Israel, Palestine: Court in the crossfire.
Also: Ukraine, Russia, the Philippines, Ethiopia and spy games.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Court in the crossfire.
Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumes.
Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial resumed on Monday, having been suspended after October 7. Assaults on Gaza intensified overnight as authorities said they would investigate claims short sellers anticipated Hamas’s attacks.
INTELLIGENCE. Israel is running out of time to end this phase of the war. Amid promises from Shin Bet that Hamas’s leaders will be taken out “over years”, diplomatic pressure is mounting over civilian casualties. Families of remaining hostages are also demanding another pause, though the IDF will first want to neutralise Hamas’s remaining threat, including in its tunnel network. Netanyahu has even less time to spare, as Israelis refocus on his competence to lead.
FOR BUSINESS. The resumption of Netanyahu’s trial opens a new front for Israel’s government and will place further strain on its war cabinet, which includes the opposition. Allegations that authorities were told of preparations for the attack have meanwhile been exacerbated by claims of unusual trades on October 2. Short selling is not uncommon, and patterns can appear in hindsight, but the volume of shorts exceeded those in 2008 and the 2014 Israel-Gaza war.
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UKRAINE. RUSSIA. Spent forces.
The arsenal for a democracy runs low.
The White House warned on Monday the US would run out of funds for Ukraine by the end of the month. Bulgaria's president on Monday vetoed the transfer of armoured vehicles, saying the country needed to assess its own needs first.
INTELLIGENCE. NATO warned on Saturday to expect bad news on Ukraine, but this was referring more to the frontline, where things have been just as bad. The Pentagon recently welcomed a rise in artillery production, but there remains a mismatch between timelines on materiel, funding, and appetite. Complicating matters is a UK report on Monday warning of a £17 billion equipment shortfall and next week's EU budget negotiations, widely expected to be difficult.
FOR BUSINESS. Even if the US and allies had more arms to give, the politics is now more contested, not just due to rival concerns like Israel or Taiwan (let alone Guyana), or the war’s costs, but worries over Ukrainian capabilities, a cold start to winter, and a growing sense of Russian invincibility. The politics is also now more toxic. Republicans on Monday accused Joe Biden of receiving monthly payments from his son’s dealings in China and Ukraine.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Geopolitical Dispatch goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
THE PHILIPPINES. Icing on the quake.
Tragedies in Mindanao could again distract Manila.
Filipino authorities said Monday a massive manhunt was underway after Islamic State claimed the bombing of a church in Mindanao, killing four. Several major earthquakes on the weekend led to evacuations across the southern island.
INTELLIGENCE. The Philippines’ second island by size and population, Mindanao’s problems have long taken Manila from other issues, including the South China Sea. Rodrigo Duterte, who came from there, made his presidency about fixing its economic disparities and ending long-running insurgencies. His daughter, now vice president, issued a rare rebuke to current leader Ferdinand Marcos on Monday following a deal to resume talks with some of the rebels.
FOR BUSINESS. Marcos, whose family is from the north, is focussed on China. On Monday, Manila accused Beijing on Monday of "swarming" a reef following Filipino drills last week with the US and Australia. But if the challenge in Mindanao becomes too great, it will be hard to convince voters of the need to prioritise small and uninhabited islands far away. The US too may need to reprise its role as the Philippines’ key counterterrorism and disaster relief partner.
ETHIOPIA. Oromo ouroboros.
The cycle of conflict continues in the Horn of Africa.
Authorities in Ethiopia's Oromia region on Saturday accused Oromo rebels of killing at least 36 following failed peace talks. Regional flooding continued on Monday, displacing 1 million across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.
INTELLIGENCE. Conflict in Oromia adds to rising violence in Amhara (the second most populous region after Oromia) and the ongoing fallout of a civil war in Tigray (the fourth). It also adds another potential flashpoint after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last month hinted at a reinvasion of Eritrea to regain access to the Red Sea. Abiy is known for provocation, and ethnic violence is not new, but the compounding factors build up a dangerous level of instability.
FOR BUSINESS. Ethiopia is often seen as a buoyant frontier market. Growth of 6-7% this year, $1.5 billion in temporary debt relief last week, expected BRICS membership, and deals on rail and green energy paint a positive picture. Yet politically the situation is as precarious as ever. Its neighbours also remain fragile, including Somalia, where the UN has lifted an arms embargo despite a live insurgency, and Sudan, where civil war rages. Don’t expect the cycle to end.
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ESPIONAGE. Open secrets.
Spies still matter, even in a world of too much information.
An ex-US ambassador has been arrested on charges of working as a spy for Cuba, the Department of Justice said Monday. Spain arrested two intelligence agents for leaking secrets to the US, newspaper El Pais reported Monday.
INTELLIGENCE. Human intelligence (HUMINT) both makes for good stories and is an important part of state power, despite technological advances and growth in open-source information (OSINT). States continue to accept the risks. Still, revelations a senior diplomat worked for Havana – particularly as Cuba’s president visits Tehran – are shocking, though ultimately, revelations of spying between friends – such as allegedly with Spain – are more damaging.
FOR BUSINESS. Intelligence cooperation continues. Last week, Madrid arrested a Spanish aristocrat turned North Korean activist wanted by Washington. Leaks that the NSA tapped Angela Merkel's phone only paused cooperation with Berlin. Businesses should steer clear of HUMINT. Nearly everything useful can be sourced via OSINT. The trick is knowing how to analyse it. And for firms, cybersecurity remains the bigger risk. Most spies work behind a computer.