Israel, Palestine: Breaking the West Bank.
Also: Ukraine, Russia, the Balkans, the US and Myanmar.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Breaking the West Bank.
Hamas looks almost finished. So does the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in Bethlehem on Thursday. Two senior Democrats asked the White House on Thursday to focus on Israeli settler violence in the West Bank, which Paris described the same day as a "policy of terror".
INTELLIGENCE. Amid the assault on Gaza, Israel is under growing international pressure over violence in the West Bank, some of it due to security operations, but much of it due to vigilantism. The legitimacy of Israeli settlements is also under scrutiny, with the status quo hard to see continuing, particularly if Israel’s far-right government collapses. Most of all, the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA), seen as corrupt Israeli collaborators, is under question.
FOR BUSINESS. Some have proposed the PA take the reins in Gaza once the war is over. This assumes, of course, they still run the West Bank. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, 88, is despised and has no successor. His party, Fatah, has a legacy of corruption, which led to Hamas’s rise. A vacuum in the 3 million-strong West Bank, would not just trouble Israel, but also Jordan, which ran the territory until 1967, and is already in a dispute with Israel over energy and water.
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UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Up the river.
Kyiv crosses the Dnipro but into a potential trap.
Russia admitted on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops had crossed onto the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, opening a new front. Russia stepped up its assault on the city of Avdiivka on Thursday, nearing control of its main access road.
INTELLIGENCE. Kyiv’s crossing is tactically impressive but may be strategically ruinous if Moscow creates another meatgrinder for Ukrainian conscripts, as it did in Bakhmut and is doing in Avdiivka. The assaults are also costly for Moscow, but with prison regiments, Donetsk volunteers and enormous reserves, it can better tolerate the attrition. Kyiv’s high-risk move suggests Volodymyr Zelensky, in a semi-public feud with his military chief, still calls the shots.
FOR BUSINESS. Zelensky’s gamble is to show success before the West cuts aid. Amid increasing calls for Ukraine to stand down, he is being given some hope in Europe – David Cameron made Kyiv his first trip as foreign secretary – but little in the US, where House Republicans want any further aid for Ukraine to be tied to border measures the Democrats won’t likely agree to.Russia has meanwhile signalled its willingness to deal with the US directly at APEC.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
THE BALKANS. Route causes.
Problems along a key corridor for energy and migration.
Hungary on Thursday said Bulgaria's decision to hike gas transit fees was an "act of hostility". The US announced new sanctions aimed at Russian influence in the Balkans. Riots broke out in Sofia ahead of a football match with Hungary.
INTELLIGENCE. The former Yugoslavia has a troubled history with Russia, but the Kremlin’s activities are now destabilising the broader Balkan Peninsula, from Hungary to Bulgaria. Hungary, like Serbia, is broadly in Russia’s camp, but Bulgaria is in play, with disinformation destabilising society and causing issues for the country's role in NATO. Beyond the spat over Russian gas transit fees, these issues are also complicating European border control.
FOR BUSINESS. Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary are a traditional route for not just gas but refugees. Russia, whether via the Balkans, Belarus’s Polish border, or now its own border with Finland, has long threatened to destabilise the EU through uncontrolled migration. In addition to these, Europe needs to now plug other gaps, particularly in the wake of a London court decision to strike down the UK’s deal with Rwanda, based on European human rights law.
UNITED STATES. All the dark horses.
Alternative candidates vie to rescue an otherwise popular party.
Democrat Senator Joe Manchin told NBC on Wednesday he would "absolutely" consider a presidential run, days after saying he'd retire. Joe Biden joked on Wednesday that California Governor Gavin Newsom could have any job he wanted.
INTELLIGENCE. Like many Democrats worried about Biden’s age and popularity, Manchin and Newsom have become more explicit in recent weeks about the need for leadership (in this case, their own). Newsom has barely disguised his ambitions, fresh from a statesmanlike visit to Beijing and now hosting world leaders in his hometown. A YouGov poll on Thursday found 54% of registered Democrats want a challenger to Biden. Expect hands to soon be shown.
FOR BUSINESS. Changing horses midstream is not easy but many now think the incumbent might offer himself up. The prospects of a Republican presidential victory have only been strengthened by Trump’s legal travails despite the Democratic Party’s state and local popularity, and strong national data. Inflation eased to 3.2% in October. Growth is at 4.9%; unemployment at 3.9%. Even irregular migration is down. Yet only 14% of voters attribute such wins to Biden.
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MYANMAR. Yangon with the wind.
The junta’s days look numbered.
Myanmar's military attempted on Friday to recapture the port of Pauktaw, which had been captured by rebel forces the day before. A separate militia claimed Wednesday an entire military battalion had surrendered near the Chinese border.
INTELLIGENCE. Myanmar’s army, the Tatmadaw, has been fighting ethnic militias for years, but a unified campaign by many of the rebel groups has yielded dramatic results in recent weeks, despite the army’s technological edge (a fighter jet was downed last week) and foreign friends (it exercised with Russia’s navy this month). Pauktaw is near the Chinese-built energy hub of Kyaukphyu. Elsewhere, militants are claiming control of the border with India.
FOR BUSINESS. Nothing worries Myanmar’s neighbours more than chaos, which is why they tolerated the Tatmadaw despite Western censure (Canada and five EU nations on Thursday sought to join an International Court of Justice genocide case). But the rebels won’t bring the peace or democracy Myanmar has never truly enjoyed. Many traffic drugs. Others have committed war crimes themselves. Firms that have chosen to remain in Myanmar may regret it.