Israel Is Losing Its Greatest Asset: Acceptance | Reviving a Critical Minerals Mega-Railway Through Africa | Russia Prepared for Nuclear Attack on China, and more

Israel Is Losing Its Greatest Asset: Acceptance  (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times)
I am seeing the increasingly rapid erosion of Israel’s standing among friendly nations — a level of acceptance and legitimacy that was painstakingly built up over decades. And if Biden is not careful, America’s global standing will plummet right along with Israel’s.
I don’t think Israelis or the Biden administration fully appreciate the rage that is bubbling up around the world, fueled by social media and TV footage, over the deaths of so many thousands of Palestinian civilians, particularly children, with U.S.-supplied weapons in Israel’s war in Gaza. Hamas has much to answer for in triggering this human tragedy, but Israel and the U.S. are seen as driving events now and getting most of the blame.
That such anger is boiling over in the Arab world is obvious, but I heard it over and over again in conversations in India during the past week — from friends, business leaders, an official and journalists both young and old.
That many civilian deaths in a relatively short war would be problematic in any context. But when so many civilians die in a retaliatory invasion that was launched by an Israeli government without any political horizon for the morning after — and then, when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally offers a morning-after plan that essentially says to the world that Israel now intends to occupy both the West Bank and Gaza indefinitely — it is no surprise that Israel’s friends will edge away and the Biden team will start to look hapless.

Russia Prepared for Nuclear Attack on China, Leaked Papers Reveal  (Tom Ball, The Times)
Russia has drawn up plans for the use of tactical nuclear weapons during the early stages of a conflict with a big power as part of a strategy of “fear inducement”, leaked military files reveal.
The documents describe hypothetical scenarios in which Russia would respond with nuclear strikes in the event of an invasion by adversaries including China, one of Moscow’s closest allies.
They also outline potential conditions for the use of these weapons in order to achieve an array of more offensive goals such as “containing states from using aggression … or escalating military conflicts”, “stopping aggression”, preventing Russian forces from losing battles or territory, and making Russia’s navy “more effective”.

CIA Builds 12 Secret Spy Bases in Ukraine Along Russian Border  (Harriet Barber, The Telegraph)
The CIA has built 12 “secret spy bases” along the Russian border in Ukraine that act as the “nerve center” of Kyiv’s military, an investigation has revealed.
Over eight years, the US agency has trained and equipped Kyiv’s intelligence officers in underground bunkers, some of which are buried deep in Ukraine’s forests. They have also fully financed and partially equipped them, according to the New York Times.
Russian spy satellites are tracked by Ukrainians in the bunkers who eavesdrop on communications between Russian commanders and report back to the CIA, the report said.
The intelligence partnership began a decade ago after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The Ukrainians collected intercepts that helped prove Russia’s involvement in the 2014 downing of a commercial jetliner, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. They also helped to pursue Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 US election.

Washington Wants to Revive a Critical Minerals Mega-Railway Through Africa  (Christina Lu, Foreign Policy)
As geopolitical tensions electrify the global scramble for critical minerals—the raw materials that underpin advanced defense systems and clean energy technologies—the United States and China have been racing to expand their influence over the mineral market in Africa. 
The world’s F-35 fighter jets, electric vehicle (EV) batteries, and wind turbines all rely on critical minerals, including rare earths, cobalt, and lithium—many of which are found in Africa. But the problem for U.S. policymakers is that China overwhelmingly dominates the global refining and processing of these materials. Beijing has also spent more than a decade deepening ties and inking infrastructure deals with African partners, giving it a major leg up in the global rush for the resources. 
Worried about strategic vulnerabilities, Washington is now ramping up efforts to carve out a stake in the critical minerals sector. In one of the most ambitious U.S. infrastructure bids in Africa yet, the Biden administration has pledged to lend hundreds of millions of dollars toward reviving the Lobito Corridor, a 1,200 mile-long railway that would transport critical minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to the Angolan coast. The DRC is home to the world’s biggest cobalt reserves, while Zambia is rich in copper.