Israel, Egypt: No exodus.
Also: Iran, disinformation, the EU, China and the Sahel.
ISRAEL. EGYPT. No exodus.
Gazans have nowhere to go.
Egypt on Thursday said it would coordinate aid for Gaza via northern Sinai but would not open a corridor for civilians wanting to flee. The UN on Friday said Israel had asked one million in Gaza's north to vacate within 24 hours.
INTELLIGENCE. Israel is yet to begin a ground assault on Gaza, but six days of bombings have left 300,000 homeless. Allowing Gazans to flee to Egypt would minimise casualties, but Cairo fears the infiltration of Hamas almost as much as Israel. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took power in 2013 by deposing the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas sprang in 1987. His core strategic imperative since then has been to keep the Brothers from deposing him in turn.
FOR BUSINESS. Cairo also worries whether it will be blamed for helping forced displacement, even if a corridor helps avoid deaths. There is a related concern too that an influx of refugees could upset Egypt’s precarious social order two months from presidential elections. Egypt hosts around 300,000 refugees from Syria and neighbouring Sudan. On Tuesday, it recorded a record 38% inflation rate for the month of September, with imported food leading the rise.
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ISRAEL. IRAN. Left with the hornets’ nest.
Tehran appears isolated on Hamas.
The US Treasury on Thursday said Qatar had agreed not to release $6 billion earmarked for the exchange of five US detainees last month. Tehran on Thursday said a “new front” against Israel would depend on its actions in Gaza.
INTELLIGENCE. Iran denies the funds have been frozen, but Qatar – which hosts the US’s largest Middle East base – knows which side it’s on, despite historic support for Hamas. Similarly, Turkey – which has backed Hamas in the past, but is also a US ally – has only given verbal support and vague promises of aid. The true measure of Iran’s isolation will be whether Hezbollah or related actors respond to Israel’s bombing of two Syrian airports on Thursday.
FOR BUSINESS. It is hard to gauge if Iran has enjoyed a boost from Hamas’s strikes – its people are cowed from last year’s crackdown on unrest – but it has little to show internationally. The regime on Wednesday held drills to remind it could close the Persian Gulf, but it is unclear if its request the same day to host an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting has been accepted. Iran’s foreign minister was to visit Damascus today (if his plane can land).
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ISRAEL. DISINFORMATION. Lies, damn lies, and the internet.
Regulators move again on anti-social media.
X on Thursday said it had removed hundreds of Hamas-linked accounts after the EU gave a 24-hour ultimatum. The EU gave a similar directive to Meta on Wednesday. On Thursday, Malaysia said TikTok needed to curb misleading content.
INTELLIGENCE. The week has shown online behaviour at its worst. Israel has been forced to publish photos of dead babies to counter claims of a hoax. Hamas has vowed to broadcast the murder of hostages. As with the live streaming of mass killings in New York and New Zealand, internet platforms have struggled to crack down. AI, mirroring, and hacking makes the challenge worse, as do nationally defined rules for a distributed business model.
FOR BUSINESS. US culture wars and censorship claims have muddied the debate on online disinformation, but events in Israel could lead to a more concerted regulatory push. The ‘tech-lash’ against Silicon Valley has been building for years. The IRS’s $29 billion claim against Microsoft and the Federal Trade Commission’s case against Amazon are just the latest moves. But public opposition to the tech titans’ size and power is yet to reach its end point.
EUROPE. CHINA. Borrell goes to China.
Beijing and Brussels need each other.
The EU's top diplomat arrived in China on Thursday after previous visits were shelved due to Covid and the dismissal of Beijing's foreign minister. Beijing on Wednesday said it wanted to expand cooperation and "overcome interference”.
INTELLIGENCE. Like the US, the EU is finding it must agree to disagree with China. Joseph Borrell’s visit comes amid controversy over Beijing’s support for Moscow and persecution of minorities, but China remains an unavoidable trade partner, particularly for Germany. Brussels has pursued a policy of “de-risking” and wants to protect its carmakers from Chinese rivals, but it also needs to stay part of the green and high-tech supply chains increasingly led by Asia.
FOR BUSINESS. If the front between US and Chinese trade is semiconductors, for Europe and China it’s electric vehicles. China's auto sector is a bright spot amid a slowing economy. Year-on-year car sales rose 4.7% in September and exports grew 50%. European marques, for whom China’s market is a key revenue driver, are wondering if Brussels’s subsidy probe has gone too far. BMW last week said the investigations could do more harm than good.
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THE SAHEL. Simmering.
A humanitarian and political crisis continues.
French troops began leaving Niger on Tuesday as the US formally declared July's military takeover as a coup. Mali's junta on Wednesday overturned Air France’s authority to resume flights. Its leader spoke to Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
INTELLIGENCE. President Assimi Goita's call with Putin was his third in two months. Russia is trying to fill the vacuum France has left and the US may also soon vacate. Whereas Moscow once ran its influence through Wagner, the channels are now direct. Still, the region is no closer to stability. Rebels control much of Mali’s north. Burkina Faso thwarted a coup attempt last month. Chad, to which French troops departed, is struggling to billet 2 million refugees.
FOR BUSINESS. The Sahel’s problems are Europe’s, insofar as the region’s instability drives irregular migration (which will presumably rise from events in Gaza). They are the world’s problem too, insofar as Islamic State is increasingly a West African affair. And whereas Sahelian countries were once earmarked to pipe energy to Europe, they now transport narcotics. The region’s problems are also destabilising fragile administrations in Libya, Tunisia and beyond.