“An investigation by The New York Times found that many of the troops sent to bombard the Islamic State in 2016 and 2017 returned to the United States plagued by nightmares, panic attacks, depression and, in a few cases, hallucinations. Once-reliable Marines turned unpredictable and strange. Some are now homeless. A striking number eventually died by suicide, or tried to.
Interviews with more than 40 gun crew veterans and their families in 16 states found that the military repeatedly struggled to determine what was wrong after the troops returned from Syria and Iraq.”
“The United States had made a strategic decision to avoid sending large numbers of ground troops to fight the Islamic State, and instead relied on airstrikes and a handful of powerful artillery batteries to, as one retired general said at the time, “pound the bejesus out of them.” The strategy worked: Islamic State positions were all but eradicated, and hardly any U.S. troops were killed.
But it meant that a small number of troops had to fire tens of thousands of high-explosive shells — far more rounds per crew member, experts say, than any U.S. artillery battery had fired at least since the Vietnam War.”
“One area where the Biden administration has set itself apart is in sending weapons to partner countries, and now we’re getting a more complete picture of what the US is sending Israel in the weeks since October 7.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the US has ramped up its previously minimal military aid to the country to an unparalleled $46.7 billion. Ukraine towers over the other major recipients in bar charts of US security assistance for 2022 and ’23. The US is sending so many munitions there that it has apparently strained American factories and led to a whole-of-government effort to revive military supply chains.
The US is also accelerating arms transfers to Israel in response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people and resulted in the kidnapping of more than 200. Last month, President Joe Biden announced from the Oval Office that he would seek “an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense” of $14.3 billion. “We’re surging additional military assistance,” he added.
But while Ukraine has never been a traditional recipient of heavy military aid, the US’s most recent support of the Israeli military builds on a long bipartisan American practice. Israel has received about $3 billion annually, adjusted for inflation, for the last 50 years, and is the largest historical recipient of US security aid. The Obama administration in 2016 announced the biggest security assistance package to the country ever, pledging $38 billion for Israel over the next decade. US support has ensured that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over neighboring Arab countries by having more advanced weapons systems, something Congress wrote into law in 2008.
Israel would not be able to conduct this war without the US, which over time has provided Israel with about 80 percent of the country’s weapons imports.”
“Even before this most recent war between Israel and Hamas, the very tiny, very rich Gulf state had carved out a bit of a reputation as a diplomatic broker, especially in hostage negotiations. This has been a deliberate gambit on Qatar’s part, which has cultivated and managed pragmatic ties with the region’s main players — becoming a kind of middle man between parties that otherwise do not get along. It’s a key US ally, hosting an American military base critical to US operations in places like Syria and Iraq. Qatar also has ties to Islamist groups, including Hamas, whose political arm has an office in Doha.
This has given Qatar leverage — and, most importantly, access. The United States and Israel do not negotiate directly with Hamas. That has made the Qataris an indispensable go-between. “You have to talk to Hamas to get anything done,” said F. Gregory Gause, professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. “The Qataris are there to help you out — and they’re there to remind you that they’re helping you out.”
Qatar’s role in this conflict extends beyond this week’s deal. In late October, Qatar helped negotiate the release of a couple hostages held by Hamas, and it may be helping to tamp down a wider regional conflict, given its good relations with Iran and open channels with the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. Qatar played a role in mediating the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, and has supported Gaza, including financing salaries for Hamas civil servants through the sale of fuel to the group — with the okay of Israel, in part because Israel saw it as a stabilizing measure.
Qatar’s diplomacy isn’t limited to the realm of Israel-Hamas, either. Qatar served as an intermediary between the US and the Taliban before the two ultimately negotiated a peace deal directly, in Doha. Qatar’s open lines with the Taliban helped facilitate evacuations from Afghanistan after Kabul’s fall in 2021, and even after. And Qatar has increasingly become known for its skill in hostage negotiations, even outside the region. It recently helped broker a deal to get Russia to return four Ukrainian kids to their families.
“It wants to be influential, diplomatically, and it does understand that, obviously, it’s not a regional superpower that can dictate things,” said Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo. Yet maintaining these delicate ties — and working those connections — is a very good way for Qatar to advance its interests, and its security. That approach comes with some risks, but, at least right now, they don’t outweigh the upsides for Qatar.
Qatar finds “a way to be helpful and resourceful in specific, niche areas that can have outsized influence,” Momani said. “That’s their strategy.””
“Chinese middlemen launder the proceeds of North Korean hackers’ cyber heists while Chinese ships deliver sanctioned North Korean goods to Chinese ports.
Chinese companies help North Koreans workers — from cheap laborers to well-paid IT specialists — find work abroad. A Beijing art gallery even boasts of North Korean artists working 12-hour days in its heavily surveilled compound, churning out paintings of idyllic visions of life under communism that each sell for thousands of dollars.
That’s all part of what international authorities say is a growing mountain of evidence that shows Beijing is helping cash-strapped North Korea evade a broad range of international sanctions designed to hamper Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, according to an Associated Press review of United Nations reports, court records and interviews with experts.
“It’s overwhelming,” Aaron Arnold, a former member of a U.N. panel on North Korea and a sanctions expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said of the links between China and sanctions evasion. “At this point, it’s very hard to say it’s not intentional.””
“the Ukrainian defenders are holding on with the help of tiny drones flown by operators like Firsov that, for a few hundred dollars, can deliver an explosive charge capable of destroying a Russian tank worth more than $2 million.
The FPV — or “first-person view” — drones used in such strikes are equipped with an onboard camera that enables skilled operators like Firsov to direct them to their target with pinpoint accuracy. Before the war, a teenager might hope to get one for a New Year present. Now they are being used as agile weapons that can transform battlefield outcomes. Others are watching, and learning, from a technology that is giving early adopters an asymmetric advantage against established methods of warfare.”
“Biden administration officials are increasingly at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over how it is conducting its military assault on Hamas and how the two countries envision the political future of Gaza, current and former U.S. officials say.
Amid dire scenes from hospitals in Gaza and a rising civilian death toll, frustration is building among administration officials who have repeatedly appealed to Netanyahu and his government to take more action to protect Palestinian civilians and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“We are concerned that they aren’t doing everything possible to reduce civilian casualties,” said one administration official. The comments came as Israeli forces moved in on Gaza City’s main hospital, where they said Hamas militants have been operating from an underground command center.
The friction between the two governments is over crucial long-term questions about who will govern the Palestinian enclave after Israel completes its military offensive. That includes the role of the Palestinian Authority — which currently governs the West Bank — and reviving diplomatic efforts for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, current and former officials said.
“There’s a looming gap between the U.S. and Israel on where we’re going to be in a month or two,” one former U.S. official said.
Although the U.S. and Israel have tried to present a united front publicly, the divide was exposed after Netanyahu last week said that Israel would have a security role in Gaza for an indefinite period.
Less than 24 hours later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed back, making it clear the U.S. would not accept any suggestion of a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip or a blockade of the enclave.
The U.S. believes there can be “no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict, hence, no attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza,” and “no reduction in the territory of Gaza,” Blinken said during a visit to Tokyo.
Blinken also laid out his most detailed vision yet for the future of Gaza, saying it “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
The Palestinian Authority, which was pushed out of Gaza by its rivals in Hamas, administers semiautonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The U.S. and other world powers view the Palestinian Authority, which is internationally recognized but lacks strong popular support, as the only realistic alternative to Hamas, which the U.S. and other Western nations considers a terrorist organization.
Netanyahu, in turn, brushed off Blinken’s proposal, telling NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that Gaza needed to be demilitarized and deradicalized and any Palestinian force including the Palestinian Authority was not up to the job.”