Is China Capable of Attacking Taiwan? | Hamas’ South African Support Network | Netherlands Narco-Terror: Is the Nation at a Tipping Point?, and more

Judges who handed life sentences to the Dutch-Moroccan cocaine smuggler Ridouan Taghi and two of his chief henchmen ruled that their “well-oiled murder machine” was responsible for five “liquidations”, two attempted murders and preparations for many more killings, starting on September 9, 2015, when they murdered Ronald Bakker, who worked in a provincial spy gear shop.
Now, as the dust settles on the Marengo verdicts, the Dutch are asking if the trial consigned the danger of societal breakdown to history, like Napoleon’s horse, or whether it marked the start of a deadly new criminal campaign of conquest inside their country.
“It’s a very significant trial,” said Robby Roks, associate professor of criminology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. “It changed the way we in the Netherlands look at organized crime, but it also changes the way other countries are looking at the Netherlands.”

Israeli Security Minister Barred After Sensitive Information Leaks  (Melanie Swan, The Telegraph)
Israel’s hardline security minister has been barred from intelligence briefings after a series of leaks of sensitive documents.
Itamar Ben-Gvir is accused of breaching the very security guidelines he is appointed to protect and is facing a boycott by the country’s National Security Council.
Since the Gaza war broke out in October, the Right-wing minister under Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-Right coalition, has been increasingly sidelined.
Last month, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence chiefs joined the National Security Council in refusing to meet with him any more after relations between the two sides became irreparable following clashes in weekly security meetings.
The boycott by Israel’s two top domestic security agencies leaves Ben-Gvir, once convicted himself on terror charges, in the dark on key matters of intelligence.

China Dominates the West in EV Market  (Philip Pilkington, Unherd)
Over the weekend Mathias Miedreich, chief executive of the battery-maker Umicore, told the Financial Times that Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) are beating out their American counterparts in the market. “They are just good cars and people buy them,” he told the paper. “American producers seem to struggle to bring good electric vehicles to the market.”
The statistics show that Miedreich is not exaggerating. EV sales in China rose 36% to 7.7 million in 2023, up from 5.7 million in 2022, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association in the FT. Chinese-made cars make up a full third of the total passenger vehicles sold in China. The American market is nowhere near as large, clocking in at only 1.5 million in 2023. The relative size of the markets provides some explanation as to why the Chinese models are now in higher demand.
Last week, Joe Biden stated that Chinese smart cars are a threat to national security. The American President stated that the cars are connected to the internet “like smartphones on wheels”, and that they could be used to collect sensitive information on American citizens. But China already has a large presence in the American smartphone market, and the Chinese dominate the market for laptops, with over 80% of laptops bought in the United States being Chinese-made. So why would the country not just spy on people through their laptops and smartphones instead?
This speaks more generally to the American-led strategy of so-called “derisking”. The US government is telling both its citizens and its allies that it needs to wean itself off Chinese products that are a threat to national security. But as the EV example shows, the case can be made that basically any product that can be connected to the internet is a potential threat. It is very hard not to think that the United States is simply falling behind in its capacity to lead the world in new technology and is using national security as a pretence to convince American citizens and other countries to buy their inferior products.

Is China Capable of Attacking Taiwan?  (Aaron Sarin, Persuasion)
Many commentators, myself included, have warned of the PLA’s military prowess. It turns out that appearances may have been deceptive. Recent U.S. intelligence revealed that a quantity of China’s formidable-looking nuclear missiles are actually filled with water. Doubtless the money for fuel had disappeared into pockets, based on widespread assumptions within the military that China will never really go to war and that no serious missile inspection would ever be carried out. An ex-officer, who fled to the United States in 2016, described the common practice whereby army personnel would take home chunks of missile fuel for use with their evening meals—it was particularly useful for keeping hotpots on constant boil. Comical details like these provide a rare glimpse of the PLA from the inside. They show a military culture thoroughly rotten and hollowed out by graft.
Perhaps, in its current state, the PLA is incapable of anything so ambitious as conquest. Xi’s recent purging of fifteen senior military figures may well have been a frantic response to the discovery of this chronic corruption. While Beijing has given an official reason for the removals, they come amidst reports of widespread graft investigations. If that is the case, then a rehaul of the PLA will now be underway, and Xi’s plan for invasion may well be significantly delayed.
The danger has not passed. During my private conversations with Chinese mainlanders over the years, I was told more than once—by individuals who claimed high-ranking Party connections—that the Taiwanese issue was Xi’s real reason for abolishing term limits in 2018. Historian Niall Ferguson heard the same thing from one of the president’s economic advisers. “Reunification” is of immense personal importance to Xi: it is the goal around which he intends to build his legacy. It’s an ambition that requires time and preparation, and the traditional ten-year tenure as President of the PRC and General Secretary of the CCP was simply insufficient. So he extended it. Xi’s mind was made up long ago: he will invade as soon as he can be sure of success.

Why North Korea Survives  (Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Persuasion)
North Korea’s recent jettisoning of reunification with South Korea as a national goal has raised much speculation about Pyongyang’s goals and strategy. Relatively overlooked in recent debates over whether the Kim regime might be preparing for war with South Korea—more than it is usually, anyway—is the simple but surprising fact of North Korea’s continued survival. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is among a handful of regimes that survived not only the collapse of communism in the 1990s but successive waves of democratization since.

The keys to North Korea’s survival are multifold, as the Kim family cannot continue to rule unless it succeeds in managing multiple threats to regime survival simultaneously. And understanding how North Korea has survived as long as it has should help to shape the policy of the United States and its allies. Here are some of the techniques that have been particularly prominent (and, from the perspective of survival, effective) in the first decade of Kim Jong Un’s rule: Coup-proof the regime; Blend market mechanisms with political control; Target propaganda strategically; Manage the diaspora; Have nuclear weapons.

In the Name of God, Lead  (Robert Hutton, The Critic)
We are told that Lee Anderson’s words about Sadiq Khan are unacceptable and wrong, so unacceptable and wrong that Anderson can no longer sit as a Conservative MP. This is a decision not without cost to Sunak: there are plenty of Tory members who like Anderson more than they like him. But Sunak refuses to explain what it is about Anderson’s words that was unacceptable and wrong.
This is a problem because, while the prime minister knows what was unacceptable and wrong about them – he did, after all, suspend Anderson fairly swiftly – there are plenty of Conservatives who don’t. Anderson, for instance, seems baffled by the whole thing. As each fresh minister appears before an interviewer and refuses to explain why describing a Muslim politician as operating under the control of extremists is problematic, the listener is left wondering whether they don’t actually know.
But it’s a politician’s job to argue for their position. If Sunak believes Anderson’s words – the equivalent of saying that a Jewish politician was secretly controlled by Israel – were racist, that they carried an implication that Muslims don’t quite belong in Britain, he should say so clearly. Decent Conservatives would back him. Those currently exploiting the ambiguity of his position, including Anderson, would be forced to pick a side.

Hamas’ South African Support Network  (David May, National Interest)
South Africa does not just carry water for Hamas by attacking Israel in international forums. It has also allowed Hamas to turn South Africa into a base for fundraising, where an extensive network of front organizations builds support for terrorism. Washington has stepped up its efforts to impose sanctions on Hamas’s foreign enablers, but its South African support network has escaped the consequences so far.
At the center of Hamas’s South African web of support is the Muslim cleric Ebrahim Gabriels, also known as Ibrahim Jibril. Gabriels, a leader within the South African Muslim community, has founded, directed, and currently directs several Muslim organizations tied to Hamas. These include the South African branches of the Al-Quds International Foundation (AQIF), the Al-Aqsa Foundation (AAF), and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).
The Al-Quds Foundation (AQF) is the South African branch of the AQIF, which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in 2012 and features several senior Hamas leaders on its board. Gabriels spoke at the South African AQF’s opening ceremony in 2006 and serves as its president.
For their support of Hamas, the Treasury has also sanctioned the Al-Aqsa Foundation and its South African branch, an institution for which Gabriels has served as the chairman of the board. Two banks in South Africa froze the foundation’s accounts in 2013 because of AAF’s sanctions designation.