The Intelligence Review | volume 5 | issue 9 |

cibrief

This volume is the product of a transatlantic collaboration between the Chanticleer Intelligence Brief (CIB) and the European Intelligence Academy (EIA), a network of intelligence studies scholars, specialists and students, who are dedicated to promoting collaboration between Europe and the United States in intelligence scholarship and research. As always, the contents of this latest volume of The Intelligence Review are both timely and insightful. Joshua Altman focuses on the relationship between Scandinavia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance. Jacob Vaughan discusses the future of the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Hannah Clegg examines the current state of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. Conrad Kodjanian analyzes the evolution and launch prospects of the Chinese digital Yuan. Jake Viator outlines the threats posed to regional stability by the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia in Iran. Ana Maria Lankford discusses the current state of relations between the White House and the United States Intelligence Community. And Jared Gott provides an update on French counter-terrorism efforts in Africa.

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


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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

11 Kalavryton Street,

Alimos, 17456, Athens, Greece

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Email: rieasinfo@gmail.com

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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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No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any

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(EIA), or expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate

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and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer of this volume.

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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

Joshua Altman

The Future of Jair Bolsonaro’s Presidency in Brazil page 25

Jacob Vaughan

The State of Israeli-Palestinian Relations page 35

Hannah Clegg

The Launch Status of the Chinese Digital Yuan page 45

Conrad Kodjanian

The Threat Posed by the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq page 53

Jake Viator

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

Jared Gott

Biographical Notes on Contributors page 79

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Foreword

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

academic institutions.

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,

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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.

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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

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Introduction

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

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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

of topics.

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

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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

to dispute.

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.

References

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.

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14


Scandinavia’s Significance in the

North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Joshua Altman

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,

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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.

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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.

Current Developments

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

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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

Copenhagen 2020).

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

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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).

Analysis

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

in NATO.

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

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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

significance.

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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.

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Koziol, M. (2019) “Melting Arctic Ice Opens a New Fiber Optic Cable

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24


The Future of the Presidency of Jair

Bolsonaro in Brazil

Jacob Vaughan

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.

25


Background

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

26


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

27


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.

Current Developments

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

(Znojek 2020:1).

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

28


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

29


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).

Analysis

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

30


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).

31


Conclusion

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.

32


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Brazil 2022 Vote, Polls Show” Reuters, 16 September.

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in 2022” The Economist, 13 March.

Anonymous (2021d) “John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center” John

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Proposal” BBC, 11 August.

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Equipment From Huawei Rivals” Reuters, 20 October.

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Amid Pandemic” Reuters, 24 September.

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but for Only One Year” Reuters, 2 September.

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34


The State of Relations Between Israel

and the Palestinians

Hannah Clegg

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

35


borders. Despite the steps taken for improved relations, we can

predict with moderate confidence that tensions will remain asis

for the immediate future.

Background

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

Palestinian territory.

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.

36


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).

Recent Developments

Tensions have been on an upward climb for years, most notably

during the administrations of former Israel Prime Minister

37


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

38


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).

39


Analysis

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

40


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

coalition.

Conclusion

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.

41


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accessed on October 8 2021.

Zunes, S. (2002) “Why the U.S. Supports Israel”, Institute for Policy Studies.

43


44


The Launch Status of the Chinese

Digital Yuan

Conrad Kodjanian

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-

45


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.

Background

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.

46


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.

Current Developments

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

2021a).

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

47


$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).

48


Analysis

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.

49


Conclusion

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.

50


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52


The Threat Posed by the Kata’ib

Hezbollah in Iraq

Jake Viator

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

53


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).

Recent Developments

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

54


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

suspects.

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.

Conceptualizing Muqwama

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.

55


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).

Analysis

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

2021).

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).

56


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.

57


Conclusion

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.

58


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60


The State of Relations Between the

White House and the United States

Intelligence Community

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.

Background

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

61


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

elections.

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.

62


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.

Current Developments

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

63


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).

64


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.

Analysis

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.

65


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.

Conclusion

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

administration.

66


Bibliography

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

/11/09/933105262/trump-terminates-secretary-of-defense-mark-esper.

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/

2021/04/14/987132385/intelligence-chiefs-say-china-russia-are-biggestthreats-to-u-s.

Sprunt, B. (2021) “Joint Chiefs Chairman Calls Afghan War a Strategic

Failure”, The Associated Press 28 September. https://apnews.com/

article/joe-biden-bombings-kabul-taliban-terrorism-d1c939fc224a988dc

6117ae4a70840e6.

White House “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” (2021a) The

White House, Washington, DC, United States. https://www.whitehouse.

gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NSC-1v2.pdf.

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.

67


68


France’s Counterterrorism Efforts

in Africa

Jared Gott

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.

Background

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

69


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.).

70


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.

Current Developments

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).

71


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

72


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).

73


Analysis

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

French departure.

Conclusion

We estimate with high confidence that French counterterrorism

efforts in Africa are not succeeding. Currently, this is due

74


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.

75


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78


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

79


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 cvkodjani@coastal.edu.

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.

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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).

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