NATO Leaders Need to Trump-proof Their Policies Now | Trucks, Piers, and Parachutes Will Not Solve Gaza's Crisis | The ‘No-Fail’ Mission to Protect the Red Sea Isn’t Working, and more

Trucks, Piers, and Parachutes Will Not Solve Gaza’s Crisis  (Raphael S. Cohen, Foreign Policy / Brookings)
Here is the basic truth: While there are few straightforward problems in the Middle East, there are even fewer straightforward solutions. In this case, if the international community wants to solve the humanitarian problem in Gaza, it will need to go well beyond thinking of the issue strictly in terms of trucks, roads, and floating piers. It will instead need to choose between a series of bad options: offering up some sort of external peacekeeping force, accepting a temporary Israeli reoccupation, or doing nothing at all and letting aid fall into the hands of a variety of nefarious actors.
None of these are particularly appealing outcomes. But in the Middle East, nothing is ever simple.

Mullah Akhundzada’s Misogynistic Threat: A Reflection of the Deeper Crisis  (Naveen Khan, HSToday)
The recently released audio message by the emir of the Afghan Taliban movement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has sent waves of worry across the international community. Notwithstanding efforts by other Taliban leaders to appear more ‘moderate,’ this rare message from the reclusive Kandahar-based supreme leader has brought the undiluted misogyny of the Islamist organization into sharp relief. 
Referring repeatedly to what he deems is the ‘Western democratic conception’ of women’s human rights, Mullah Akhundzada expresses the resolve to act oppositely, by stoning women to death publicly for alleged adultery, as though this were the epitome of creating a ‘pure’ Islamic system. The Mullah makes it clear that such treatment of women is part of his mission of ‘salvaging and liberating the whole of humanity, by practically implementing the Shariah.’ Clearly, for this chief cleric, oppression of women is not just inevitable for implementing what he calls ‘God’s ordinances,’ but also marks the completion of the Taliban’s mission of seizing control of Afghanistan.  
By relying entirely on the highly controversial, unreformed set of Shariah laws which forms the basis of the menace of Political Islam, Mullah Akhundzada brings Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis to life (which has been used by several far-right extremist groups in the West for campaigning against Islam). His problematic understanding of ‘women’s rights in the West as practiced by Satan’s faction’ versus ‘women’s rights in Islam as enforced by God’s party’ is characteristic of the Manichean or binary opposite view that is similarly espoused by Islamophobes. This implies that for a society to be truly ‘Islamic’, women’s rights serve as the yardstick—it is women who must receive the opposite of everything that they are entitled to in Western societies.  
Another point worth noting in the audio recording is the dedication the Taliban’s emir displays toward safeguarding the depressive way of life that he wants for the women of Afghanistan under his baleful shadow. He threatens that for this purpose, his soldiers will practically fight the West for ‘even more than 20 years,’ under the direction of the Deobandi clerics who remain the guiding force behind the Taliban movement. It is pertinent to remember that the puritanical, austere Sunni Deobandi ideology that arose from the north India-based sprawling madrasa in the town of Deoband in the 19th century serves as the foundation for much of South Asian Islamist non-violent and violent extremism. 

An Airstrip Is Being Built on a Yemeni Island Near the Red Sea with ‘I LOVE UAE’ Next to It  (AP / NBC News)
As Yemen’s Houthi rebels continue to target ships in a Mideast waterway, satellite pictures analyzed by The Associated Press show what appears to be a new airstrip being built at an entrance to that crucial maritime route.
No country has publicly claimed the construction taking place on Abd al-Kuri Island, a stretch of land rising out of the Indian Ocean near the mouth of the Gulf of Aden. However, satellite images shot for the AP appear to show workers have spelled out “I LOVE UAE” with piles of dirt next to the runway, using an abbreviation for the United Arab Emirates.
Both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea to which it leads have become a battleground between the Houthis and U.S.-led forces in the region as Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip rages — potentially allowing a nation to project its power into the area.
The construction comes as the presence of troops from the Emirates in the Socotra island chain to which Abd al-Kuri belongs — and that of the separatist force it backs in southern Yemen — have sparked clashes in the past.

How China Ended Up Financing the Houthis’ Red Sea Attacks  (Matthew Karnitsching, Politico)
China is unwittingly helping Iran choke off ship traffic in the Red Sea, impairing global trade flows and damaging Beijing’s own interests in the process, Western intelligence officials say.
China’s illicit purchases of Iranian oil are indirectly financing the recent string of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and have had a chilling effect on shipping. About 15 percent of global trade flows through the corridor that leads from the Gulf Aden through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, linking Asia and Europe.
China buys about 90 percent of Iran’s oil, including crude sold by the Quds Force, the paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is responsible for Tehran’s foreign military operations. Quds Force trains and funds Iran’s terror proxies across the Middle East, for example, including both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The Houthis “are attacking international routes, and the first country hurt by it is China itself,” one of the officials said. “I’m not sure they’re aware they’re cutting off the branch their sitting on.”

Doctors Visiting a Gaza Hospital Are Stunned by the War’s Toll on Palestinian Children  (Wafaa Shurafa and Kareem Chehayeb, AP)
An international team of doctors visiting a hospital in central Gaza was prepared for the worst. But the gruesome impact Israel’s war against Hamas is having on Palestinian children still left them stunned. One toddler died from a brain injury caused by an Israeli strike that fractured his skull. His cousin, an infant, is still fighting for her life with part of her face blown off by the same strike. An unrelated 10-year-old boy screamed out in pain for his parents, not knowing that they were killed in the strike. Beside him was his sister, but he didn’t recognize her because burns covered almost her entire body. These gut-wrenching casualties were described to The Associated Press by Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric intensive-care doctor from Jordan, following a 10-hour overnight shift at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the town of Deir al-Balah. Haj-Hassan, who has extensive experience in Gaza and regularly speaks out about the war’s devastating effects, was part of a team that recently finished a two-week stint there.

The ‘No-Fail’ Mission to Protect the Red Sea Isn’t Working (Bloomberg)
The gray F/A-18 fighter jets hurtled one by one from the deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower into the heat of the Red Sea morning, scrambling to counter the latest attack drone launched by the Houthis. The $56 million aircraft were part of a coalition operation that nullified the attack, returning hours later as they have almost daily for the last several months. Yet for all the costly hardware the US and its allies have thrown at the Islamist group from northwest Yemen, they haven’t been able to stop the attacks on civilian freighters and warships. As a result, the world’s biggest shipping companies are still largely avoiding a route that once carried 15% of global commerce. The success of the Iran-backed rebel group in stymying the world’s most sophisticated militaries is the latest setback for Washington’s efforts to limit the spread of a regional conflict that began with Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7. The Houthi campaign, which claimed its first civilian ship sunk in early March and its first fatalities not long after, is also a growing threat to the global economy. The number of vessels sailing through the southern Red Sea is down about 70% compared with the start of December. Container shipping has dropped about 90% and gas tankers have also all but ceased transit.”