisenkot, who headed the military from 2015 to 2019, said the country needs to consolidate the country’s illegal settlements, which Israel thinks are legal. Still, there is a consensus under international law that all set settlers living beyond 1967 borders are illegal.
The former chief of staff warned that the country’s politicians have no vision for what a settlement with the Palestinians would look like resulting in an increasingly unstable political climate in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Eisenkot also warned that recent Palestinian flareups bode ill for the future occupation of Palestinian land and that Israel was “a hair’s breadth away” from a third intifada – a general revolt by Palestinians.
“One day, sometime in the future, some esoteric, completely marginal event will happen, and the government will think it’s nonsense and will use some force, tackle the issue with a hammer on the head, and only after a few weeks will understand that the genie came out of the bottle and has no intention of returning,” Eisenkot said about how easily a conflict could erupt in the occupied territories.
A poll released in June of last year, however, found that 53 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people,” while only 14% prefer the incumbent Fatah party.
Hamas’s popularity was in part a “direct result of our policies,” said the IDF chief, who advised the country’s establishment to engineer “an alternative” that Israel could live with.
“The question is not whether there will be another outbreak, but when and how intense it will be. It is quite clear that this will happen. There’s no way that it’s not going to happen,” he said in an interview with the Israeli publication Maariv.
A divided house
Eisenkot also warned that Israeli society is increasingly polarised and divided owing to the country’s fractious politics.
“I think that the rifts in Israeli society, and the attacks from both sides, the decline in governance, the decline in faith in state institutions, in the courts, crime — all these are the greatest threats for the country’s future,” he said.
In May of 2021, Israel declared a state of emergency in the central city of Lod after protests by Israeli Palestinians against discrimination and, in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank, threatened to spill over to other areas of the country.
Israel, which prides itself as being the “only democracy in the Middle East”, has long presented so-called “mixed cities” like Haifa and Lod as a model of coexistence between Jews and Palestinians.
Long-standing grievances among Palestinian citizens of Israel – over police brutality, government surveillance, and being forced to suppress their Palestinian identity – exploded, and inter-communal violence spread in several places.
It’s against this backdrop that Eisenkot warned in his interview that “people are worried, not because of the Iranian threat, but because of internal weakness, loss of cohesion, inequality, friction between different communities. Entire groups of the public are not being absorbed into society.”
“We need to understand that there is no national security without societal solidarity, and there is no societal solidarity without national security,” he added.
A declining sense of social solidarity is also resulting in reduced participation in the IDF, said the former chief. In 1978, Eisenkot said 88 percent of those eligible to join the army enrolled but by 2015 that number had dropped to 67 percent.
Iraq is already scheduling crude oil shipments for delivery in March thanks to strong demand, the deputy head of the State Organization for the Marketing of Oil, or SOMO, told media in Baghdad, as quoted by Reuters.
Ali Nizar also told media that Iraq’s oil exports were stable this month and were going to be slightly higher next month, Bloomberg reported.
Separately, however, Reuters reported last week that some in OPEC believe oil could indeed reach and even top $100 per barrel. The drivers behind a continued rally would be sustained demand and tight supply resulting from the cartel’s limited spare capacity.
Due to constraints of various nature, OPEC has been falling short of its own production targets for months now. In December, the cartel reported an output increase of just 170,000 bpd, while its quota was for a boost of 253,000 bpd, per the OPEC+ production control agreement that stipulates a 400,000-bpd output increase for the extended cartel.
During Saturday’s demonstration by Islamic Jihad, dozens of protesters chanted “Death to the House of Saud” and “American is the Great Satan,” according to an English translation provided by the Washington-based watchdog MEMRI. Protesters also waved posters of the leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia.
On Sunday, Hamas tried to contain the damage. “The shouts against Arab and Gulf states from our Palestinian arena don’t represent our position and policy,” it said.
Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the US, entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing the country to the brink of famine. Most of the Arab world has sided with Saudi Arabia and largely sees Iran as an enemy.
Hamas has long tried to play both sides of the divide, accepting millions of dollars from Iran while also seeking broad Arab support for its armed struggle against Israel. Hamas, a more powerful rival terror group to Islamic Jihad, seized control of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007.
This approach has grown increasingly difficult as Gulf countries have established ties with Israel in recent years. Mixed messages from Hamas have also complicated the task. Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official, said Saturday that he supports Houthi drone attacks against the United Arab Emirates.
The hashtag, “#Palestinians Support the Houthis,” was trending on social media on Sunday and Dubai’s deputy police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, announced that Zahar was now on the UAE’s most wanted list.
Streaks of light are seen as the Iron Dome antimissile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, May 12, 2021. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo)YERUSHALAYIM –
The coronavirus pandemic led to a rise in antisemitism around the world in 2021, according to a report by the Diaspora Ministry that will be presented to the government on Sunday, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.
The report further shows that the pandemic brought about a trend of trivialization of the Holocaust, both by public figures and social media users, with repeated comparisons between health restrictions and the antisemitic discrimination and violence in Nazi Germany.
Many anti-vax protesters around the world have brandished the yellow badge to signify persecution by the authorities.
In total, in 2021, the Diaspora Ministry’s monitoring system identified 3.5 million antisemitic posts in various languages.
In its report, the ministry says there is a correlation between violent speech on social media and violent actions in the public sphere against Jews, who are seen as collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.
In the wake of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached last September, the British and Australian foreign and defence ministers held talks in Sydney yesterday to further strengthen military ties directed primarily against China, and also Russia.
The AUKUS agreement, which includes equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, is part of the US-led military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific as Washington intensifies its aggressive confrontation with China diplomatically, economically and strategically.
At a joint press conference, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declared that the two countries were “modernising our partnership for a new age” to confront “the reality … that threats are rising across the world.” As well as lashing out at Russia for “threatening Ukraine” and Iran over its nuclear program, Truss accused China of “using its economic muscle against Australia and other allies like Lithuania.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne trotted out the same propaganda line to justify the military build-up by the two countries in league with the US. Australia and Britain were natural partners, she said, to counter the influence of “malign authoritarianism” and maintain the international order.
For all the unsubstantiated allegations of Russian and Chinese “threats” and “aggression,” Australian and British imperialism have been two of the closest partners in crime of the US over the past three decades. London and Canberra have backed the illegal US-led invasions and interventions in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia to the hilt politically and militarily. These have resulted in the destruction of whole societies—in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
Now Britain and Australia are preparing to join the US in confronting two nuclear-armed powers, China and Russia, raising the prospect of a catastrophic war. None of this is about defending democracy, which is under sustained attack in all three countries. Rather, the AUKUS pact is seeking to maintain the US global hegemony on which Australia and Britain have both relied since the end of World War II, but which is being undermined by the economic rise of China in particular.
Last March the British government adopted a so-called Indo-Pacific Tilt, as part of its 2021 Integrated Review, and in September signed up to the AUKUS agreement. The British navy dispatched the Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier and its strike group of warships to the Indo-Pacific where it engaged in various exercises, including provocative joint drills in the South China Sea with Dutch and Singaporean naval vessels in October.
Speaking to the press yesterday, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton explained that no agreement had been reached as yet on basing British warships in Australia. However, “it could be something that we discuss at an appropriate time” in the future. “I think what you will see is a greater regularity in visits, training, in people being embedded… and certainly greater cooperation in exercises.”
Britain has already dispatched two of its newest warships—the offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar—to the Asian region on a long-term basis as part of re-establishing “a persistent Indo-Pacific presence.” While not permanently based in Australia, the two British naval vessels will rely heavily on Australian naval infrastructure for port visits, resupply and maintenance.
Australia and Britain are part of the top-level Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, led by the US, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. The ministerial meeting yesterday strengthened collaboration on cyber security, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.
Truss used a speech to the Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute, to issue strident warnings about the threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its dire consequences. In reality, the US and its allies have manufactured the present crisis over Ukraine through the military encroachment of NATO forces into Eastern Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
At yesterday’s press conference, Payne joined the international anti-Russia chorus, declaring “we will work closely with Ukraine in the coming days and weeks in terms of challenges that they are dealing with.” She indicated that Australia would look favourably on any formal request from the Ukraine for assistance on cyber-security.
Asked yesterday about the talks in Sydney, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian branded the AUKUS agreement as “a typical military bloc” and the decision to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as a breach of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. He pointed to the hypocrisy of the US, Britain and Australia hyping the “China threat” while collaborating in a military build-up in the region.
The provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia underscores the aggressive character of the AUKUS agreement. The attack submarines have nothing to do with the defence of Australian waters but are designed to operate at great distances for lengthy periods of time. Their purpose is to operate in concert with British and American nuclear submarines off the Chinese coast, either as part of a naval blockade or a full-scale war.
Last September, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that Australia had no intention of creating a domestic nuclear industry or arming the nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear missiles. As geo-political tensions continue to rise, such pledges are meaningless.
The year 2021 was a bloody one even by the usually gory standards of the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict. Data from the United Nations shows that violence in the West Bank “reached a five-year peak,” with at least 79 Palestinians and three Israelis killed in a series of attacks, bombings, and confrontations. In the other Palestinian territory of Gaza, over 230 Palestinians were killed during the devastating 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, while 12 people died in Israel – not to mention injuries and losses of property. Last year was the deadliest since 2014 and an ominous sign of what is to come.
With no formal peace process underway since talks last broke off over seven years ago, and frustration and anger building up amid zero hope on the horizon for a lasting diplomatic solution, the situation can be labeled as a tenuous tinderbox that can ignite at any moment in another bout of fighting and clashes. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has warned that, “if left unaddressed, the festering conflict drivers will drag us into yet another destructive and bloody round of violence.”
But even as the Gantz-Abbas meeting triggered a wave of international optimism that it may be the first step for reviving a dialogue process and bringing the two sides back to the table to work out a formula on the world’s most intractable conflicts, a political firestorm broke out in Israel. Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, representing the conservative New Hope party, thundered in disapproval that “I wouldn’t have invited to my home someone who pays salaries to murderers of Israelis and also wants to put senior IDF [Israel Defense Forces] officers in prison in The Hague [at the International Criminal Court].” Livid cabinet ministers were quoted as grumbling that Gantz’s initiative “doesn’t contribute to the stability of the government.”
Under pressure from within his own party, and desperate to ensure that his contradiction-filled coalition government does not collapse, Bennett had previously dissociated himself from any revival of peace negotiations with the Palestinians:
“My perception is different than that of the defense minister, although we work in harmony. I oppose a Palestinian state and I think it would be a grave mistake to import the failed Gaza model of Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and turn the entire West Bank to that. I see no logic in meeting Abbas when he’s suing our soldiers in the Hague and accuses our commanders of war crimes. In my opinion, the Palestinian Authority is a failed entity.”
At the other corner of the spectrum in the coalition government is Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, who thinks that Israel has no option but to revive the peace process with the Palestinians. Citing an “intelligence-based assessment” that campaigns for international ostracization and designation of Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ could fructify in 2022, Lapid has publicly advocated a moderate stance:
“Without diplomatic dialogue with the Palestinians, this [the threat of Israel being designated an apartheid state] will only grow more severe. We need to be cautious of a situation in which the world says the Palestinians are promoting diplomatic talks and Israel is refusing. The claim that Israel is an apartheid state is a disgusting lie. These are a group of anti-Semites, but I don’t take them lightly.”
“Even after a coalition rotation, I will remain with the same people and the same disagreements … I plan to stand behind the agreement I made with my partners. There is no reason for me to delude the Palestinians and open a diplomatic process that doesn’t have a coalition behind it … That would damage our credibility, which is important.”
When the foremost liberal politician in Israel has to hold his horses despite being cognizant of the blowback effect of the unstable status quo with the Palestinians, it shows how difficult the road ahead is for any diplomatic path forward. The obstacles come not only from the mood of the political class in Israel, where the mainstream discourse is largely ‘securitized’ and based on fear of granting any concessions to the Palestinians, but also from increasing social polarization.
An opinion poll in December 2021 suggested that a slim majority of Israelis are in favor of a direct meeting between Prime Minister Bennett and President Abbas, and that 49% of Israelis even want their government to have “direct, open talks” with Hamas – an entity designated a terrorist organization by the governments of Israel, the United States, and the European Union.
Former US President Donald Trump’s remarksthat “I don’t think Bibi [Netanyahu’s nickname] ever wanted to make peace” with the Palestinians, and that “he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap,” reveal the crux of the matter. Barring a few left-liberals, the Israeli body politic is invested only in managing the Palestinian problem in terms of stopping terrorist attacks or throwing a few economic sops at President Abbas’ moribund and unpopular Palestinian Authority, not in resolving the conflict per se.
The much-talked-about ‘two-state solution’ of an independent Palestinian state coexisting beside the state of Israel, which was put forward as the final goalpost after the 1993 Oslo Accords, has lost traction amid a steady increase in what Israeli security officials themselves admit is a surge in Jewish extremism and ultra-nationalism.
In an August 2021 opinion poll, only 39.7% of Israelis favored the two-state solution. Most tellingly, within the group clinging to the fading dream of a two-state solution, just 33.8% were Jewish Israelis, while 68.8% were Israeli Arabs (citizens of Israel, most of whom consider themselves Palestinians and identify with their stateless kin living in the West Bank and Gaza).
The internal schism between Jews and Arabs within Israel has widened significantly, mirroring the internecine feud between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction in the Palestinian territories. These two trends further hamper any progress in relaunching diplomatic efforts. While there never were monolithic unanimous categories of ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’, the parallel processes of disaggregation of national identities and widespread public cynicism about the intentions and performance of the ruling classes on both sides have created a huge credibility vacuum.
International negotiations can only succeed when there are two willing and coherent parties, each with domestic legitimacy and social consensus behind them. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority has such a solid footing in their respective home bases.
‘Separate peace’ without Palestine
Another factor deterring any move by Israel for peace with the Palestinians is what can be called the ‘outside in’ approach Jerusalem has adopted to the Middle East as a whole. The Abraham Accords, facilitated by Israel’s principal international backer the US, wherein four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – formally recognized Israel and established diplomatic relations with it, have given Israel a sense of vindication without having to redress Palestinian grievances.
As Prime Minister Bennett put it in December, during his historic first ever visit to the UAE after the normalization of relations, there is“great optimism that this example, of ties between the two countries, will be a cornerstone for a wide-ranging network of ties throughout the region.” The Middle East has indeed traveled a long way from the 1967 consensus among Arab nations of the ‘Three Nos’ – “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” Israel is no longer persona non grata among many Sunni Arab countries, which have adjusted their national interests to do pragmatic quid pro quo deals with the militarily superior and economically vibrant Zionist state instead of resisting it.
The international marginalization of the Palestinian cause, which once used to fire up the entire Middle East and mobilize leftist firebrands worldwide, has given Israeli elites confidence that they can have their cake and eat it too. As seen from Jerusalem, if the broader Arab-Israeli conflict is melting away, why care about the narrower Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
The Iran diversion
An interlinked development which has pushed resolution of the Palestinian question to the backburner is the ‘Iran threat’, which has reorganized coalitions and alignments in the region. Because Iran remains the leading power in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel and the US – a grouping which includes Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi and Yemeni militants – Jerusalem views Tehran as its main national security challenge and enemy number one.
The laser-like focus that Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Arab states have kept on Iran’s nuclear programme and the ‘malign activities’ of Iran’s proxies are to an extent based on actual threat assessments and security incidents. But the Iran-phobia discourse also serves a political purpose of shoving the Palestinian problem under the carpet as a far less important matter or even a bygone concern of an earlier era that deserves no fresh diplomatic push.
Mowing the grass forever?
If Israel keeps kicking the can down the road and indefinitely sustaining the status quo of militarily occupying the West Bank (home to about 2.8 million Palestinians) and laying siege to Gaza (containing over 1.8 million Palestinians), even as frustration and desperation rise in these territories, is it not a recipe for wave after wave of uprisings, outbursts, and violence that could spill over into Israel itself, as was the case during the 2021 Israel-Hamas mini war? President Abbas’ repeated postponement of elections (Palestinian territories have not voted for their top leaders since 2006) and the rage that emanates from powerlessness and joblessness among Palestinians (average age of 20 years) could boomerang sharply on Israel.
Foreign Minister Lapid, who has expressedworries about whether Israel can remain Jewish and democratic if it permanently denies Palestinians their rights, has acknowledged that Israel’s government cannot afford to neglect the Palestinian issue “forever and ever.”
Israel’s strategy of periodically ‘mowing the grass’, i.e. using superior military force to repel Palestinian jihadists while avoiding a final political solution, is presumably the only visible path, despite its inbuilt violence and terrible human and economic costs. Barring a grassroots generational shift in Israeli public attitudes and political culture or a wholesale capitulation by the dysfunctional Palestinian factions to accept a one-sided peace deal thrown at them, this perpetual war has only commas and no full stops. Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His forthcoming book is ‘Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises’.
Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.
Two million Palestinians live the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.
Gaza remains occupied territory, having no control over its borders, territorial waters or airspace. Meanwhile, Israel upholds very few of its responsibilities as the occupying power, failing to provide for the basic needs of Palestinian civilians living in the territory.
Every two in three Palestinians in Gaza is a refugee from lands inside what is now Israel. That government forbids them from exercising their right to return as enshrined in international law because they are not Jews.
As we begin year three of a global pandemic, evidence continues to mount that a period of historic global instability and economic disruption has exacerbated major-power tensions that are veering dangerously towards conflict. With bellicose rhetoric and military provocations increasing dramatically along the U.S.-Russia-China axis, the current era begins to bear an alarming resemblance to the darkest early days of the Cold War, when missteps and miscalculations created crises like the Berlin blockade of 1948, the Korean War of the early 1950s, and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, pushing the major powers to the brink. Little wonder that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set its Doomsday Clock to just one hundred seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to Armageddon.
To reset the clock, the administration and Congress must rediscover a consensus on the looming threat, and begin rebuilding the strategic architecture of arms control and verification treaties, confidence-building and de-confliction protocols, and open lines of communication that kept the Cold War from turning hot for decades. Time is of the essence.
Just in recent weeks Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, reportedly sent saboteurs into eastern Ukraine to potentially stage a “false flag” incident as a pretext for invasion, and likely launched a massive cyberattack on government websites in Kyiv. Before recently test-firing a new, nuclear-capable Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from a submarine, President Vladimir Putin even stressed that it could reach Washington, D.C., and “those who give the orders” in “five minutes.” That was the kind of veiled threat rarely heard from a Russian leader since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev told a gathering of Western leaders in 1956 that “We will bury you!”
Meanwhile, as the new year dawns in the Indo-Pacific, China has recently ramped up its threats and military coercion aimed at Taiwan, flying record numbers of warplanes into Taipei’s air defense zone and holding military exercises simulating an invasion of the island. Recently China also successfully tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons system that caught the U.S. intelligence community by surprise. After U.S. satellites recently revealed two previously unknown Chinese missile “fields” with more than 200 silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Pentagon warned that Beijing’s nuclear arsenal is on track to triple or even quadruple by the end of the decade, giving it a “first strike” capability for the first time.
With the United States, Russia, and China all in the midst of an aggressive modernizations of their nuclear weapons arsenals, the kind of runaway arms race that left the world awash in doomsday weapons at the height of the Cold War is not just a distant possibility – it has already begun. Unfortunately, this period of major power tensions also comes at a time when the carefully constructed Cold War architecture of strategic stability measures is near collapse.
To its credit, the Biden administration has noted this dangerous downward spiral, and has taken steps to try and stabilize a roiling geopolitical landscape. Confronted last year with the imminent sunset of New START – the last treaty limiting the size on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia, which together possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons – Biden and Putin extended the treaty for the maximum five years. That gives negotiators critical breathing room to begin discussing a host of thorny issues that must be addressed in a follow-on treaty, to include the implication of new technologies such as hypersonic delivery systems; a much needed ban on kinetic anti-satellite weapons tests that befoul the space commons; and new norms for insuring cyberattacks are never used to target nuclear command-and-control and early warning systems.
The Biden-Putin summit in Geneva last summer, and a follow-on Strategic Stability Dialogue between U.S. and Russian negotiators, were important steps towards trying to lower the temperature and place guardrails around flash points. So was a virtual summit in November between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But a threatened Russian invasion of Ukraine would reverse those gains.
The Biden administration will also soon release its Nuclear Posture Review, which arms control advocates hope will honor the president’s pledge to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategic doctrine. A good beginning would be a statement that the “sole purpose” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is to deter or retaliate against a nuclear attack. The recent Joint Statement from the leaders of the five officially recognized nuclear weapons states (China, Russia, the United States, France and Great Britain) committing to “Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races” was another positive step, especially their affirmation that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” That phrase echoes the pledge taken by former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 that helped pave the way for an end to the Cold War arms race.
The Nuclear Posture Review debate also presents Congressional leaders with a critical opportunity. Given the pervasive climate of hyper-partisanship and distrust in Washington, D.C., many lawmakers today have little memory of the sustained bipartisanship that was necessary to build the foundation of strategic stability that kept the Cold War dormant for decades. Congressional leaders should seize that opportunity to rekindle the consensus-building spirit of the bipartisan Arms Control Observer Group of the 1980s, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program of the 1990s, and the National Security Working Group of the 1990s and 2000s – all of which fostered greater cooperation on strategic issues within Congress, and between Congress and the executive branch.
The world is enduring a period of profound instability as it copes with a global pandemic, one of the worst economic shocks since the Great Depression, and the worst tensions in major power relations since the early days of the Cold War. These crises come at a time when the treaties and multilateral institutions that are the foundation of the international order and strategic stability are wobbling. In the past such periods of deep economic distress and geopolitical tensions have given rise to dark political forces, and are ripe for confrontation among nation-states. History will not judge kindly American political leaders who were complicit in adding a runaway nuclear arms race to that volatile mix.
James Kitfield is a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress, and a three-time recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense.
Rockets have been launched from both Gaza and Lebanon over the fast few months.
Unknown individuals in Lebanon launched a rocket towards Israel on Wednesday night, according to Lebanese media.
Islamic State militants attack prison in Syria’s al-Hasaka, US-backed SDF says
Army Radio reported that there was no indication that there had in fact been a rocket launch.
Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 19, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Other Lebanese outlets reported that an explosion was heard in the area from which the rocket was reportedly launched but that the source was unknown.
Over the last few months, Gaza fired multiple rockets towards Israel, claiming that they were mistakes and blaming other elements such as the weather.The last time this happened was at the beginning of January when two rockets were launched by Hamas. It was claimed that they were launched by lightning strikes. The rockets fell into the coast off Israeli’s center, and no one was hurt.
Before that, two rockets were fired over within a week of each other, and Hamas once again claimed that extreme weather was the causeThe last time rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Israel was in August. Hezbollah fired 20 rockets into Israel, 10 of which were intercepted and six fell inside Lebanon.
Lebanon is currently undergoing a severe period of instability amid a massive economic crisis, a severe fuel shortage and tensions in the political sector.