Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 31 March – Sunday 7 April:

On Monday, Israeli warplanes dropped bombs on the Iranian embassy in Syria, killing 7 Revolutionary Guards members. Among the dead is Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, the most elite branch of the organisation dedicated to the destruction of the Iranian regime’s enemies, foreign and domestic. Two other IRGC commanders were killed. Though Israel has for years bombed targets in Syria in its War Between The Wars campaign and since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, it has refrained from striking the Iranian embassy in Damascus. The bombing is a major escalation – at least symbolically.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping which was the first direct conversation between the two leaders since a summit held in November in San Fransico. According to readouts, the two leaders discussed how the two countries can cooperate on artificial intelligence, drugs and climate change. The White House said the 1 hour and 45-minute conversation was “candid and constructive” and Biden is said to have stressed the need for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. He also raised American concerns about China’s economic support for Russia, which helps it enable its war economy. Biden also noted his worries about China’s trade tactics that the White House said harm American workers and emphasized that the US will do what it must to prevent “advanced US technologies from being used to undermine our national security, without unduly limiting trade and investment.” This message seems unlikely to be heard in China, with American actions being taken to prevent domestic manufacturing. Going forward the leaders announced “high-level diplomacy and working-level consultations in the weeks and months ahead.”

On Tuesday, Ukraine claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a drone factory and oil refinery in the Tatarstan region of Russia. The attack caused little damage but was remarkable for the distance from Ukraine – more than 1,300km from the Ukrainian border. 

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will announce an “historic” agreement next week that will “upgrade” the two countries’ security relationship. This means the US-Japan relationship is “entering a fundamentally new phase that will both bring new capabilities to bear … [and] clear responsibilities,” said Campbell. Philippino President Marcos is also in Washington next week and “there will be an unprecedented trilateral engagement between [the] three nations”, Campbell added. Biden’s summit with Kishida and Marcos will be the first for the three countries. Biden will host Kishida for a state visit to the United States on April 10. Campbell warned that Russia has “almost completely reconstituted militarily” with economic support from China and that requires the U.S. military to implement co-production of weapons with its allies. “In the past, we have been … wary of certain kinds of co-production arrangements,” Campbell said. “The circumstances increasingly demand that we work with trusted allies and partners even on the most sophisticated weapons that will increasingly be part of our combined arsenals.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, American and Chinese military representatives met in Hawaii for the first face-to-face military meeting in years. The Military Maritime Consultative Agreement Working Group has resumed after years of cancellations over diplomatic and trade disputes between the two nations – the last meeting was held virtually in December 2021. The meetings have been held since 1998. Eighteen officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army attended, alongside 18 representatives from the U.S. military’s major commands in the Pacific, including officials from US Indo-Pacific Command, US Pacific Fleet, and US Pacific Air Forces. A senior US military official told reporters this week that the talks in Hawaii were “critical to ensuring the safe operation of our military force.” 

On Thursday, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Amir Saeed Iravani, said he would sit down for interviews with U.S. media “after Iran’s response to Israel” – referring to Israel’s killing of an IRGC commander in Syria. U.S. military analysts assess that it is more likely that Iran would strike Israel itself rather than have its proxies attack U.S. troops in the region, including in Iraq and Syria, as they did more than 170 times in the four months after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault against Israel. An Israeli defence official said that Israeli analysts had reached the same conclusion, that Iran itself would attack and not act through Hezbollah, its closest militant ally, which has been engaging in regular exchanges of fire with Israeli forces since the war began. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, ahead of a security cabinet meeting about a potential Iranian attack, said “We will know how to defend ourselves and we will act according to the simple principle of whoever harms us or plans to harm us — we will harm them.”

On Friday, Iranian officials vowed to avenge Israel’s attack at a public funeral held for the dead IRGC members. “Our brave men will punish the Zionist regime,” General Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, told the crowd attending the funeral in Tehran. “We warn that no act by any enemy against our holy system will go unanswered and the art of the Iranian nation is to break the power of empires.” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, delivered a video speech that was broadcast in Iran and Lebanon during the funeral, saying that a response from Iran could come any time and that, “we must be prepared for all eventualities.” U.S. officials in Washington and the Middle East said that they were bracing for possible Iranian retaliatory strikes. U.S. military forces in the region have been placed on heightened alert. Israel has also placed its military on high alert, cancelled leave for combat units, recalled some reservists to air defence units and blocked GPS signals according to Israeli officials. 

On Saturday, the U.K. Office of Maritime Trade Operations reported an attempted Houthi attack on a commercial shipping vessel in the Red Sea, roughly 60 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen. One missile was intercepted by Coalition forces while the other impacted the ocean near the vessel causing no damage. 

On Saturday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reported armed clashes with Azerbaijan in “many parts of the border” and the movement of “dozens of military vehicles.” 

On Sunday, the U.S., Philippines, Japan, and Australia held naval drills in the South China Sea near the Palawan Islands of the Philippines. The exercises were aimed at enhancing interoperability and involved anti-submarine warfare training, communication drills and sailing ships in formation. 

On Sunday, Israeli troops began a withdrawal from the city of Khan Younis to prepare for a new offensive into the southern city of Rafah. Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said hostilities will continue until “we will reach a situation where Hamas does not control the Gaza Strip and where it does not function as a military framework that poses a risk to the citizens of the State of Israel.” 

In the week ahead:

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron is expected to visit the United States next week to persuade Republican politicians to approve a $60bn package of aid for Ukraine that they have delayed in the US Congress for months.

2 thoughts on “The World That Was”
  1. Israel bombed an Embassy. A No Go target.
    Israel drew first blood. What happens now?

    Biden and Jinping meet to discuss climate change. Sickening
    Why cant they meet to discuss No climate change.

    Why does South Africa import oil when it could be self sufficient?

  2. The major powers and their allies seem to be like boxers with their entourages leaving the dressing rooms?
    HKGK for sure?

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