Scandinavia’s Significance in the NATO Alliance
The Future of the Bolsonaro Presidency in Brazil
Relations Between Israel and the Palestinians
The Launch Status of the Chinese Digital Yuan
The Threat of the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq
French Counterterrorism Operations in Africa
The State of Relations Between the White House
and the United States Intelligence Community
EDITED 0 BY Dr. JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
FOREWORD BY Dr. JOHN NOMIKOS
Scandinavia’s Significance in the NATO Alliance
The Future of the Bolsonaro Presidency in Brazil
Relations Between Israel and the Palestinians
The Launch Status of the Chinese Digital Yuan
The Threat of the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq
French Counterterrorism Operations in Africa
The State of Relations Between the White House
and the United States Intelligence Community
PUBLISHED BY THE
EUROPEAN INTELLIGENCE ACADEMY
IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE
CHANTICLEER INTELLIGENCE BRIEF
EDITED BY Dr. JOSEPH FITSANAKIS
FOREWORD BY Dr. JOHN NOMIKOS
European Intelligence Academy www.euintelligenceacademy.eu
The European Intelligence Academy (EIA) was established in 2013 as an
international network of intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students,
who are dedicated to promoting research and scholarship across the European
Union (EU), as well as between the EU and other parts of the world,
particularly the United States. One of the primary aims of the EIA network
is to highlight the work of emerging graduate and undergraduate scholars
in the intelligence studies field, while encouraging cooperation in research
and scholarship between students of intelligence. The EIA is an initiative
of the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS).
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief www.cibrief.org
The Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) was established in 2015 as a studentled
initiative supported by the Department of Politics at Coastal Carolina
University (CCU) in Conway, South Carolina, United States. It operates as
an ancillary practicum for students in the National Security and Intelligence
Studies program who wish to cultivate and refine their ability to gather, analyze
and present information in accordance with techniques used in the analytical
profession. The goal of the CIB is to train aspiring intelligence professionals in
the art of producing well-researched, impartial and factual analytical products.
The European Intelligence Academy
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Copyright © 2021 The European Intelligence Academy (EIA)
All rights reserved, Published in Lexington, KY, United States, in September 2020.
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and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer of this volume.
Table of Contents
Foreword page 7
Dr. John Nomikos
Introduction page 11
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
Scandinavia’s Significance in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization page 15
The Future of Jair Bolsonaro’s Presidency in Brazil page 25
The State of Israeli-Palestinian Relations page 35
The Launch Status of the Chinese Digital Yuan page 45
The Threat Posed by the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq page 53
The State of Relations Between the White House and the United States Intelligence
Community page 61
Ana Maria Lankford
French Counterterrorism Efforts in Africa page 69
Biographical Notes on Contributors page 79
The Research Institute for European and American Studies
(RIEAS) was founded in 2006 with the aim of promoting the
understanding of international affairs. Particular attention is
devoted to transatlantic relations, intelligence studies and counterterrorism
research, European integration, international security,
Balkan and Mediterranean studies, Russian foreign policy, as
well as policy-making on national and international markets. In
2013, RIEAS initiated the European Intelligence Academy (EIA)
project, in order to promote transatlantic cooperation in the
field of intelligence studies among European and American
The EIA aims to advance the intelligence profession by setting
standards, building resources, sharing knowledge within the
intelligence field, and promoting a strong intelligence culture in
European Union (EU) member-states. It also seeks to promote
international research and scholarship cooperation between
intelligence scholars in the EU and scholars in other parts of the
world—primarily the United States. Furthermore, the EIA highlights
the work of emerging graduate and undergraduate scholars
in the intelligence studies field, and provides a forum for them
to exchange ideas and pursue relevant research. The Intelligence
Review, which was launched by the EIA in the summer of 2016,
reflects our organization’s utmost goal, which is to promote synergy
among graduate and undergraduate students of intelligence in
Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world.
The Intelligence Review is a collaborative effort between the EIA
and the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB), an innovative
experiential program that highlights the work of young student
analysts in the Intelligence and Security Studies program (now a
stand-alone Department) at Coastal Carolina University in the
United States. This ninth issue of The Intelligence Review (Vol.5,
No.9, December 2021) follows the success of the journal’s prior
issues, the first of which appeared in print in July of 2016. The
extremely positive response we received from intelligence academics
and practitioners alike, made possible the continuation of this
transatlantic collaborative project. The EIA is proud to be part
of this effort, and to work in partnership with the outstanding
analysts of the CIB and their mentor, Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis.
Much of the work that Dr. Fitsanakis and I do seeks to draw
attention to the work of young scholars in the field of intelligence
studies. In that spirit, earlier this year the Intelligence Studies
Department at Coastal Carolina University assumed the editorial
supervision of the Journal of European and Intelligence Studies (JEAIS,
formerly Journal of Balkan and Mediterranean Intelligence). Founded
in 2009, JEAIS is one of the flagship projects of RIEAS. It is an
international academic-led scholarly publication that focuses on
the field of intelligence and related areas of study and practice,
such as terrorism and counterterrorism, domestic and international
security, geopolitics, and international relations. The journal’s
rationale is driven by the global nature of security challenges,
where we are called more than ever to communicate and work
collaboratively in order to solve our common problems. Thus,
JEAIS aspires to promote a global dialogue between diverse
perspectives and experiences, based on original research on the
broader European and American practice and study of intelligence.
Thus, an agreement signed last year between RIEAS and Coastal
Carolina University, gave the Department of Intelligence and Security
Studies editorial supervision over JEAIS, with the participation
of the department’s faculty and a select number of students.
It is indeed through collaborative projects, such as JEAIS, as
well as the present journal, The Intelligence Review, that knowledge
in our field of study is constantly reexamined, refined, and
reshaped to address the challenges of the 21st century. I offer
my hearty congratulations to the young scholars who worked
with Dr. Fitsanakis to produce this excellent compendium. You
have set the bar very high for all of us, and I am certain that
your future accomplishments in the field will be as exceptional
as your work in this volume.
Dr. John Nomikos
Director, European Intelligence Academy
Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis
Professor of Intelligence and Security Studies, Coastal Carolina University
Deputy Director, European Intelligence Academy
Until very recently, academic preoccupation with intelligence was
limited, and undertaken almost exclusively in the graduate domain.
A few dozen courses were offered by some undergraduate programs,
typically by liberal-arts institutions. These tended to be highly
interdisciplinary and led primarily by political scientists and
historians. Limited historical research into intelligence institutions,
or intelligence practitioners and their operations, was undertaken
by academics in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Such
research focused largely on case studies from the periods of
World War II and the Cold War.
In the United States, the first calls to create a systematic intelligence
studies curriculum in the undergraduate domain were issued
by intelligence practitioners in the 1950s and 1960s (Coulthart
and Crosston 2015). By the 1990s, a few dozen undergraduate
courses in intelligence were being offered on a regular basis in
Western universities. The first concrete step toward establishing
a coherent and comprehensive undergraduate program in intelligence
studies was taken in 1992, when Mercyhurst College (today
Mercyhurst University) launched the world’s first standalone
undergraduate intelligence studies program. The program was
designed to produce what its creators called “analytical
generalists”, namely graduates who were trained to apply the
principles of intelligence analysis to any subject, regardless of
topical or regional expertise (Landon-Murray 2013).
As can be expected, Mercyhurst’s program shaped decisively the
curricular mission of the intelligence studies field as a whole.
Founded in 2011, the Intelligence and National Security Studies
(INSS) program at Coastal Carolina University, now a standalone
Department of Intelligence and Security Studies, follows
on the footsteps of that tradition. Its graduates are analytically
trained, which means that they are able to utilize their analytical
skillset to understand and articulate a multitude of complex subjects.
The latter range from the current state of the West African diamond
trade, to the projected growth of China’s renewable energy
industry, and from the impact of the Colombian peace process
on the price of cocaine on America’s streets, to the effect of water
scarcity on political stability in the Arabian Peninsula. In addition
to acquiring analytical skills, Coastal’s intelligence graduates are
trained to be polymaths, whose liberal-arts education is reflected
in their ability to deliberate with demonstrable fluency on a variety
The present compendium, issue #9 of The Intelligence Review, is
designed to showcase the marriage of these two critical skills in
our students—namely the application of analytical abilities to
specific questions, or topics. That is precisely the goal of the
Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB), a student-led effort that is
supported by the Department of Intelligence and Security Studies
at Coastal Carolina University. Essentially, the CIB operates as
an ancillary practicum for students in Coastal’s INSS program.
Upon joining the CIB, student analysts join ‘Divisions’—that is,
groups of analysts who specialize in a common geographical region,
or topic. They work collaboratively to issue measurable periodic
forecasts on current topics that relate to their area of focus.
Additionally, each analyst is given the task of answering a
specific question about an ongoing development that relates to
his or her area of expertise. In some cases, analysts are asked to
produce what is known as ‘current intelligence’, namely research
that focuses on immediate problems and threats of an ongoing
nature. In other cases, they are asked to engage in ‘estimative
intelligence’—that is, to attempt to calculate future developments.
The latter is arguably the most challenging task of an intelligence
analyst, and one that leaves their analytical products most open
Analysts occupy themselves with their question for an entire
semester. Throughout that time, they are expected to brief the
entire CIB analytical team on a weekly basis, sometimes in the
presence of inquisitive experts from the United States Intelligence
Community. The product of their efforts is a brief but dense
report, which contains the results of the application of analytical
skills on a particular subject matter. A number of these reports
form the content of this compendium, whose publication is the
outcome of a fruitful transatlantic collaboration between the
CIB and the European Intelligence Academy.
This issue represents a small sample of the CIB’s extensive
output. It is presented in the hope that the reader will benefit
from the precision, astuteness and analytical clarity of these
timely reports, produced by a very talented team of young analysts.
Coulthart, S., and Crosston, M. (2015) “Terra Incognita: Mapping American
Intelligence Education Curriculum”, Journal of Strategic Security, 8(3), pp44-68.
Landon-Murray, M. (2013) “Moving US Academic Intelligence Education
Forward: A Literature Inventory and Agenda”, International Journal of Intelligence
and CounterIntelligence, 26(4), pp744-776.
Scandinavia’s Significance in the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Scandinavia’s current role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) is to help protect alliance interests in northern Europe
and the Arctic. Its position makes it an integral partner in
deterring adversaries and providing for European security.
NATO cannot begin to deter aggression or defend against
adversaries without considering Scandinavia. With the recent
militarization in the Kola Peninsula by the Russian Federation,
Scandinavia’s role as the northern partner within NATO has
become more important. Recent growth in the Arctic has also
led Scandinavia to play a stronger role in supporting NATO
strategy, protecting its own interests in the region, and deterring
any Russian aggression. It can be stated with high confidence
that, due to the recent agreements put into place and recent
military exercises, Scandinavia’s role in NATO is increasing.
Background and History
Scandinavia is a region comprised of five states: Norway, Sweden,
Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. Since the creation of NATO,
Scandinavia has been a key part of the defense against possible
Russian aggression. Its position on the Norwegian Sea allows it
to monitor the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK)
Gap. The GIUK Gap is the only area where Russian vessels can
enter the North Atlantic and threaten Atlantic trade routes and
submarine telecommunications cables that connect North
America to Europe (Rhode 2019:1).
Scandinavia’s geographical position partially above the Arctic
Circle gives it claim to land which has become more sought after
in recent years because of its increased accessibility due to ice
melt (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2017).
Eight countries currently have claim to the Arctic: Canada, the
United States (through Alaska), Russia, Norway, Sweden,
Iceland, Finland, and Denmark (through Greenland). Increased
access to the Arctic opens opportunities for new shipping and
transportation lanes, as well as new routes for undersea cables.
For example, Cinia, a Finnish-based telecommunications company,
already has plans in development to lay fiber optic cable across
the Arctic Ocean (Koziol 2019). In addition, increased access to
the Arctic will enable the exploitation of mineral and
hydrocarbon resources that were previously unreachable. It is
estimated that the Arctic accounts for approximately 13 percent
(90 billion barrels) of the world’s undiscovered oil resources and
30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas resources (US Energy
Information Administration 2012).
Importance of the topic for the United States
The United States relies on Scandinavian countries to maintain
a presence in the Arctic, protect the GIUK Gap, and serve as a
logistical staging point. The protection of the GIUK Gap keeps
Russian naval vessels out of the Atlantic, protecting United
States trade routes and telecommunications cables, as well as
preventing close attacks from Russian submarines. With its
geographical position, Scandinavia provides the US the ability
to stage troops in Europe and resupply military assets in the
region to increase their effectiveness and longevity. Staging
points also help the US project its power, protect its European
interests, and support the Alliance.
Position of the United States
The Trump administration’s views on NATO were skeptical. As
Michael Crowley from the New York Times reports, “Mr. Trump’s
former national security adviser John R. Bolton published a
book that described the president as repeatedly saying he wanted
to quit the alliance” (Crowley 2020). However, under the same
administration, many agreements and military exercises took
place to improve the US relationship with Scandinavia.
The Biden Administration’s views of NATO are much more
accepting than that of the previous administration. In a meeting
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Joe Biden
remarked, “I’ll make it clear. I think NATO is as important to
our security as we are to NATO. It is critical, critical and
essential, to American security and stability, short term and long
term.” This contrasts the previous administration’s views of
possibly leaving the alliance altogether and has shifted the stance
of the United States into a more pro-NATO attitude.
On August 21, 2020, the USS Seawolf, the lead ship of its nuclear
submarine class, surfaced off the coast of Tromsø, Norway to
exchange personnel (US Department of the Navy 2020b). This
came just before an announcement that a civilian port near
Tromsø was being retrofitted to accommodate nuclear submarines
(McLeary 2020). Shortly after the surfacing of the USS Seawolf,
NATO conducted an exercise in the Barents Sea that concluded
on September 10, 2020. The exercise included ships and aircraft
from the US Navy, Royal Navy, and Royal Norwegian Navy (US
Department of the Navy 2020a).
On September 23, 2020, the states of Norway, Sweden and Finland,
signed an agreement to enhance operational cooperation in the
region (Swedish Ministry of Defense 2020a). This agreement is
intended to initiate conversation between these countries
related to their defense. In the event of a conflict in which
Scandinavia is threatened, Norway will fall under NATO control
and Sweden and Finland will still intend to work with Norway,
and by default with NATO, against the adversary (Swedish
Ministry of Defense 2020a).
There has also been a new statement of cooperation released on
October 28, 2020, from the US Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The statement details a new plan to increase economic,
financial, and defense cooperation between the United States
and Greenland/Denmark. This is important to the protection
of the GIUK Gap and the maintenance of Thule Air Base,
which is located in Northwestern Greenland (US Embassy in
In November 2020, US Armed Forces components conducted
a military exercise with their Swedish counterparts (Stinett
2020). This exercise was planned in order to improve the
effectiveness of US Armed Forces in the Baltic Region. The
event came after the Swedish Ministry of Defense’s
announcement of an increase in defense spending, “During the
period of 2021–2025, the level of funding to the Armed Forces
will have increased by 27.5 billion SEK (3.2 billion USD),
compared with 2020. In total, 79 billion SEK (9.3 billion USD)
will be allocated to military defense during the period” (Swedish
Ministry of Defense 2020b). In March of 2021, US Armed
Forces were again present in Sweden, this time participating in
Exercise Vintersol 2021. The purpose of US involvement was
to help special forces units gain experience fighting in cold
weather in unknown environments (Nilsen 2021).
In February of 2021, the United States deployed four of its B-
1B Lancer strategic bombers to Ørland Air Station in Norway.
This deployment’s purpose was to heighten NATO’s posture in
the High North to prevent future aggressive actions which
would stop tensions from rising (Newdick 2021). This was the
first European deployment of the B-1B Lancer that has not
taken place at RAF Fairford, an air base in the United Kingdom
(Newdick 2021). Other than the intention to prevent further
aggressive action in the High North, the deployment of these
bombers was to exercise and train with Norway and other
NATO countries. In Norway, the B-1Bs conducted exercises
with F-35s, F-16s, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers
(JTACs) (Kampesæter 2021).
On April 7, 2021, the United States Secretary of Defense and
the Finnish Defense Minister had a conversation concerning the
future of defense for both countries. Other topics discussed in
the meeting included climate change, presence in the Arctic,
defense modernization, and the situation taking place on the
Russin-Ukrainian border (US Department of Defense 2021).
On August 10, 2021, the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s first P-
8A Poseidon aircraft performed its first test flight (Manaranche
2021). This came after the Norwegian government ordered a
total of five P-8A aircraft in April of 2017 (Norwegian Ministry
of Defense). The P-8A Poseidon aircraft is an anti-submarine
warfare/reconnaissance aircraft with the ability to track and
engage multiple kinds of targets both on land and sea. This is
not the only instance of Norway expanding the size of its armed
forces. On August 30, 2021, Norway officially signed a contract
with Thyssen-Krupp to finalize a deal that will deliver four Type
212CD submarines to the Royal Norwegian Navy (Witte 2021).
The recent agreements and exercises have increased Scandinavia’s
ability to be an effective member of NATO in deterring aggression.
The USS Seawolf visit and the announcement to retrofit a civilian
port to dock nuclear submarines, as well as the deployment of
US B-1B strategic bombers to the region, allows Scandinavia to
play a larger role in the resupply and placement of strategic
NATO forces. Scandinavia’s ability to host naval and aviation
components from other nations may increase their significance
The tri-lateral agreement between Norway, Sweden, and Finland
creates a region that is better-able to deter aggression and respond
to conflict. The agreement stipulates that the countries will
cooperate in peacetime to be able to efficiently combat an
adversary (Swedish Ministry of Defense 2020a). The integration
of Swedish and Finnish forces with Norwegian forces allows
Scandinavia to better protect itself, Northern Europe, and the
Arctic, which has the possibility to increase the region’s strategic
The Statement of Cooperation between Denmark (including
Greenland, a Danish possession) and the US will not only allow
for continued maintenance of Thule Air Base, which is essential
to policing the Arctic, but also for increased security around the
Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap.
Greenland offers a unique position in the Arctic where the US
can use its air resources to monitor the area and protect the
interests of NATO. The statement also has the possibility to
create a better relationship between the US and Denmark.
The discussion between the United States Secretary of Defense
and the Finnish Minister of Defense involved various topics
that have effects on both countries. While not explicitly stated,
it can be inferred that one specific discussion that fell under
defense modernization had to do with Finland’s intention on
acquiring new fighter jets. Finland has a few options to choose
from, one being the F-18 from the United States. If Finland
were to choose the F-18, it may help mold a better relationship
between the northern European country and the United States.
If the F-18 is not chosen, it will most likely not harm the
relationship between the two countries, but it may cut off an
avenue for increased cooperation and integration of defense
doctrine and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The exercises between the United States and Sweden not only
allow United States forces to become more familiar with the
Baltic Region, but also allow both militaries to become more
familiar with each other’s standard operating procedures. The
exercises have the possibility to create a more effective military
force in Scandinavia and allow Sweden to play a larger military
role with NATO in the region. To be effective in deterring and
defending Europe, it may be necessary to align defense policy
and doctrine as well as SOPs.
Norway’s intended acquisition of both the P-8A Poseidon
aircraft and the Type 212CD submarine are examples of the
country’s intention to further its military and deterrent capabilities.
With Norway’s position on the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, and
Barents Sea forming an integral part of NATO’s submarine
defense, it is important for the country to maintain the newest
anti-submarine technology. Norway’s expansion may allow the
country to take a more active role in defense, possibly increasing
its significance in NATO.
Russia’s increasing militarization in the Kola Peninsula and the
new international interest in the Arctic provide an opportunity
for Scandinavia to take a larger role in supporting NATO
interests in the area. The military exercises occurring, and the
agreements being put into place allow the Scandinavian
countries to be more effective in working with each other and
with their allies, and thus enable the region as a whole to
properly defend themselves, the Arctic, and Europe. Embracing
this role, however, may make Scandinavia’s relationship with
Russia more complex which may, in turn, increase tensions. It
can be stated with high confidence that, due to the recent
agreements implemented and military exercises conducted,
Scandinavia’s significance in NATO is increasing.
Crowley, M. (2020) “Allies and Former US Officials Fear Trump Could
Seek NATO Exit in a Second Term”, The New York Times, 03 September
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Kampesæter, S. (2021) “Bombefly-pilot: Vil kunne høste frukter av dette
i fremtiden”, Forsvarets Forum, 13 Mar
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Route”, IEEE Spectrum, 13 Jun
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Aircraft Flies For The First Time”, Naval News, 10 Aug
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First Time With An Eye On Nearby Russia And The Arctic”, The Drive,
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Major Joint Exercise With Air, Land and Sea Assets”, Public Affairs, 352d
Special Operations Wing, Department of Defense, United States
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deepening their trilateral operational defense cooperation”, Swedish
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accessed on 29 November 2020.
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Conclude Operations in the Barents Sea with Norway and U.K.” United
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accessed on 29 November 2020.
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The Future of the Presidency of Jair
Bolsonaro in Brazil
Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro is a polarizing figure,
both within the country and on the international stage. To analyze
his level of job security, we primarily consider his chances of
reelection in 2022 based on domestic popularity and support
from his voter base. The primary drivers of approval for
President Bolsonaro include the state of the Brazilian economy,
the welfare of average citizens, and the perception of Bolsonaro’s
efficacy in making Brazil stronger both domestically and
internationally. Bolsonaro’s constituency is influenced more by
domestic politics, which gives them greater significance in
regards to Bolsonaro’s job security. However, other factors are
also considered, such as the possibility of impeachment or
forceful removal by a coup. At the current state of these variables,
we assess with low confidence Bolsonaro has solidified his job
security until the 2022 election. We assess with high confidence
Bolsonaro will not be reelected in 2022.
In the last two decades, there has been a global political trend
of conservative populists coming to power, characterized primarily
by conservative values paired with a deep disdain of political
elites and a resurgence of nationalist rhetoric (Santibanes 2020:
221). The growing rejection of political elites was catalyzed in
Brazil by record high murder rates and insecurity, prolonged
periods of economic hardships, and a rapidly growing perception
of a corrupt establishment caused by major scandals (Santibanes
2020:228). These factors allowed Bolsonaro to rapidly gain
popularity and become a serious contender in the 2018 election
because his agenda directly responded to the growing concerns
within Brazil. This agenda was centered on a Brazil first approach,
with emphasis on anti-corruption and a shift from the status quo.
Bolsonaro’s agenda garnered support from evangelical Christians,
the military, and farmers, allowing him to win the 2018
presidential election (Santibanes 2020:230). The perception of a
corrupt establishment in Brazil stemmed from Operation Lava
Jato, a corruption investigation that resulted in the arrest of
former Brazilian President Luiz Lula and paved the way for
Bolsonaro’s victory (Aragao 2019:47).
Importance for the United States
In recent years, the United States (US) and Brazil have expanded
an already healthy relationship through deeper engagement in
strategic sectors such as aerospace, energy, defense, and
infrastructure (Neto 2020:5). At the same time, China has also
sought to expand influence in Brazil. This has created competition
between the two powers to gain influence in the region at the
expense of the other (Boadle 2020c). This dynamic is currently
manifesting itself through competition over the source of
Brazil’s 5G infrastructure. The leading Chinese state-run telecommunications
company, Huawei Technologies, already has 5G
operations going in Brazil and wants to build its infrastructure.
The US is opposed to this and is offering to finance purchases
by Brazilian telecommunication companies of equipment from
Chinese competitors (Boadle 2020a). This competition raises
the importance of Brazil as an ally and makes the Brazilian
President an important actor in the ongoing power struggle
between the US and China.
Position of the United States
During the first half of his term, Bolsonaro was able to
strengthen Brazil-US relations, primarily due to his close
political alliance with then-President Donald Trump. This
relationship resulted in an increase in bilateral ties between the
two countries. These efforts include extending a tariff rate quota
that alleviates trade barriers on ethanol between Brazil and the
US (Costa 2020). Additional trade deals were signed at a virtual
summit for increased cooperation between the two countries
that focused on free trade for steel as well as efforts to decrease
dependence on the Chinese economy (Bodale 2020c).
Decreasing Chinese influence in Latin America was a top
foreign policy objective of the Trump administration, which
facilitated the increased cooperation between the two nations.
The tone of Brazil-US relations has greatly changed with the
new Joe Biden administration. On the campaign trail and during
the presidential debates, Biden condemned Bolsonaro’s Amazon
protection policies and implied there would be economic
sanctions for Brazil if environmental protection measures were
not enacted. Bolsonaro reacted angrily on social media and
referred to these comments as “a coward’s threat”. President
Biden has made it clear environmental protection is a top priority
of his administration and has continued to pressure Bolsonaro
to enact and enforce better protection policies for the Amazon.
The US and Brazil have been attempting to negotiate a deal to
combat climate change and more specifically decrease
deforestation (US Department of State 2021:1). However,
negotiations have been ongoing since April, and a deal does not
seem imminent, as there is a large disconnect between the
financial support Bolsonaro is asking for, and the accountability
measures he is willing to accept (Colman 2021). At the 2021 UN
General Assembly, Bolsonaro gave a speech telling the world
Brazil is committed to environmental protection. However, due
to his track record and reputation among world leaders, this
message was not well received (Eisenhammer 2021). President
Biden clearly has great concern over Bolsonaro’s handling of
the environment, and the two do not get along publicly. The
tone of the relationship along with the lack of agreement at the
negotiating table indicate a slight downturn in the bilateral
relations between the US and Brazil. Although the US and the
Biden administration may not prefer Bolsonaro, they will
continue to deal with him as the two countries are politically and
economically intertwined through significant trade and being
the two largest democracies in the western hemisphere.
Many of the developments of the past 2 years regarding Bolsonaro
have pertained to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic
became a global issue, Bolsonaro was relatively less concerned
with the virus than many other heads of state. Since the virus
became a prominent issue, the Bolsonaro administration prioritized
the health of the economy and was opposed to any significant
restrictions (Znojek 2020:1). Bolsonaro went on to dismiss the
virus and its effects as he urged people to ignore restrictions and
return to normalcy for the sake of the economy (Eisenhammer
2020). Many argued his early response to the pandemic showed
poor leadership and could diminish his chances of reelection
Despite facing criticism for dismissing the virus and not
enacting restrictive measures, Bolsonaro improved his overall
popularity during the early part of the pandemic. The driving
force behind this was a constant stream of cash stimulus
payments for informal workers in Brazil (Boadle 2020b). These
stimulus payments were widely received and greatly improved
the perception of the Bolsonaro administration’s COVID-19
response. Brazil spent more than any other emerging nation on
stimulus payments, injecting an amount equal to 8.3% of its
gross domestic product (GDP) on these payments (Rosati and
Beck 2021). While these payments greatly increased Bolsonaro’s
popularity in the short run, they were completely unsustainable.
Because they were not accounted for in the annual budget, the
Brazilian government had to suspend a constitutionally
mandated fiscal ceiling in order to fund the payments. Public
debt grew to 89% of GDP in 2020. Financial experts predict
they will be harmful in the long run as they drive inflation and
debt up significantly in Brazil (Anon. 2021b).
The stimulus payments ceased at the start of 2021, which
represents a major turning point for Bolsonaro. As Brazilians
stopped receiving money from the government and the
pandemic continued to rage in Brazil, criticism of Bolsonaro’s
handling of the situation increased. Brazil has the second most
COVID deaths worldwide with nearly 600,000 (Anon. 2021d).
Bolsonaro has seen his approval rating drop from all-time highs
at the end of 2020 to current all-time lows. A poll published on
September 16, 2021, shows 53% of respondents disapprove of
the administration overall and 22% say he is doing a good or
excellent job (Anon. 2021a).
Former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was
considered the favorite to win the 2018 election before he was
forced to withdraw from the race due to a corruption conviction
stemming from Operation Lava Jato. However, in November
2019 the conviction was overturned and Lula was released from
jail (Anon. 2021b). In March of 2021, the Brazilian Supreme
Court ruled Lula would again be eligible to hold public office
(Anon. 2021b). Lula is a left-wing icon in Brazil and holds
tremendous popularity. This poses a major threat to Bolsonaro’s
reelection chances with the most recent polls in Brazil showing
Lula holding 44% of voter support, compared to Bolsonaro’s
26%. Additionally, a simulated runoff between the two gives
56% of the vote to Lula (Boadle 2021).
As Bolsonaro’s popularity has dropped this year, so has the
stability of domestic politics in Brazil. In the past several
months, Bolsonaro has continually called Brazil’s election
integrity into question and has aggressively lobbied for a change
from the current electronic voting system to one that produces
paper receipts in order to prevent fraud. Despite his efforts and
claims, voting experts state the current system has a solid track
record and Bolsonaro’s attempt to change it was well short of
passing through the Brazilian Congress (Anon. 2021c).
Following the congressional rejection, Bolsonaro reiterated his
claims on Facebook Live and stated there would be no 2022
elections if they were not free and democratic. These comments
were alarming to many in Brazil and around the world and
prompted the Brazilian Supreme court to initiate an
investigation into the conduct of Bolsonaro and his seemingly
unfounded claims (Fonseca 2021). This significantly increased
friction between Bolsonaro and the Brazilian judiciary. In
response to the probe, Bolsonaro urged his support base to rally
against his ‘enemies’ on September 7th, Independence Day in
Brazil. His supporters responded by marching in major cities
across the country in protest of the congressional vote to reject
Bolsonaro’s proposal and the investigative probe initiated by the
Supreme Court (Boadle and Eisenhammer 2021).
At the end of 2020, Bolsonaro was in a politically ideal position
with relatively high approval rates and no clear political
challenger for 2022. However, as stated earlier, the beginning of
2021 was a major turning point for Bolsonaro. With the halting
of stimulus payments as the pandemic continued to rage in
Brazil, his upward trend in approval was quickly reversed. This
reversal in public perception is illustrated by Bolsonaro’s
approval dropping from 41% last November to 22% this month
(Anon. 2021a). This negative trend in perception of Bolsonaro’s
pandemic response will likely continue to get worse as negative
fiscal consequences, such as unemployment and inflation, stem
from the large debt Brazil took on to fund stimulus payments.
The reemergence of Lula greatly decreased Bolsonaro’s chances
for reelection. Before Lula’s conviction was annulled, there was
no clear challenger for Bolsonaro with moderates and leftists
struggling to reach a consensus plan for how to defeat
Bolsonaro. Lula is an incredibly popular figure in Brazil with
significant experience and is likely the best suited candidate to
unite critics of Bolsonaro. Recent polls show Lula holding the
most support of any prospective candidate and give him a
significant majority in a two-man race between him in
Bolsonaro, which is currently the most likely scenario. No other
candidate has over 9% in the polls (Boadle 2021).
The deals made with the US earlier in the Bolsonaro
administration will likely be a positive influence on his job
security as they have the potential to benefit Brazilians by
increasing free trade between the two countries. These deals
have additional potential to improve Brazil’s global prominence
through US support. One tangible positive for Bolsonaro is the
US backing Brazil’s entry into the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (McGeever 2020b). However,
these positive effects will only be marginal as the relationship
between the two countries has somewhat deteriorated over
disagreements on environmental protection. This trend will
most likely continue in the same direction under the Biden
administration because it is highly unlikely the two will reconcile
their differences on the environment (Spring 2020). These
differences could lead to the Biden administration imposing
economic sanctions on Brazil, which would further deteriorate
bilateral relations between the US and Brazil
The ongoing domestic political turmoil in Brazil is a significant
negative factor in regard to Bolsonaro’s job security. As
Bolsonaro feuds with the Brazilian Congress and Supreme
Court, he is alienating many centrist lawmakers whose support
is critical for Bolsonaro’s agenda (Anon. 2021). Additionally,
many critics believe that Bolsonaro is aware of his declining
support and is using his claims of possible voter fraud under the
current system to sow doubt, in case he loses and chooses to
dispute the results (Fonseca 2021).
We assess with low confidence Bolsonaro is secure in his job
security until the 2022 elections. There is an investigative probe
into Bolsonaro’s conduct, and some opponents are calling for
impeachment. However, it is unlikely there is enough widespread
congressional support to remove Bolsonaro before the
upcoming elections. We assess with high confidence Bolsonaro
will lose the 2022 elections to Lula. With a vast amount of
criticism on his handling of the Pandemic and low domestic
stability, it is unlikely he will be able to increase his popularity
enough before next year’s elections. It should also be noted that
if Bolsonaro loses the elections, violence and political unrest are
likely because Bolsonaro is unlikely to accept a losing result.
Anonymous (2020) “Vale, Chinese Port Sign $651 Million Deal on Iron
Ore Storage, Processing” Reuters, 13 November.
Anonymous (2021a) “Bolsonaro’s Support Hits Fresh Low Ahead of
Brazil 2022 Vote, Polls Show” Reuters, 16 September.
Anonymous (2021b) “Lula, a Former President of Brazil, Could Run Again
in 2022” The Economist, 13 March.
Anonymous (2021d) “John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center” John
Hopkins University, 5 October.
Anonymous(2021c) “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Defeated Over Printed Ballot
Proposal” BBC, 11 August.
Aragao, E. (2019) “Lava Jato and the Perversion of Brazilian Justice”, in
Foley, C., (eds.) In Spite of You: Bolsonaro and the New Brazilian Resistance,
OR Books, New York, United States, pp47-55.
Boadle, A. (2020a) “US Offers Brazil Telecoms Financing to Buy 5G
Equipment From Huawei Rivals” Reuters, 20 October.
Boadle, A. (2020b) “Poll Shows Jump in Approval for Brazil’s Bolsonaro
Amid Pandemic” Reuters, 24 September.
Boadle, A. (2020c) “US and Brazil Must Reduce Dependence on China
Imports: Pompeo” Reuters, 19 October.
Boadle, A. (2020d) “Brazil Says Chinese Vaccine Trial Can Resume After
Suspension” Reuters, 11 November.
Boadle, A. (2021) “Lula Retains Solid Lead Over Bolsonaro for 2022 Brazil
Race, Poll Shows” Reuters, 17 September.
Boadle, A. and Eisenhammer, S. (2021) “Brazil’s Bolsonaro slams Supreme
Court, Calls Election ‘Farce’ as Supporters Rally” Reuters, 8 September.
Colman, Z. (2021) “Biden Contemplates a Climate Deal With the ‘Trump
of the Tropics’” Politico, 8 May.
Costa, L. (2020) “Brazil Increases Quota for Tariff-Free Ethanol Imports,
but for Only One Year” Reuters, 2 September.
Eisenhammer, S. (2020) “Bolsonaro Urges Brazilians Back to Work,
Dismisses Coronavirus Hysteria” Reuters, 24 March.
Eisenhammer, S. (2021) “Brazil Committed to Protecting the Environment,
Bolsonaro tells UN, Activists Unconvinced” Reuters, 21 September.
Feliciano, D. (2020) “Bolsonaro Approval Rate at 41 Percent, Highest in
Nearly Two Years” The Rio Times, 21 November, p1.
Fonseca, P. (2021) “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rages Against Probe, Threatens to
Act Beyond Constitution” Reuters, 4 August.
McGeever, J. (2020a) “Brazil Economy Facing Stimulus Drought as
Monetary, Fiscal Taps Run Dry” Reuters, 29 October.
McGeever, J. (2020b) “Brazil to Join OECD in a Year, Plans Digital Bank
IPO: Economy Minister” Reuters, 20 October.
Neto, A. (2020) “A New Chapter for US-Brazil Relations: Enhancing the
Bilateral Economic Relationship”, Atlantic Council, pp5-6.
Rosati, A. and Beck, M. (2021) “Brazil Went All-In on Covid Stimulus, But
Let the Virus Run Wild” Bloomberg, 16 March.
Santibanes, F.D. (2020) “Popular Conservatism Rising in Latin America”,
Horizons: Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development, 1(15),
Spring, J. (2020) “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Slams Biden for ‘Coward Threats’
Over Amazon” Reuters, 30 September.
US Department of State (2021) “U.S. Relations With Brazil”, United States
Department of State, Washington, DC, United States.
Znojek, B. (2020) “Political Tensions and the Failure to Curb COVID-19
in Brazil”, The Polish Institute of International Affairs, 127(1557), pp1-3.
The State of Relations Between Israel
and the Palestinians
Conflict between Israel and Palestine has continued for many
decades, with recent months proving just as turbulent. Relations
had been especially tense in previous years, which were further
inflamed by controversial policies of both Israel Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and United States (US) President Donald
Trump. The changes in administration of both countries have led
the new leaders to maintain a balancing act with their policies.
Meanwhile the various Palestinian factions had attempted to
develop a unified position, but those efforts have proved
unsuccessful. Cooperation between the Palestinians and Israel
saw some progress, as witnessed in the unprecedented meeting
between Israel Defense Minister Gantz and Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas. However, during a speech given by President
Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly (UNSG) only a
month later accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and gave them
one year to leave Palestinian territory as defined by the 1967
borders. Despite the steps taken for improved relations, we can
predict with moderate confidence that tensions will remain asis
for the immediate future.
Relations between Israel and Palestine revolve largely around an
area claimed by both Jews and Arabs. The territory was under
British control before efforts to establish a Jewish state within
the area began in 1923 (Anon. 2017). Conflict over the territory
led the United Nations to release a plan separating the area into
two states: Israel and Palestine. Israel accepted the plan, while
the Arab community did not —leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli
War. When Britain withdrew, Israel declared itself an independent
nation, and in response a conflict ensued between the new state
of Israel and the neighboring Arab states of Jordan, Iraq, Syria,
Egypt, and Lebanon. Israel was able to gain territory from its
Arab neighbors in both the 1948 war and then again in the 1967
Six-Day War. (Anon. 2018). Despite two Intifadas, or uprisings,
Israel still controls most of the land internationally regarded as
Several peace agreements have been attempted, most notably
the 1993 Oslo Accords. In this agreement Israel recognized the
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a “representative
of the Palestinian People” (Anon. 2018), while the PLO
recognized the state of Israel. In addition, Israel allowed the
PLO limited autonomy to govern the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Tensions have continued over the years, and notably increased
in 2006, when Hamas, whose doctrine includes eliminating the
state of Israel, gained political power in the Palestinian
legislative elections with 57 percent of the vote. As a result of
the election results, fighting broke out between Hamas and
Fatah, the dominant party of the Palestinian National Authority
(PA), which is currently in charge of the West Bank. In June
2007, Hamas conducted a “violent seizure” (Anon. 2020) of the
area and gained control of the Gaza Strip.
Importance to the United States
The US is a significant actor in Israel-Palestine relations, often
serving as an intermediary. The relationship with Israel serves
as a way for the US to further its agenda in the Middle East,
which revolves around stability, security, and access to energy
resources. The US is Israel’s largest trading partner and annually
provides Israel with over $3 billion in military support. Israel’s
standing in the region, and consistency in promoting US
interests, is largely connected to its relationship with Palestine
as conflicts with its neighbors are often connected to the lack of
a Palestinian state (Zunes 2002).
Position of the United States
Historically, the US has maintained a more lenient position
toward Israel regarding human rights violations, the military
occupation of Palestine, and West Bank settlements compared
to the international community. Past administrations, for
example, referred to West Bank settlements as “illegitimate”
rather than illegal and have continued to provide Israel with
significant defense assistance (Anon. 2017). The Trump
administration, however, was known for its unabashedly pro-
Israel policies. This includes the unprecedented stance that
these settlements do not violate international law and moving
the US embassy to Jerusalem, an area claimed as a capital by
both Israel and Palestine (Borger et al. 2019). Several US
presidents have attempted to negotiate peace deals, most
recently President Trump, which was immediately rejected by
the Palestinians for its alleged pro-Israel approach. The current
US administration of President Joe Biden was expected to take
a more neutral stance. Since his term started, President Biden
has been said to be pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Naftali
Bennett to stop the West Bank settlements, which President
Biden views as a threat to a two-state solution (Ravid 2021).
Tensions have been on an upward climb for years, most notably
during the administrations of former Israel Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, known for his hard stance against the
Palestinians, and former US President Donald Trump, known
for his pro-Israel policies. On September 15 th , 2020, the
Abraham Accords were signed, normalizing relations between
Israel and the Arab countries of United Arab Emirates and
Bahrain. This deal goes back on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative,
a proposal to recognize Israel in exchange for the withdrawal
from land conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War (Anon. 2010).
The Arab League, a group of 22 Arab countries, notably chose
not to condemn the Abraham Accords, leading Palestine to
withdraw from the group. Sudan followed shortly after in a
trilateral agreement with the US (Anon. 2020), and there has
been speculation that Oman may follow (Kampeas 2021).
The Palestinians recognized the need to present a united front
against Israel. Major party rivals Fatah and Hamas conducted
reconciliation talks and agreed to hold the first general elections
since 2006 (Anon. 2020). These efforts proved unsuccessful in
the following months, as the elections have been postponed
indefinitely. The longstanding issue with elections has been the
full participation of those living in Eastern Jerusalem. While
150,000 of the residents would be able to vote even without
Israeli permission, 6,000 would not (Krauss 2021). The PA has
taken a hard stance on this issue, despite several options to
bypass Israel permission having been presented. Even before
the election was cancelled, inter-Palestinian conflicts were
evident as various factions cannot seem to agree on how to
move forward with Israel. In January 2021, the PA resumed
cooperation with Israel having previously cut off contact in May
2020 in protest of Israel’s plans to annex part of the West Bank.
Hamas, described the move as a betrayal of their efforts to
“build a national partnership” (Halbfinger, Rasgon 2021).
Tensions boiled over in May 2021 in an 11-day war that killed
over 200 people. This recent round of attacks came when Hamas
launched long range rockets toward Jerusalem in response to
conflicts taking place between protestors and police. Over 4,000
rockets were launched, some going as far as Tel Aviv. Israel
retaliated with hundreds of airstrikes on Hamas’ military
infrastructure. The conflict ended inconclusively with an
Egyptian proposed ceasefire. Approximately 230 Palestinians
and 12 Israelis were killed, with both sides claiming victory
(Federman, Akram 2021).
Despite changes in Israel’s leadership, issues regarding Israeli
settlements in the West Bank have continued. These areas are
internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, meaning the
International Community views the settlements as illegal. Some
tension appears to be present between Israel and the US due to
the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, most recently in
Silwan, a neighborhood of Eastern Jerusalem—the section of
the city that would likely be Palestinian in a two-state solution.
US President Biden is reported to be “quietly pressuring” (Ravid
2021) Israel Prime Minister Bennett on the grounds that such a
move threatens a two-state solution.
Progress appeared possible with the meeting between Palestinian
President Abbas and Israel Defense Minister Gantz, the first of
its kind in 7 years (Mualem 2021). This unique coalition
government of left-wing groups led by right-wing hardliner
Prime Minister Bennett are taking the route of treating the PA
as a legitimate governing power. However, Prime Minister Bennet
has explicitly rejected the idea of peace talks and the idea of a
Palestinian state. Measures meant to support the Palestinians
were agreed upon; one such policy gave residency to undocumented
family members of residents living in the West Bank. This
momentum appeared to take a sharp dive when Palestinian
President Abbas gave a speech at the United Nations General
Assembly, in which he gave Israel one year to withdrawal from
Palestinian territory agreed to after the 1967 Six-Day War
(Anon. 2021). If not, President Abbas is threating to withdrawal
PA recognition of Israel. Defense Minister Gantz has
condemned the ultimatum nature of the threat, while Israel’s
Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said it showed that the
Palestinians reject peace (Anon. 2021).
Recent events highlight this pattern of tensions boiling over
before ‘ending’ inconclusively. During the Trump-Netanyahu
era, tensions were consistently increasing, as the Palestinians
worked to strengthen their position both internally and with
international support, and Israel showing little interest in
improving relations. With Arab countries normalizing relations
with Israel, there was less international pressure on Israel to
accommodate Palestinian demands. Despite the disapproval of
the Biden Administration, Israel has continued to move forward
with settlements in areas likely to be given to Palestine in any
peace agreement. This strategy was shown in the West Bank by
Prime Minister Netanyahu last year and is being used again, this
time in Eastern Jerusalem.
Internally, the Palestinians have failed to develop a united front.
Despite reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas, no
tangible progress has been made and the elections were stalled
indefinitely. Just months after these talks and agreements, the
PA restarted its cooperation with Israel, a move that was
criticized by Hamas. These groups continue to be divided on
their approach to Israel. The issue of voting in Eastern
Jerusalem is not a new one, with the same concerns halting
previous election attempts. However, the cancellation came as
Fatah, the party of President Abbas, was fractured into three
groups and was predicted to lose to Hamas. According to the
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 45 percent
of Palestinians believe Hamas deserves to lead, while only 19
percent believe Fatah deserves to lead (Anon. 2021). Even
though this is said to be a drop of 8 percent for Hamas, it still
shows a strong case for the group, considered to be terrorists
by the US, to win if elections had gone forward. This makes
plausible the possibility that the elections were canceled to
prevent Hamas from gaining political control of the West Bank.
The meeting between Defense Minister Gantz and President
Abbas demonstrated the strongest likelihood for improved
relations in years. However, the speech given by President
Abbas at the UNSG indicates relations are no longer warming.
The trajectory of Palestinian-Israel relations is already uncertain
given the political balancing act being attempted by Prime
Minister Bennett to maintain the mixed left and right-wing
The tension between Israelis and Palestinians remains
significant. However, the recent steps towards improving
relations appear to be the most impactful of the past few years,
most notably with the meeting between Israeli Defense Minister
Gantz and Palestinian President Abbas. With regards to the
UNSG speech by President Abbas, it may be an attempt to use
the political pressure from the Biden Administration and the
left-leaning government coalition to his advantage. He may be
also attempting to revive his dropping popularity. Analysis also
indicates Hamas and its hardline stance become more popular
with Palestinians when peace is not a prevalent option (Bloom
2005:25). Given the recent steps being taken, this may account
for the 8 percent drop in popularity for Hamas. If the warming
of relations continues, this opens the possibility of weakening
Hamas’ popularity. We can predict with moderate confidence
that Israel-Palestine tensions will remain static for the
immediate future. Due to recent trends, we can also predict with
moderate to high confidence the PA will focus on relationship
building efforts with Israel, rather than Hamas.
Anonymous (2010) “The Arab Peace Initiative”, Aljazeera, 28 March.
Anonymous (2017) “Obama Says Israeli Settlements Making Two-State
Solution Impossible”, Reuters, 10 January.
Anonymous (2018) “Oslo Accords”, History, 16 February.
Anonymous (2018) “Six-Day War”, History.com, 21 August
history.com/topics/middle-east/six-day-war>, accessed on 8 October 2021.
Anonymous (2020) “Israel to Send First Delegation to Sudan on Sunday
to Firm up Normalisation – Source”, Reuters, 10 November.
Anonymous (2020) “Middle East:: Gaza Strip”, CIA World Factbook.
Anonymous (2020) “Palestinian Authority to Resume Coordination with
Israel”, Aljazeera, 17 November.
Anonymous (2020) “Palestinian Factions Fatah and Hamas to Hold Talks
in Ankara”, Aljazeera, 22 September.
Anonymous (2020) “Palestinian Leader Calls for U.N.-led Peace Conference
Early Next Year”, Reuters, 25 September.
Anonymous (2021) “Abbas gives Israel ‘one year’ to leave Palestinian
territory”, Aljazeera, 25 September.
Anonymous (2021) “Gantz: Abbas’s 1967 lines ultimatum ‘will be hard to
climb down from’”, The Times of Israel, 25 September.
Anonymous (2021) “Israeli settlers take over home in Jerusalem’s Silwan”,
Aljazeera, 7 October.
Anonymous (2021) “Large percentage of Palestinian Hamas, oppose Abbas
– poll”, The Jerusalem Post, 24 September.
Anonymous (2021) “Palestine”, History, 11 May.
Bennis, P. (1996) “U.S. Strategic Reach in the Middle East”, Institute for
Bloom, M. (2005) Dying to Kill, the Allure of Suicide Terror, Columbia
University Press, United States.
Borger, J. and Holmes, O. (2019) “US Says Israeli Settlements No Longer
Considered Illegal in Dramatic Shift”, The Guardian, 19 November.
Estrain, D. (2020) “Israel Uses Cover of U.S. Election to Destroy Palestinian
Homes, Critics say”, NPR, 4 November.
Federman, J. and Fares A. (2021) “Israel, Hamas agree to cease-fire to
end bloody 11-day war”, AP News, 21 May.
Halbfinger, D. and Adam R. (2020) “Reassured by Biden Win,
Palestinians Will Resume Cooperation With Israel”, New York Times, 20
Jeffery, S. (2006) “Hamas celebrates election victory”, The Guardian, 26
Kampeas, R. (2021) “Israel hints Oman is next to join Abraham Accords”,
The Jerusalem Post, 7 October.
Krauss, J. (2021) “Abbas delays Palestinian elections; Hamas slams ‘coup”,
AP News, 29 April 2021.
Mualem, M. (2021) “Israel’s Gantz meets with Palestine’s Abba”, Al-
Monitor, 31 August.
Rasgon, A. (2021) “In Reversal, Israel’s New Government Engages with
Palestinian Authority”, New York Times, 25 September.
Ravid, B. (2021) “Biden quietly puts pressure on Israel over West Bank
settlements”, Axios, 6 October.
U.S. Embassy in Israel. “Policy and History”, U.S. Embassy, Jerusalem,
on 8 October 2021.
Youssef, H. (2021) “10 Things to Know: Biden’s Approach to the Israeli-
Palestinian Conflict”, 10 June
accessed on October 8 2021.
Zunes, S. (2002) “Why the U.S. Supports Israel”, Institute for Policy Studies.
The Launch Status of the Chinese
The Chinese Digital Yuan is China’s attempt to create its own
sovereign digital currency. The Digital Yuan will be funded by
physical yuan deposits in China’s central bank, the Peoples Bank
of China (PBoC). The Chinese Digital Yuan has been in
development since 2014 and has had a steady development cycle
since its inception (Sharma 2020). China also wants its digital
currency to be in circulation, even on a global scale. Pilot tests
have been run one at a time in diverse areas throughout China
in 2021. However, there has still not been a countrywide test
announced. The PBoC wants the Digital Yuan to be launched
and fully functional for international athletes and fans to use
before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games (Partz 2021).
With this in mind, we assess with high confidence that the Chinese
Digital Yuan will launch in December of 2021. There is an even
chance the PBoC will propose a country-wide pilot test for a
duration of 10 days to test the Digital Yuan’s functionality country-
wide. Long term, we assess with moderate confidence that the Digital
Yuan will raise the value of the Chinese Yuan and pose a threat
the US Dollar’s hegemony of being the world’s reserve currency.
The Chinese Digital Yuan is a Central Banking Digital Currency
(CBDC) that started being developed in 2014 by the PBoC. Due
to the popularity of mining cryptocurrencies and mobile pay
within China, the PBoC found a need to create its own digital
currency. The difference between a CBDC and a cryptocurrency
is that a CBDC has legal tender, while cryptocurrencies are
decentralized. Like cryptocurrencies, the Digital Yuan will use
Distributed Ledger Technologies (e.g. blockchain) to record
transactions (Sharma 2020).
The Chinese government has many objectives with the Digital
Yuan. The PBoC wants to bring China’s unbanked population
into its mainstream economy. Another objective is for China to
create a cashless society, as the Digital Yuan will be available offline
in the years after launch. A long-term objective for the PBoC
is to internationalize the Chinese Yuan. China wants the Digital
Yuan to be in circulation on a global scale, like the US dollar.
Importance for the United States
The United States does not have any formal interests at stake
involving the launch of the Digital Yuan. However, with China
being the second largest economy in the world (only behind the
United States), we believe the US is interested in the long-term
impact of the Chinese Digital Yuan. Additionally, US Federal
Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, has stated that the Federal
Reserve has begun research on a potential US-backed digital
dollar (Hansen 2021). We believe this is being done because the
US wants to stay competitive with China on all economic fronts
on a long-term basis.
Position of United States
The Biden Administration is concerned about the long-term
effects of the Digital Yuan potentially replacing the dollar as the
world’s reserve currency. However, the Digital Yuan’s impact
short-term is not a priority, according to many government
officials. Additionally, there are rumors that many officials at
different US government agencies are increasing their efforts to
understand what China wants to do with the Digital Yuan long
term (Moshin 2021). This report caused PBoC Deputy Head, Li
Bo, to release a statement saying that the PBoC does not plan
to use the Digital Yuan to replace the dollar as the world’s
reserve currency (Mayger et al 2021).
On July 19 th , 2021, US Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN),
Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a
letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC)
requesting US athletes be barred from using the Digital Yuan at
the Winter Olympic Games (Ledger Insights 2021). The request
was made due to the data privacy concerns of the athletes if they
were to use the e-yuan while at the Olympics (Ledger Insights
2021). The Biden Administration and the USOPC have not
released any statements regarding this request.
In 2021, the PBoC has been consistently testing the Digital
Yuan throughout diverse areas of the country so it can launch
domestically before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
In 2021, pilot tests started on February 10 th , when the PBoC
randomly airdropped 200 Digital Yuan ($31) to over 50,000
Chinese citizens in Beijing for Lunar New Year. The Digital
Yuan vouchers were available from February 10 th to February
17 th but could only be used at PBoC verified retailers (Cheng
On February 23 rd , the PBoC announced another pilot test that
would take place in the city of Chengdu. This test would take
place from March 3 rd to March 19 th . The PBoC gave out over
$6 million worth of Digital Yuan, making the test much larger
in scale. Chengdu citizens had to apply to receive their vouchers
worth $27-$37 (Cheng 2021b).
On April 8 th , 2021, the PBoC announced new pilot testing
regions for the Digital Yuan. Those regions included Shanghai,
the province of Hainan, the city of Changsha, the city of Xi’an,
the city of Qingdao, and the city of Dalian (Tang 2021b). At the
time of writing this brief, the only dates of testing the PBoC has
announced of these regions is in the province of Hainan and in
the city of Shanghai. The Hainan test took place on Yongxing
Island in Sansha City. The dates of the pilot test in Hainan were
April 12 th to April 25 th (Khatri 2021a). The Shanghai test took
place on the weekend of June 7 th , 2021, where 350,000 red
packets of digital yuan, with each packet containing 55 yuan
($9). This marks the highest number of vouchers given out in a
single test (Khatri 2021b).
On June 2 nd , 2021, China announced another Digital Yuan
lottery in Beijing. The PBoC gave out 400 million yuan ($6.2
million) to over 200,000 recipients. Users who wanted to receive
digital yuan needed to register through a digital yuan app and
would get a chance to receive over 200 digital yuan ($31) in the
form of a red packets (Kharpal 2021).
The international launch of the Digital Yuan is just as important
to China as its domestic launch. On February 24 th , 2021, the
PBoC announced it would be working with the Hong Kong
Monetary Authority, the Bank of Thailand, and the Central
Bank of the UAE to create a cross border payment currency
that is backed off of the Digital Yuan. The project is only in its
exploratory phase, but will only work in the four regions if
created. (Feng 2021). The PBoC also announced on April 2 nd ,
that it would be using the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to
test cross-border functionality of the Digital Yuan. Despite
being a purely technical test, the Hong Kong test was the firsttime
Digital Yuan was used past Chinese borders (Tang 2021a).
Despite the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,
the PBoC has seen exponential growth in its timetable for
launching the Digital Yuan within Chinese borders. This is likely
due to China’s mobile pay accessibility. An estimated 74 percent
of people in China use mobile pay platforms on an everyday
basis. This includes 92 percent of people in China’s urban areas.
The number of people that have used mobile pay in China has
increased 6.3 percent over the last year. Mobile pay accessibility
is easier in China because only a printed piece of paper with a
QR code is required for mobile pay use (Daxue Consulting 2021).
Despite only being in its testing phase, the PBoC has done an
efficient job promoting the Digital Yuan. For example, JD.com
(China’s biggest online retailer) has partnered with the PBoC to
take part in the Digital Yuan trials (Kaaru 2021). JD.com has
used the Digital Yuan to pay employees and other companies.
It is likely that the PBoC partnered with JD.com to compete
with rival platforms, Alipay and Wechat. While the PBoC has
stated publicly it is not their goal to compete with the two
mobile pay giants, it can be assessed with very high confidence
that one of China’s goals with launching the Digital Yuan is to
take away market share from these companies (Reuters
Shanghai Newsroom 2021).
The PBoC has done an efficient job of promoting the Digital
Yuan to its citizens through the pilot tests. As of November 3 rd ,
2021, 140 million users have opened Digital Yuan wallets with
62 billion yuan (9.7 billion USD) being transacted (Helms 2021).
This has been done through incentivizing Digital Yuan use. For
example, the Hainan tests gave users 99 Digital Yuan for every
100 Yuan they spent. In USD terms this means a user spends
$15 gets $15 in return (Huillet 2021). It is likely the PBoC is
incentivizing citizens to use the Digital Yuan to increase
circulation of the currency.
We state with high confidence the Chinese Digital Yuan will
launch in February of 2021. This assessment was made due to a
multitude of factors. China’s ability to release pilot tests one
after another has shown that development has been seamless so
far. China’s ability to promote the Digital Yuan has also been a
likely cause of these successful pilot test runs. It is still unknown
how well the Digital Yuan will run when it launches all
throughout China. There is an even chance the PBoC will
propose a country wide pilot test for a duration of 10 days to
test the Digital Yuan’s functionality countrywide. Long term, we
assess with moderate confidence that the Digital Yuan will raise
the value of the Chinese Yuan and pose a threat the US Dollar’s
hegemony of being the world’s reserve currency.
Cheng, E. (2021a) “China plans to hand out $1.5 million in a digital currency
test during the Lunar New Year”, CNBC, 8 February,
accessed 24 April 2021.
Cheng, E. (2021b) “Another Chinese city launches a digital currency test
—this time it’s much larger at $6 million”, CNBC, 24 February,
6-million-digital-currency-test.html >, accessed 24 April 2021.
Daxue Consulting (2021) “Payment methods in China: How China
became a mobile-first nation”, Daxue Consulting, 22 February
daxueconsulting.com/payment-methods-in-china/>, accessed 26 April
Feng, C. (2021) “Beijing is exploring digital yuan cross-border payments
by joining with Hong Kong, Thailand, UAE and the Bank of
International Settlements”, South China Morning Post, 24 February,
-yuan-cross-border-payments-joining-hong-kong>, accessed 25 April 2021.
Hansen, S. (2021) “Fed Chair Powell Says Digital Dollar Is A ‘High
Priority Project’”, Forbes, 23 February,
-priority-project/?sh=5018d8747e4c>, accessed 1 May 2021.
Helms, K. (2021) “China’s Digital Currency Used in Transactions Worth
$10 Billion, 140 Million People Have Digital Yuan Wallets”, Bitcoin.com,
7 November, ,
accessed 21 November 2021.
Huillet, M. (2021) “Digital yuan campaign planned for contested island in
the South China Sea”, Cointelegraph, 8 April,
accessed 2 May 2021.
Kaaru, S. (2021) “China’s retail giant JD.com pays employees with digital
yuan”, Coingeek, 30 April, ,
accessed 1 May 2021.
Kharpal, A. (2021) “China to hand out $6.2 million in digital currency to
Beijing residents as part of trial”, CNBC, 2 June,
million-in-trial.html>, accessed 6 October 2021.
Khatri, Y. (2021) “China expands digital yuan reach with its latest giveaway
trial in Shanghai”, The Block, 7 June,
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Khatri, Y. (2021) “Chinese province Hainan to test digital yuan this
month”, The Block, 8 April
101072/china-hainan-test-digital-yuan-currency-april>, accessed 21 April
Ledger Insights (2021) “US senators concerned over Winter Olympics
digital yuan launch”, Ledger Insights, 20 July,
accessed 6 October 2021.
Mayger, J., Liu, Y., and Yap, L. (2021) “China Says It Has No Desire to
Replace Dollar With Digital Yuan”, Bloomberg, 18 April,
accessed 27 April 2021.
Moshin, S. (2021) “Biden Team Eyes Potential Threat From China’s
Digital Yuan”, Bloomberg, 12 April,
accessed 27 April 2021.
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Olympics in 2022”, Cointelegraph, 19 April,
accessed 21 April 2021.
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Trials Show Threat to Alipay, WeChat Duopoly.”, Reuters, 26 April
accessed 28 April
Sharma, R. (2020) “Understanding China’s Digital Yuan”, Investopedia, 9
accessed 21 April 2021.
Tang, F. (2021a) “China digital currency: China, Hong Kong begin testing
digital yuan as Beijing ramps up research into cross-border use.” South
China Morning Post, 2 April ,
accessed 24 April 2021.
Tang, F. (2021b) “China digital currency: Shanghai, Hainan among regions
added to e-yuan trials” South China Morning Post, 13 April,
The Threat Posed by the Kata’ib
Hezbollah in Iraq
Kataib Hezbollah (KH) is likely responsible for several highprofile
assassinations of activists and government officials since
2019. KHs threat level against United States (US) personnel will
likely depend on developments relating to Iranian foreign policy
with the United States (US), Israel, and Saudi Arabia, consistent
with historical trends. KH will continue to be a destabilizing
force in Iraq. The weak central government in Baghdad allows
KH and other Iran-backed militias to further-entrench itself in
Iraqi politics. KH will likely continue to be Iran’s primary militant
asset in Iraq.
Background on Kataib Hezbollah
KH is an Iranian-backed Shia militia formed in 2006 as a member
of Iran’s “resistance” campaign and is a member of al-Hashd
ash Shabi, or the Popular Mobilization Forces. Al-Hashd can
be described as a conglomeration of primarily Shia militias in
Iraq, which was formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State in Iraq
after the Iraqi Armed Forces collapsed. KH has become Iran’s
most lethal and versatile proxy force in Iraq. It is responsible for
numerous attacks against US military and diplomatic installations,
assassinations of government officials and civilian activists, and
crackdowns on protesters. Its current commander is Abu Fadak al-
Mohammedawi, whose real name is Aziz al-Mohammedawi.
Mohammedawi is also the de-facto commander of al-Hashd,
officially subordinate to the chairman, Faleh al-Fayyadh (Malik 2020).
Importance to the United States
KH does not pose a direct threat to US national security. However,
KH operates as an Iranian proxy in Iraq (Knights, Smith, and
Malik 2021). KH also possesses rocket and ballistic missile
technology capable of striking Saudi Arabia and Israel (Irish and
Rasheed 2018). This threat has made KH a target of numerous
US and Israeli airstrikes since 2019. The US also maintains a
significant interest in counterterrorism operations and intelligence
collection against the Islamic State in the region, requiring
military and diplomatic presence (Godfrey 2021).
Consistent rocket attacks against facilities and bases hosting US
personnel reflect the Iranian resistance strategy of attempting to
pressure the US into a more lenient position regarding the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Nuclear Deal (Anon.
2021). Iran believes that via constant, low-intensity conflict
against the US via proxy forces, it can avoid meaningful
retaliation from the US and the international community (Knights
2019). Iran hopes to leverage attacks against US facilities and
personnel to receive more lenient uranium enrichment restrictions.
Also reflective of Iran’s resistance campaign is its covert action
against activists, critics, and persons deemed as harmful to the
presence of Iranian proxy forces in Iraq. The most high-profile
instance of an assassination attempt against a critic of Iranianbacked
militias was against Hashem al-Hashimi, a prominent
researcher and advisor to Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi. He
was assassinated by unknown gunmen on motorbikes, who
dismounted and shot Hashimi while outside his home late at
night. After his death, a friend revealed WhatsApp messages
showing where Hashimi said he had been threatened by KH
(Doucet 2020). A US Public Broadcasting Service documentary
interviewed an anonymous security official who explicitly named
KH as the perpetrator of the assassination (Navai and al-Bayaa
2021). Despite this, the government made no arrests nor named
Hashimi’s murder shared near-identical characteristics to several
other assassinations, including an intelligence officer with Iraqi
counterespionage and three activists. Iraqi authorities arrested
Qasim Musleh in connection with the murder of one of these
activists: Ihab al-Wazni. Musleh, commander of the Tofuf Brigade,
an al-Hashd militia with ties to KH, and its former commander,
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (Knights 2019). Key similarities between
these assassinations have been unknown individuals on motorbikes,
at night in populated areas, usually equipped with silenced
weapons used at point-blank range. Silencing dissent by targeting
would-be leadership in anti-Iranian and anti-militia movements
appears to be working, as nationwide protests against the militias
have become more sporadic and less common.
Muqwama is usually translated as “resistance”; however, it can
best be described as persistent warfare, according to the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy. Iran’s goal is to dissolve the state
of Israel and end what it describes as ‘the Zionist regime’. Due
to the relative superiority of Israel’s conventional forces against
Iran’s goal of annihilating the state of Israel, Iran has morphed
its campaign into asymmetric, unconventional warfare. Persistent
warfare, as employed by Iran-backed proxies like Lebanese
Hezbollah, resembles a blend of attrition and guerilla warfare.
This kind of warfare aims to break the enemy’s will to fight,
rather than capture territory.
Muqwama is deeply entrenched in Shia Islamic tradition and
ideology. Muqwama transcends traditional Arab-nationalist sentiments
and instead leverages a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic ideology,
allowing Iran to create a fluid network of fighters. Before his
death, Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander, was the
hub and facilitator of this network (Anon. 2006). In Iraq, KH is
the primary muqwama militia (Malik 2020).
Despite its disciplined membership, KH is an exception, not the
rule, for Iran-backed militias in Iraq. As the leading militia
within the al-Hashd command hierarchy, KH must prevent the
militias from fragmenting or being assimilated into the regular
ranks of the Iraq Armed Forces. As more militias dissolve or are
absorbed into the state apparatus, the need for al-Hashd decreases.
Since the deaths of Major General Qassem Soleimani and Muhandis,
the current leadership of the organization has been severely
affected, with long-term implications. Soleimani and Muhandis
were highly respected commanders and were deeply connected
to the elite political class in Iraq and Iran. Some believe that the
current commander of the IRGC – QF, Esmail Qaani, has no
experience in Iraqi affairs, or the necessary charisma to continue
the work of Soleimani (Alfoneh 2020). The same has been said
of Abu Fadak al-Mohammedawi, who appears to be a far more
divisive and less cooperative figure than Muhandis was (Knights
In contrast with their predecessors, Mohammedawi and Qaani
are rarely seen in public or make public statements, likely out of
concern that the US may target them for elimination (Knights
2021). The need for more unifying leadership of Iran-backed
militias in Iraq may require more assistance and guidance. A
source could be Lebanese Hezbollah, which was essential in
creating, training, and funding KH (Malik 2020). Lebanese
Hezbollah was also reportedly involved in preventing the
fragmentation of al-Hashd in the wake of Soleimani and
Muhandis’ deaths (Roggio 2020).
In the run-up to the Iraqi federal elections, KH has established
its political party: al-Huqooq. KH’s primary message appears to
be the expulsion of US troops from Iraq (Aldroubi 2021).
Armed groups in Iraq forming political parties is nothing new, as
most militias have their own political organizations and social
media networks, as well as television, newspaper, and electronic
news outlets. KH and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) news channels
are al-Etejah and Sabreen News, respectively. Other major
militias’ news networks mobilized quickly after security forces
arrested Qasim Musleh. These news organizations continued to
falsely claim that Musleh had been released and that the militias
had pressured PM Kadhimi into releasing him. Although it was
evident to the militias that these claims could be debunked
quickly, their goal was to sow confusion and embarrass the
government. The arrest of an al-Hashd commander is a significant
pattern break for Kadhimi. It indicates his growing ability and
willingness to confront the militias physically. Several detachments
of various militias attempted to flood the International (Green)
Zone in Baghdad, where the Prime Minister resided, and were
prevented from entering. This contrasts with what occurred in
June 2020, after the raid of a KH facility, where 14 fighters were
arrested. KH was able to enter the International Zone and
pressure the release of 13 of these fighters (Knights, Smith,
Almeida, and Malik 2021).
The military exchanges between KH and the US are generally
tit-for-tat. For example, KH will launch “aim-to-miss” rockets
(Knights 2019) to damage infrastructure and harass US personnel
so as to leverage the US into being more lenient in the Nuclear
Deal talks. The US will respond by conducting airstrikes on KH
facilities and bases, likely targeting munition caches. However,
in the October Revolution protest movement, Iraqis and the
political class were displeased that the US and Iran used Iraq as
a battlefield for their proxy war. This issue came to a head in
January 2020, when the US conducted the airstrike that killed
Soleimani and Muhandis, leading to heightened tensions. In
response, Iraqi parliament voted to remove US troops from Iraq
(Anon, n.d.) but never followed through.
Although KH wages a relatively low-level conflict against the
US and its partners in Iraq, its growing influence in Iraqi politics
should be carefully watched. Despite the al-Fatah political party
existing as the primary voice in government for the al-Hashd,
KH has created its own political party al-Hoquq. The creation
of a separate political party warrants further investigation,
considering the recent exchange of criticism online between senior
members of al-Hashd. This could indicate significant cracks
developing between the al-Hashd leadership. However, the
crackdown on critics and activists will likely hurt open-source
intelligence collection, as more journalists are pressured into not
covering the militias in a negative light.
Iraq depends on the al-Hashd to provide local security in many
regions. The lack of regular security forces stationed to protect
polling places creates the possibility of election interference and
intimidation at the ballot boxes. Political factions in Iraq, such
as the October Revolution protest movement and some Sunnis,
may boycott the elections in defiance of growing Iranian
influence and displeasure with the ruling political elite in Iraq.
KH and the militias benefit from anti-militia electors abstaining,
making it easier to get its supporters elected to government
office. PM Kadhimi and President Barzani have been cooperatively
encouraging the public to go vote in the upcoming elections to
undermine these efforts (Iddon 2021). Under the Biden
Administration, the US is likely to maintain a similar operational
posture as the Trump Administration towards the militias. Titfor-tat
rocket and airstrike attacks between the US and KH will
likely continue as Nuclear Deal talks hang in the balance.
Bibliography of References Cited
Aldroubi, M. (2021, October 03). Party linked to Iran-backed militia to run
in Iraq elections. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.the
Alfoneh, A. (2020, January 07). Who Is Esmail Qaani, the New Chief
Commander of Iran’s. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.
Anon. (2006, November 13). The Muqawama Doctrine. Retrieved October
06, 2021, from https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/
Anon. (2021, July 08). Rockets fired at US embassy in Iraq after series of
attacks. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.aljazeera.com/
Anon. (n.d.). Iraqi parliament votes to expel US troops - awaits government
approval. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.dw.com/en/
Doucet, L. (2020, July 07). Hisham al-Hashimi: Leading Iraqi security
expert shot dead in Baghdad. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://
Godfrey, J. T. (2021). Remarks to the Middle East Institute’s Countering
Terrorism and Extremism Program. Middle East Institute's Countering
Terrorism and Extremism Program. Washington, DC: US State
Department. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/remarks-to-themiddle-east-institutes-countering-terrorism-and-extremism-program.
Iddon, P. (2021, October 01). Can Iraq's prime minister win re-election
and curb the power of Iran-backed militias? Retrieved October 06, 2021,
Irish, J., and Rasheed, A. (2018, August 31). Exclusive: Iran moves
missiles to Iraq in warning to enemies. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from
Knights, M. (2019). Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New
Special Groups. CTC Sentinel, 6-8. Retrieved from https://ctc.usma.
Knights, M. (2021, January 13). The U.S. Designation of Kataib
Hezbollah’s Abu Fadak. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.
Knights, M., Smith, C., and Malik, H. (2021, April 01). Profile: Kataib
Hezbollah. Retrieved from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
Knights, M., Smith, C., Almeida, A., and Malik, H. (2021, May 28).
Muqawama Fake News Surrounding Qasim Muslih’s Arrest (Part 1):
International Zone Claims. Retrieved October 05, 2021, from https://
Malik, H. (2020, October 05). Th Still-Growing Threat of Iran’s Chosen
Proxy in Iraq. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://waronthe
Navai, R., and al-Bayaa, M. (Directors). (2021). PBS Frontline: Iraq’s
Assassins [Motion Picture].
Roggio, B. (2020, April 11). U.S. offers $10 million reward for Hezbollah’s
commander in Iraq. Retrieved October 06, 2021, from https://www.long
The State of Relations Between the
White House and the United States
Ana Maria Lankford
It can be determined with high confidence, that the current state
of relations between the White House and the United States
intelligence community (USIC) is actively demonstrating a
cooperative and collaborative relationship. Throughout the past
year, we have been monitoring how the relationship between
the White House and the USIC changes or does not change
amidst a new presidential administration.
In our final analysis before the Biden administration assumed
authority over the White House, we concluded with high
confidence that the state of relations between the USIC and the
White House lacked cooperation and collaboration under the
Trump administration. This analysis derived from assessments
of dozens of reports claiming that former President Donald
Trump promoted distrust in the USIC. An initial instance that we
believe demonstrated distrust between the Trump administration
and the US IC occurred in 2018, when President Trump publicly
appeared to side with Russia over US intelligence when referencing
allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential
In a 2018 joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir
Putin, then-President Trump was asked if he agreed with the
USIC’s analysis that Russia attempted to influence the outcome
of the 2016 presidential elections. According to an article
published by the BBC, “Mr. Trump contradicted US intelligence
agencies and said that there had been no reason for Russia to
meddle in the vote” (Anon 2018). This comment received bipartisan
backlash from both US lawmakers and intelligence
professionals. Notably, the late republican Senator John McCain
stated at the time that “[t]oday’s press conference in Helsinki
was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American
president in memory” (Horsley and Parks 2018). In a subsequent
statement, then-President Trump was directly asked if he
believed in the accuracy of intelligence reports stating that there
was evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, he
declined to comment (Horsley and Parks 2018).
Most recently, just before President Trump’s term in office ended,
he replaced many high-ranking intelligence professionals. In
November of 2020, just after the US elections, President Trump
terminated the former US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper.
According to an article published by National Public Radio,
former President Trump fired Esper over a disagreement over
the use of American troops to mitigate protestors in June of
2020 (Bowman 2020). These events are examples of what led us
to conclude at the end of the Trump administration in January
of 2021, that the relationship between the White House and
USIC harbored tension and mistrust between the two. Recent
actions from both the White House and the IC under the Biden
Administration, which appear to promote coaction between these
two entities, has led us to change our analysis to conclude that the
current state of relations is progressing towards a collaborative
and cooperative relationship.
Importance to the United States
Investigating the relationship between the White House and the
USIC can be simplified by stating that we are analyzing the
relationship between those who formulate policy in the United
States, and those who are tasked with gathering information that
assists in the sound formulation of policy in the United States.
Policy makers are briefed with intelligence collected by members
of the IC, in which a policy maker chooses to or chooses not to
consider the intelligence given when making a policy decision.
It can be stated with high confidence that this distribution of
information is most effective when the relationship between the
White House and the IC is cohesive.
While there is not an official position of the United States on
this topic, as the topic focuses heavily on internal operation
affairs of the United States, it is highly likely that the direction
in which this relationship progresses affects national security
and policy in the United States.
In early March of 2021, the White House released the Interim
National Security Strategic Guidance. In this document, produced
by the White House in collaboration with top intelligence officials,
the Biden administration appears to place an emphasis on expanding
the USIC by stating that “for our national security strategy to be
effective, it is essential to invest in our national security workforce”
(White House 2021a:21). In addition to this statement, the Biden
administration states that “executing an effective national
security strategy requires expertise and informed judgement”
(White House 2021a:21). These statements were listed under the
“national security priority” section of this report.
In April of 2021, the Senate Intelligence Committee hosted the
Worldwide Threat Assessment hearing. This was the first time
that this hearing occurred in over two years, and a report from
National Public Radio stated that this was “likely due to tensions
between former President Trump and the United States
intelligence community” (Neuman 2021). This hearing consisted
of top intelligence officials in the United States briefing US
lawmakers on the most current and persistent threats to US
national security, as determined collectively by the USIC.
In July of 2021, President Biden visited the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence where he addressed members
of the IC. During his visit, President Biden gave a speech that
we believe expressed the President’s support for the IC. The
statements given included “you will never see a time, while I’m
President of the United States, when my administration in any
way tries to affect or alter your judgements about what the
situation you think we face is” (The White House 2021b). The
President concluded by stating “I value you the work you do”
(The White House 2021b).
Most recently, in August of 2021, the Biden Administration
chose to terminate US military presence in Afghanistan, ending
a 20-year long occupancy in the country. Shortly after the
removal of US troops, an Islamic fundamentalist organization
known as “The Taliban” assumed authority over Afghanistan.
The decision to remove the totality of American troops out of
Afghanistan came with bipartisan criticism, and it was later
revealed that top military advisors had cautioned against this
based on intelligence provided.
In response to this, in late September of 2021, senior officials
from the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the Senate Armed
Services Committee on their recommendations to the Biden
Administration when revoking US military presence in Afghanistan.
According to a report published by the Associated Press, the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley,
stated that “it had been his personal opinion that at least 2,500
US troops were needed to guard against the collapse of the
Kabul government and a return to Taliban rule” (Sprunt 2021).
The same report states that prior to this hearing, when President
Biden was asked if military advisors recommended he keep
2,500 troops in Afghanistan, he stated that “No. No one said
that to me that I can recall; the advice was split” (Sprunt 2021).
Despite this new development, we believe with high confidence
that this did not have a significant effect on the collaboration
and cooperation efforts made between the US IC and the White
House. Referencing the same AP report, General Milley
responded “The President doesn’t have to agree with that
advice; he doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we
are generals” (Sprunt 2021). Given this response, we believe
with high confidence that this instance did not warrant a change
in our most recent assessment on collaboration efforts between
the Biden administration and the USIC.
These recent developments are the instances that resulted in us
modifying our analysis on the relationship between the White
House and the USIC, based on the nature of relations in the
previous administration. The efforts of the Biden Administration,
combined with the USIC, to promote synergetic operations, despite
some apparent disagreements, led us to our most recent
conclusion. During the Trump administration, we encountered
several instances in which individuals alerted to alleged tensions
between the White House and the USIC. Since the onset of the
new presidential administration, we have been unable to detect
similar occurrences of current or former national security
officials coming forward with claims of tension between the
White House and the IC.
Additionally, President Biden’s apparent intent to expand
intelligence capabilities in the United States as proclaimed in the
Interim National Security Strategic Guidance likely demonstrates a
desire to support intelligence practices. It can be stated with
high confidence that the Biden administration responded to
allegations of mistrust in intelligence from the previous
administration by reporting that “in recent years, the experience,
integrity and professionalism of our national security workforce
and institutions, though resilient, has been severely tested” (The
White House 2021a:21). We believe that this testimony is intended
to validate claims of tensions in the previous administration.
To maintain an understanding of this relationship, we will
continue to monitor future interactions between the White
House and the USIC, with a focus on the current discussions
on US involvement in Afghanistan, as this is likely a source of
debate between the White House and the USIC. Given the
information available, we believe with high confidence that
these events demonstrate a shift towards more collaboration
between both the White House and the USIC.
We conclude with high confidence that based on current
collaboration efforts between the White House and the USIC,
that the relationship between the two is continuing to move
toward a collaborative and cooperative relationship. We will be
monitoring future interactions between the White House and
the IC as they arise, in order to determine how relations will
change or not change throughout the remainder of the Biden
Anonymous (2018) “Trump Sides with Russia Against FBI at Helsinki Summit”,
BBC News 16 July. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44852812.
Bowman, T. (2020) “Trump ‘Terminates’ Secretary of Defense Mark
Esper”, National Public Radio 9 November. https://www.npr.org/2020
Horsley, S. and Parks, M. (2018) “Trump’s Refusal to Back U. S. Intel
Over Russia at Putin Summit Sparks Bipartisan Ire” National Public
Radio 16 July. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/16/628973563/trump-putinto-meet-after-new-charges-over-russias-2016-election-interference.
Neuman, S. (2021) “Intelligence Chiefs Say China, Russia are Biggest
Threats to U.S.” National Public Radio 14 April. https://www.npr.org/
Sprunt, B. (2021) “Joint Chiefs Chairman Calls Afghan War a Strategic
Failure”, The Associated Press 28 September. https://apnews.com/
White House “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” (2021a) The
White House, Washington, DC, United States. https://www.whitehouse.
White House “Remarks by President Biden at the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence” (2021b) The White House, Washington, DC,
United States. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speechesremarks/2021/07/27/remarks-by-president-biden-at-the-office-of-thedirector-of-national-intelligence.
France’s Counterterrorism Efforts
Throughout the past eight years, the ongoing Islamic insurgency
activities in Africa have posed diplomatic and operational challenges
for the French military. Due to two recent military juntas in Mali,
Islamic insurgent attacks, and a failed opportunity for diplomacy
with local extremist groups, it can be stated with high confidence
that French counterterrorism efforts in Africa are not succeeding.
For years, the French military has intervened in several conflicts
throughout Africa. The French presence in Africa dates to the
14 th century with a French merchant trading post in western
Senegal. The communes of Senegal; Dakar, Goree, Rufisque, and
Saint- Louis were the only cities in which African inhabitants
were given the same human rights as French citizens (Ginio and
Sessions 2016). However, in the 1960s, African states began to
seek independence from France. They succeeded in becoming
their own states. However, the French military would continue
to provide military support and logistics. More recently, the
French anti-insurgency operation commenced with Operation
Serval on January 11, 2013 and lasted until July 15, 2014. The
goal of Operation Serval was to provide stability and combat
Islamic militants pushing into central Mali from the north
(Nossiter and Schmitt 2013). In July 2014, the operation was
expanded with Operation Barkhane to provide stability to the
overarching area known as the G5 Sahel region of western
Africa. The G5 Sahel countries include Mali, Burkina Faso,
Chad, Niger, and Mauritania. With Operation Barkhane, the
French military initially deployed 3,000 soldiers with 1,000 in
Mali. The French were provided three drones, six fighter jets,
20 helicopters, and 200 armored vehicles (Anon. 2014). Currently,
Operation Barkhane now encompasses roughly 5,100 ground
soldiers with talk to reduce that number to 4,500 by January
2021 (Cattani 2020)
The majority of the Islamist militants throughout the Sahel region,
specifically Mali, have been linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM). Beginning in 1998 as the Salafist Group for
Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the organization pledged allegiance
to al-Qaeda in September 2006. Before joining al-Qaeda, The
GSPC’s objective was to overthrow and replace the Algerian
government with one that promotes Islamic law. After the GSPC
transitioned into the AQIM, the group called for a restoration
of lost Islamist law and the ousting of French influence. Within
the Sahel region, the AQIM particularly has presence in central
Mali’s regions of Kidal and Timbuktu (European Council on
Foreign Relations n.d.). The group’s primary funding is through
kidnappings and extortion for political concessions, as well as
recruitment fees, and local taxes on the communities. The group
has claimed responsibility for trafficking drugs into Europe and
South America for monetary gain (Department of Home Affairs n.d.).
Importance to the United States
The United States does not have any formal interest at stake
regarding French military operations in Africa. However, given
the Sahel’s status as a region for insurgency activities, the U.S.
has aimed to maintain a working diplomatic relationship with all
parties (U.S. Department of State n.d.).
The U.S. is not actively involved in internal African affairs.
While no official action has been pursued, former U.S. Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo condemned Mali’s coup while urging
local officials to work to ensure an effective constitutional
government (U.S. Department of State 2020). Historically, past
American diplomats have involved the U.S. in foreign politics to
promote shared interests abroad. Any U.S. military involvement
within Africa is highly unlikely for the foreseeable future.
One of the focal points for the French military recently has been
Mali. On August 18, 2020, due to the frustration over corruption
accusations and disputes over the legislative election, the instability
in Mali resulted in a military led junta. The junta, led by the
National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP),
arrested ex-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Hours later,
Keïta resigned on state television (Anon 2020). Following his
resignation, Colonel Assimi Goïta, leader of the CNSP, assumed
the Presidency. The Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) placed economic sanctions on Mali until a
civilian head of government was appointed. As a result, on
September 21, 2020, a group of 17 electors chosen by the
military, appointed former Mali Minister of Defense, Bah
N’Daw as interim President. Junta leader Colonel Goïta was
named interim Vice President. The CNSP stated, the two will
continue to govern Mali until democratic elections occur in 18
months (Anon 2020). On September 25, 2020, President
N’Daw appointed Moctar Ouane as the new Prime Minister of
Mali. Two weeks later, with civilians heading the Presidency and
Prime Minister positions, the ECOWAS lifted all economic
sanctions on Mali (Anon 2020).
On October 4, 2020, Malian authorities released 180 Jihadist
detainees in exchange for two civilians held prisoner. The two
prisoners were Sophie Pétronin, a French aid worker in Mali
who was kidnapped in December 2016, and Soumaïla Cissé.
Cissé, a former Mali Presidential candidate was abducted on
March 26, 2020 while campaigning for the 2020 legislative
session (Ahmed 2020).
Nine days later, 13 Mali soldiers and 12 civilians were killed in
three separate suspected Islamic attacks in central Mali on
October 13, 2020. Nine soldiers were killed in the first attack
that took place at an army base in Sokoura, southern Mali. The
militants then proceeded to steal vehicles and engulf the base in
flames. Hours later, three more Malian soldiers were killed by
the militants in an ambush as they headed towards the scene of
the first attack. 40 minutes later, the Islamic militants ambushed
a commercial vehicle killing 12 civilians and one soldier in
Bandiagara, southern Mali (Diallo 2020). Weeks later, on
October 25, 2020, President N’Daw had mentioned an interest
in dialogue with local extremist groups. However, French
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signaled French
opposition to any talks stating, “with terrorists, we do not
discuss. We fight” (Pinault 2020).
On November 3, 2020, a French drone detected a large Jihadist
motorcycle caravan on the borders of Burkina Faso, Mali, and
Niger. The Jihadist militants reportedly had close ties to al-
Qaeda. After the militants spotted the drone, they moved to
nearby trees and brush to escape its surveillance. Minutes later,
the French military sent two Mirage fighter jets to assist the
drone and commence airstrikes. 50 militants were killed, four
were captured and arrested. Suicide vests and explosives were
discovered at the scene as well. French Defense Minister,
Florence Parly called the airstrike a “significant blow” to local
extremist groups (Anon 2020). Three days later on November
6, 2020, according to multiple unnamed sources close to the
military, the French government would like to withdraw several
hundred troops within months. Defense Minister Parly said the
French would begin to assess the military progress in the Sahel
by January 2021 but declined to comment on the possible
withdrawal (Anon 2020).
May 24, 2021, Mali faced a second military coup within nine
months. Colonel Goïta issued the arrests of President N’Daw
and Prime Minister Ouane. The two resigned while in custody,
therefore, surrendering all executive power to the military.
Colonel Goïta stated the reasoning behind the suspension as a
violation of the transitional charter due to President N’Daw not
informing him of a cabinet realignment. However, when speaking
on state television, Colonel Goïta stated, “the actions necessary
for the success of the transition, notably the organization of
credible, fair and transparent elections that are held as
scheduled.” Colonel Goïta will act as the interim President until
elections occur, assuming they will still be conducted in
February 2022, as agreed (Anon 2021).
Following Mali’s second military junta in June 2021, French
President Emmanuel Macron stated he intends to officially end
the current Operation – Barkhane and, therefore, replace it with
larger international partners. Due to Mali’s coup, the French
military intends to operate separate of the Malian government.
Regarding the French military bases in the G5 Sahel countries,
Macron stated, “The shutdowns of these sections [French
military bases] will start in the second half of 2021 and be
completed by early 2022” Felix B. and Tangi S. (2021). No
additional updates regarding the closure of the bases has been
made public at this time.
During a closed-door conference on September 16, 2021, President
Macron reported to the press that Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi,
the founder of the 2015 Islamic State in the Greater Sahara
(ISGS) was killed in a French military operation. No official details
have been disclosed to the public at this time (Anon 2021).
The French military has had an impact throughout Africa for
years. Currently, the area with the most involvement by the
French forces remains the Sahel region. The task force between
the French and Malian military was estimated to be at full
operational capacity in February 2021. Due to the recent
instability in Mali, the French have halted all ongoing military
cooperation with the Malians.
In the meantime, until negotiations occur between France and
Mali about possible dialogue with local Islamic groups, it is
unlikely the number of extremist attacks will decline. While the
French have dismissed talks with Islamic groups, the United
Nations (UN) Chief, Antonio Guterres said the likelihood of
dialogue with certain Islamic groups is “possible,” stating,
“There will be groups with which we can talk, and which will
have an interest in engaging in this dialogue to become political
actors in the future.” Guterres called the security deployment in
the Sahel “insufficient” and called for “more international
solidarity” (Anon 2020). With the possibility of troop removal
from the Sahel, it is likely to mark a shift in future French
operations. By deploying fewer troops, it is likely the French will
begin to shift their efforts more on international partners such
as the U.N. or the European Union (EU) to provide support
than risk further involvement. Moreover, President Macron
stated that the French government intends to remove all military
bases from the G5 Sahel countries by 2022. It is likely this will
draw the attention of France’s international partners in hopes to
stabilize the Sahel nations following their withdrawal. The
longer the French military remains throughout the Sahel, the
more likely negative repercussions will occur following the
We estimate with high confidence that French counterterrorism
efforts in Africa are not succeeding. Currently, this is due
partially because of instability in Mali, meaning it is highly likely
the situation in Mali is causing French efforts to decline. Unless
the French government can engage in negotiations with the
Malian government on dialogue with local Islamic extremists, it
is unlikely military success will occur.
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Biographical Notes on Contributors
JOSHUA ALTMAN, from Richmond, Virginia, is a senior Intelligence and
National Security Studies student with a double minor in German and
Geographic Information Systems at Coastal Carolina University. As a
member of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, Josh served for two semesters
as a Senior Analyst at the organization’s Europe Desk, where he focused on
Scandinavian-North Atlantic Treaty Organization relations, Scandinavian
Politics, and maritime weapons systems. In the fall 2020 semester, Josh
was awarded the Intelligence Analysis Award by the CIB.
HANNAH CLEGG, is from Los Alamos, New Mexico. She came to Coastal
Carolina University to major in Intelligence and Security Studies, alongside
minors and research experience in both Russia and the Middle East. In
addition to heading the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s Russia Desk, Hannah
serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Weekly Intelligence Brief and is a
member of the Executive Council of Women in Intelligence and National
Security (WINS). In 2021, Hannah was awarded an internship with the
Department of State’s Management Office with the United States Embassy
in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
JARED GOTT, from Prince Frederick, Maryland, is a second-semester
junior at Coastal Carolina University, where he is majoring in Intelligence
and Security Studies and minoring in Political Science. Jared began as a
member of the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief’s North America Desk, but
shortly thereafter shifted towards the Europe Desk. After researching
and analyzing French military operations in Africa for two semesters,
Jared was elected to head the CIB Africa desk and serve in the
organization’s Executive Teams as a Logistical Officer. Additionally, he is
the Vice President of Women in Intelligence and National Security (WINS).
Jared has also served as a member of Coastal Law Enforcement Analysis
Reach group (CLEAR), an organization of background-cleared students
who provide analytical products to the Myrtle Beach Police Department
and Emergency Medical Services.
CONRAD VAHE KODJANIAN, from Germantown, Maryland, is a recent
graduate from Coastal Carolina University, where he majored in Intelligence
and National Security Studies and minored in International Business. He
is served as a member of the Asia Desk of the Chanticleer Intelligence
Brief, having joined the organization in the spring of 2020 and risen to
the rank of Senior Analyst in the fall of 2020. In May 2021, Conrad was
presented with the CIB’s Best Intelligence Essay award, for his work in
assessing the launch status of the Digital Yuan. He has also been presented
with the CIB’s Regional Expert award for the Special Topics desk, and
the Intelligence Analysis award for the highest-level oral intelligence
product during a single semester. Conrad’s research interests include
studying how states adopt digital currencies, how blockchain technologies
have been implemented in COVID-19 vaccination passports, the launch
status of the Digital Yuan, and El Salvador’s Bitcoin launch progress. He
is also a member of the Women in Intelligence and National Security
(WINS) and the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE)
at Coastal Carolina University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
ANA MARIA LANKFORD, from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a senior
Intelligence and Security Studies major with a minor in Criminology. She
serves as the Executive Director for the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief,
where her research focuses on the dynamics of the relationship between
United States policy makers and the United States intelligence community.
Before assuming her role as Executive Director, Ana Maria focused heavily
on the CIB’s COVID-19 Intelligence Project. Her research on COVID-19
and intelligence has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers
in Communication. Ana Maria also serves on the executive boards of the
Women in Intelligence and National Security (WINS) organization and
the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) chapter
at Coastal Carolina University.
JACOB VAUGHAN lives in Decatur, Georgia. He is majoring in Intelligence
and Security Studies and minoring in Economics at Coastal Carolina
University. Jacob is a longtime member of the Chanticleer Intelligence
Brief’s Latin America Desk, where he has monitored the politics of Brazil,
with particular focus on the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Jacob’s analysis
has been repeatedly featured in the CIB’s COVID-19 Intelligence Project
and the organization’s Weekly Intelligence Brief. He has also presented
his work in the CIB’s Tactical Analysis Group.
JAKE VIATOR is from Gainesville, Virginia. He is majoring in Intelligence
and Security Studies and minoring in Geographic Information Systems at
Coastal Carolina University. At the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief, Jake heads
the North America Desk and serves as the organization’s Records Officer,
having previously served as its External Relations Officer and as head of
the Middle East Desk. Jake has focused his research on the evolution
and current status of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a primarily Shiite
paramilitary force in Iraq. Jake’s research was also featured on the
fourth episode of the CIB COVID-19 Intelligence Project.
JOSEPH FITSANAKIS, PhD, is Professor of Intelligence and Security Studies
Coastal Carolina University, where he teaches courses on human intelligence,
intelligence communications, national security, intelligence analysis, and
intelligence in the Cold War, among other subjects. Before joining Coastal
Carolina University, Dr. Fitsanakis founded the Security and Intelligence
Studies program at King University, where he also directed the King
Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies. He is a frequent media
commentator, syndicated columnist, and senior editor at intelNews.org,
an ACI-indexed scholarly blog that is cataloged through the United States
Library of Congress.
JOHN NOMIKOS, PhD, is Director at the Research Institute for European
and American Studies (RIEAS), Chairman of the Mediterranean Council
for Intelligence Studies (MCIS), Chairman of the Greek Intelligence Studies
Association (GISA), Chairman of the European Intelligence Academy (EIA), and
Founding Editor of the Journal of Mediterranean and Balkan Intelligence
(JMBI) and the Journal of European and American Intelligence Studies. He
is Assistant Professor at Webster University (Athens Campus) and Visiting
Scholar at the John Naisbitt University in Serbia and the University of Rome
(Tre) in Italy. He was previously Adjunct Professor at the Department of
International Relations at the University of Indianapolis (Athens Campus).