Israel, Palestine: Laying the ground.
Also: Russia, Nicaragua, Haiti, critical minerals and artificial intelligence.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Laying the ground.
Israeli forces prepare for a ground assault.
Israeli troops and tanks briefly entered northern Gaza on Thursday, a move the Israel said was to “prepare the battlefield”. The US launched airstrikes inside Syria early Friday on locations linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
INTELLIGENCE. US troops are unlikely to enter Gaza, but Washington is supporting Israel diplomatically and by complicating the moves of Iranian proxies, whether in Syria or elsewhere. The assault’s delay is most likely due to the US’s regional activities, but rising agitation from the families of Israeli hostages and humanitarian warnings from the UN and others are undoubtedly playing a role as well, even if Benjamin Netanyahu is at pains to deny it.
FOR BUSINESS. An invasion of Gaza is seen as necessary for Israel’s security aims but will cause more rancour for the Jewish state and its allies. The Anti-Defamation League has reported a 400% rise in anti-Semitic incidents since 7 October, while London's Metropolitan Police has reported a ten-fold rise in hate crimes. The TA-35 benchmark is meanwhile at its lowest level since March 2021, having erased any gains it made in the days following the attack.
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ISRAEL. RUSSIA. Against the middle.
Moscow infuriates Tel Aviv by seeking tactical advantage.
A Hamas delegation arrived in Moscow on Thursday for talks on the release of foreign hostages, including Russians. Israel's foreign ministry and members of the Knesset this week blasted Russia's equivocating stance on the war.
INTELLIGENCE. Russia has a large Muslim minority – concentrated in restive regions like Chechnya – and Moscow has close ties to Damascus and Tehran. But relations with Hamas are chiefly pragmatic, notwithstanding the Kremlin’s support for Palestinian independence during the Cold War. This upsets Israel, which has a large Russian minority and has avoided US pressure to sanction Russia, but it knows that Moscow will always prioritise itself.
FOR BUSINESS. Putin has said he wants to play mediator. Now that his arch-frenemy Erdogan has placed himself in a rhetorical (pro-Palestinian) corner, the chances of doing so are stronger, despite the optics of his foreign minister this week hosting Hamas. The US will not want Russia rewarded for any peacemaking role, but an end to violence in Gaza will trump almost any other concern. And Russia is the only power with meaningful ties to all the key players.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
NICARAGUA. HAITI. Refuge and the scoundrel.
Charter flights for asylum seekers are cynical, not humanitarian.
Over 260 charter flights have taken Haitian migrants to Nicaragua since August, Associated Press said on Wednesday. Kenya's high court on Tuesday extended its block on the deployment of police to a UN-supported mission in Haiti.
INTELLIGENCE. The UN this week said Haiti's violence had reached new highs. But a Security Council-backed mission is being contested by the opposition in Kenya, which had offered the largest deployment. Nicaragua, meanwhile, is facilitating the trafficking of Haitians, who have joined a record number of refugees moving to the US. Nicaragua, whose government has sparked its own migration crisis, is an established regional transit point for people smugglers.
FOR BUSINESS. Despite his friendly ties with Nicaragua, the number of Haitians moving north is causing problems for Mexico’s president in the leadup to elections. While Haitians are a minority of the record 2.5 million migrants US border officials encountered in the year to 30 September, they are among the most visible. It is also a compounding problem for Washington. Officials last week suggested Hamas militants may seek to enter the US the same way.
CRITICAL MINERALS. Meetings of the mines.
The great powers scramble for resources.
Australia's prime minister on Wednesday announced a $1.25 billion critical minerals fund at the White House. Greenland opened an office in Beijing on Monday during a trade mission led by officials from the mineral-rich Danish territory.
INTELLIGENCE. Greenland, Australia, and other commodity producers, such as Chile, have enjoyed growing attention from governments and investors, particularly since the war in Ukraine shut off Russia from global markets. Instability across the Middle East and Africa has also increased the premium for reliability. The problem for some minerals, however, is one of economics. Quantities required are often tiny, disincentivising commercial investment.
FOR BUSINESS. Greenland and Australia hold some of the world’s largest reserves of rare earths and critical minerals, vital for a range of high-tech applications. Both are US allies (the former due to its association with Denmark), but China, which dominates critical supply chains, wants to retain its position and is on a charm offensive. Australia’s prime minister visits Beijing next week after a seven-year absence. Beijing hosted Chile’s president last week.
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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Machine politics.
The rise of the robots won’t necessarily bring the humans together.
The UN on Thursday announced an advisory body of executives, officials and academics to address AI governance issues. Britain on Thursday said it would set up the world's first AI safety institute ahead of a global summit next week.
INTELLIGENCE. People everywhere are trying to work out how to manage the machines before the machines manage them, and governments are no different. The challenge, however, is how to design a regulatory system before the shape and consequences of AI are fully understood. Further, amid competition across all types of national power, states need to avoid over-regulating AI lest capital and talent go elsewhere. Machines don’t have a nationality.
FOR BUSINESS. The UN, Britain and others are following the US, Europe and China, who have the biggest AI sectors and the most to gain or lose from the technology. But while the attention is welcome, it is hard to see how AI won’t end up like other global issues – from climate to space to trade – where governments have taken a beggar-thy-neighbour approach beyond a handful of challenges on which most can agree, such as AI’s role in terrorism or crime.