United States: Time to get serious.
Also: Israel, Palestine, France, Germany, Ethiopia and Chad.
UNITED STATES. Time to get serious.
A presidential address on the present danger.
Joe Biden on Thursday night said support for Ukraine and Israel was “vital for America’s national security” and he would ask Congress to fund further aid. Media reports suggest he will request at least $100 billion, with $60 billion for Ukraine.
INTELLIGENCE. Biden is correct if, by America’s national security, he means its geopolitical predominance. But the problem is not everyone agrees, including the presumptive House Speaker, Jim Jordan, who spent Thursday courting moderate Republicans and is expected to seek a third confirmation vote on Friday morning. Nearly half of Americans polled by Ipsos last week think the US should remain neutral on Israel, while 55% oppose further aid to Ukraine.
FOR BUSINESS. Within the $100 billion, the White House is expected to seek $14 billion for Israel, $14 billion for the border, and $7 billion for Asia, including Taiwan. A combined appropriation is designed to force Republicans into funding Ukraine, but could endanger the entire package, not to mention heighten broader misgivings over US profligacy. Worries over Washington's $33.5 trillion in debt have contributed to bond market ructions in recent weeks.
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ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Warning shots.
Hamas’s friends strike at US and Israeli targets.
A US destroyer in the Red Sea downed missiles and drones launched by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, the Pentagon said on Thursday. Drones and rockets hit two US bases in Iraq on Thursday, with reports of similar attacks in Syria.
INTELLIGENCE. As Hezbollah continues to engage Israel in low-level strikes, Iran’s other proxies in Syria and Iraq have attacked US assets, though in a way that suggests they want to make a point without precipitating a new front. Aside from the Houthi cruise missile strikes – which led to the crisis’s first US action to directly defend Israel – attacks have been relatively low-stakes, though this could change if and when Israeli ground troops enter Gaza.
FOR BUSINESS. Hezbollah will likely remain on the sidelines – it can ill afford to provoke the more popular Lebanese Armed Forces, or risk another civil war – but Iran can ill afford to look weak after verbally backing Hamas, thus some level of reaction is expected. The US, UK and Germany are taking no chances – asking their citizens to leave Lebanon and issuing warnings across the Middle East. Several Western airlines have cancelled flights to Beirut.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
FRANCE. GERMANY. Extremes and prejudice.
Rising polarisation in Europe’s biggest economies.
French police responded to a stabbing in Rouen on Thursday, following bomb threats at eight airports and the Palace of Versailles. A Berlin synagogue was firebombed on Wednesday. Riots at the Brandenburg Gate left police injured.
INTELLIGENCE. Migration, rising living costs, the Ukraine war and now Gaza have provoked strong reactions from Europe's far-right and far-left. With antisemitism rife on both extremes, the polarisation is of particular concern to French and German Jews. Politically, the turmoil favours the far-right. In France, the left is splitting over whether to support or condemn Israel. In both countries, bans on several pro-Palestine groups suggest a growing Islamophobia.
FOR BUSINESS. France’s National Rally is rising in the polls. Extra Senate seats and the dissolution of rivals Civitas will increase Marine Le Pen’s chances in 2027, despite prosecutors recommending she be charged for misuse of funds. Alternative for Germany and the mainstream Christian Democrats are also gaining ground. The liberal Free Democratic Party is now reportedly debating whether to exit its coalition with the Social Democrats and the Greens.
ETHIOPIA. Seeing red.
Addis Ababa wants access to the Red Sea.
Djibouti on Thursday joined Eritrea and Somalia in rejecting a call from Ethiopia's prime minister to secure sovereign access to the Red Sea. On Tuesday, Ethiopia and China upgraded their ties to an "all-weather" strategic partnership.
INTELLIGENCE. In the wake of a civil war in the Tigray region and having called Egypt’s bluff over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will reduce Nile flows, Addis Ababa has thrown a dead cat on the table. Historically, Ethiopia had Red Sea access but lost this when Eritrea separated in 1993. Today, Eritrea, with which it subsequently fought a border war, is effectively isolated, but any renewed fighting between two militarised neighbours would be disastrous.
FOR BUSINESS. Ethiopia is meanwhile slipping into a new civil war in the Amhara region, which the International Crisis Group this week placed in its list of emergent threats. While Ethiopia may act confident – its deal with China follows the announcement of its membership in the BRICS – it is reliant on (resumed) food aid and is surrounded by failed states. It is also desperate for foreign currency and has sought relief from external debts worth $28 billion.
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CHAD. Hanging by a thread.
Problems grow for the West’s last ally in the Sahel.
Pro-democracy groups on Friday marked the first anniversary of an uprising that killed 128. On Wednesday, Chad’s opposition leader said he would delay his return, while the regime’s defence minister resigned over an alleged sex video.
INTELLIGENCE. Chad’s military leader Mahamat Deby, the son of its president of 30 years, Idriss Deby, came to power in a coup but has stayed close to the West. In Paris for talks with Emmanuel Macron this week, Deby is under rising pressure as Chad struggles to accommodate half a million Sudanese refugees and fights insurgencies in the north and south. On Thursday, the first convoy of French troops withdrawing from neighbouring Niger arrived in N’Djamena.
FOR BUSINESS. Chad has had two coups, three attempted coups and one semi-coup when its present junta declared Deby de facto ruler upon the death of his father, who was fighting in the north. France has chosen Chad as its base of operations in the Sahel for want of better alternatives. These are vital to minimising a jihadist threat on Europe’s doorstep but little else. In March, Chad nationalised Exxon's oil assets, which accounted for the bulk of its exports.