Benjamin Netanyahu is Playing with Fire | Countering Chinese Digital Espionage in Routers | Russia Carrying Out Illegal Chemical Attacks on Ukrainian Soldiers, and more

The Messy Battlespace That Would Be a U.S. vs. China War  (James Holmes, National Interest)
It’s a truism that the Pacific is an amphibian theater. Just look at your map and behold! the oceanic region’s majestic vacantness. That being the case, it takes amphibian forces to seize, hold, and defend terrain, chiefly though not exclusively along Asia’s first offshore island chain. Warfare in the Pacific promises to be an all-service, all-domain, and allied endeavor. Waging it will demand the utmost not just from naval forces but from fellow services that operate from dry earth.
No Pacific war will be a strictly naval war.
In fact, armies and air forces are sea services as surely as navies and marines are. So it was during World War II, when legendary U.S. Army general Douglas MacArthur commanded one of the twin offensives island-hopping toward the Philippines and imperial Japan. So it is again. Residents of the Pacific enjoyed a few quiescent decades after the Cold War. Now, though, a domineering China and its crummy little toadies Russia and North Korea have stormed back onto the Asian geopolitical scene. Their power and ambition mark a return to the region’s martial past—including at sea.
That’s where we find ourselves. What to do? Well, holding land features in the Western Pacific is an intrinsic good in itself. The first island chain is made up entirely of U.S. allies, notably Japan and the Philippines, and of quasi-allies such as Taiwan. Holding territory upholds friends’ sovereignty.
Island-chain defense is of the essence on those terms alone.

Into the Breach: Countering Chinese Digital Espionage in Routers  (Joshua Levine, National Interest)
or anyone following the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) actions related to digital technology, the specter that Chinese companies could be leveraged to conduct intelligence activities has been ever-present. National security officials and researchers have highlighted how Chinese laws require domestic firms to assist the CCP in national security or counter-espionage operations, with no limit on what that cooperation can entail. These laws empower the CCP to turn any domestic firm’s product into a trojan horse for its malign operations.
The threat of domestic Chinese technology companies bolstering the CCP’s military and intelligence capabilities has prompted congressional responses on several occasions. The first instance involved Huawei and ZTE, Chinese telecommunications firms with ties to the CCP’s military apparatus, leading to laws preventing the purchase or use of their equipment within U.S. telecommunications networks. Vulnerabilities and potential backdoors into technology used by government agencies, including the Department of Defense, were uncovered in drones manufactured by DJI, a Chinese company, leading to their addition to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List. Similar concerns about cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been raised around ZPMC, a Chinese state-owned crane manufacturer, prompting an investigation into the firm. Most recently, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7521 to mitigate potential security threats posed by TikTok, the popular social media platform owned by Chinese firm ByteDance. Now, another link in the chain that sustains internet connectivity is drawing attention: routers.

Self-kidnappings by Chinese Students Abroad: Mystery Solved  (Magnus Fiskesjö, The Diplomat)
One of the most baffling news items in recent years has been the cases of Chinese students abroad who effectively kidnap themselves for ransom. They leave home, even tie themselves up with ropes, all on the orders of Chinese cyber-criminals – who are not even there with them
They may be asked to put bags on their heads, or to cry on camera. They are invariably made to take kidnapping selfie pictures or videos of their suffering. The criminals then use these to blackmail their parents into depositing ransom money to bank accounts in China. 
Occasionally, the criminals mix in threats of pending arrest, or extradition back to China, as would-be punishment for alleged fraud or other crime said to have been committed by the students or their families. Invariably, the victims are told to cut off all contact with their family and the outside world, and to perform for the camera. Sometimes this is framed as necessary to help the consulate or the police with their “investigations.” There is no logic – except that of perceived power.  
During the last few years, a long series of incidents along these lines have involved Chinese students in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States – all destinations where Chinese parents with a lot of money send their children to study. 
It’s easy to see that this creates an opportunity for criminal fraudsters. The basic scheme of the student kidnappings forms part of a wider array of phone scams, and the peculiar niche of student scams seem to have perpetrators moving from country to country, perhaps as media attention disrupts their chances of success.
But why do all these Chinese students allow themselves to be kidnapped by telephone, and even go on to stage the crime themselves? How should we understand this phenomenon?

What Chinese Navy Planners Are Learning from Ukraine’s Use of Unmanned Surface Vessels  (Lyle Goldstein and Nathan Waechter, The Diplomat)
The continued success of Ukrainian unmanned surface vessel (USV) attacks on Russian naval facilities and warships has kept USVs in the defense analytical spotlight and naval analysts around the world, particularly those in China, are taking note.

Faced with ongoing attacks on its Black Sea Fleet stationed in Crimea, Russia has moved its fleet further away from Ukrainian missiles and USVs. Britain’s Defense Minister Grant Shapps remarked that, “Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea is now challenged.” 
A January 2024 article in the Chinese defense periodical Naval and Merchant Ships, written by three analysts of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), entitled “How to Defend Harbors Against USVs?” focused on the emergent potential of USVs, noting that “the large-scale application of various types of USVs is already a new threat to modern naval warfare. USVs will bring new challenges to the development of traditional military ideas, theories of war, modes of combat, military organizational structures, weapons, and equipment.” 
The PLAN analysts first identify five advantages that USVs have in combat: effective concealment, low cost to manufacture and use, strong destructive ability, intelligent modes of control, and their potential to operate autonomously. Moreover, through modular construction and the addition of different weapons systems, they incorporate “diversified attack modes.” We compiled a similar list of USV characteristics that had been identified by Chinese naval analysts in a spring 2023 article. When it comes to their destructive ability, the Chinese authors note that, “USVs are more dangerous than air strikes; compared with missiles, USV warheads have greater explosive power.” Furthermore, their low manufacturing cost allows them to be made and deployed at scale which means that USVs can, “harness wolf groups tactics to achieve greater destructive power.” 
The assessment next identifies the challenges of defending port infrastructure and ships in harbor against USV attacks. The PLAN analysts identify three port security challenges. First, they write bluntly that “the targets are obvious,” meaning the naval infrastructure such as buildings, docks, and the ships at anchor are easy to identify and target. Second, there is a “high degree of information transparency.” This refers to the perceived inability to easily camouflage large ports and the ease at which contemporary surveillance technology can detect targets in port. Third, there is “a high probability of causing damage” to these targets. 
To defend against USV threats to ports, the PLAN analysts recommend establishing “a multi-domain three-dimensional defense system of ‘sensing, defending, and attacking.’” For the first task of sensing, the PLAN analysts note that “USV’s are susceptible to interference and detection, especially when it comes to their communication and navigation links. Active and passive methods can be used.” On coastal defense, the authors recommend “creating a modern defense system that moves from being just a point defense to a three-dimensional perimeter and surface defense.” The information flows for this defense should be coordinated across a range of actors including: “local governments, public security, and maritime affairs,” among others. As part of this defensive system, the authors stress the importance of floating defensive barriers, like those used by the U.S., Russia, Singapore, and other countries around the world to protect naval bases, ports and other infrastructure. The article includes product images seemingly copied from the U.S. Navy’s primary port security barrier contractor website

The Khan Review Proves Britain Has a Blasphemy Problem  (Liam Duffy, Unherd)
Thanks to the newly published Khan review, we now have the clearest picture to date of what actually happened in Batley in March 2021, when a schoolteacher was forced into hiding after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The review clearly lays out the personal impact that the saga had on this innocent man, something which was sorely lacking in investigations and reviews at the time, as well as in the statements of key local leaders — which focused almost entirely on the supposed offence caused. This is symptomatic of the guiding principles and priorities of too many institutions, which privilege “local dynamics” and “community relations” at the expense of the overall health of British democracy. Usually, attempting to “sooth community tensions” just means cowing to the loudest voices of self-appointed community leaders. It also means that, elsewhere, religious institutions with clear extremist tendencies continue to receive funding and photo ops with local politicians, because maintaining the relationship with that institution and its proclaimed access to the nebulous “community” is more important than anything else.

Russia Carrying Out Illegal Chemical Attacks on Ukrainian Soldiers  (James Rushton, The Telegraph)
Russian troops are carrying out a systematic campaign of illegal chemical attacks against Ukrainian soldiers, according to a Telegraph investigation.
The Telegraph spoke to a number of Ukrainian soldiers deployed in positions across the front line who detailed how their positions have been coming under near daily attacks from small drones, mainly dropping tear gas but also other chemicals.
The use of such gas, which is known as CS and commonly used by riot police, is banned during wartime under the Chemical Weapons Convention.