People’s Liberation Army: Army Campaign Doctrine in Transition (Kevin McCauley) (January 2023)

(Click image to download brief.)


  • The PLA develops generic offensive, defensive, and special conditions campaign models
    to support planning and training for operational scenarios it believes are relevant to
    potential conflicts. These generic campaigns provide planning factors, force organization,
    and operational methods for combat.

  • The choice of campaigns reveals that Taiwan and Indian conflict scenarios are the key
    scenarios for which the PLA is planning and training.

  • Some of the campaigns do not appear to represent operational situations the PLA is likely
    to face in the near to mid-term.

  • PLA doctrinal change is evolutionary, and in the past slow. The available PLA sources on
    Army doctrine appear to show incremental change to date due to developing technologies
    such as artificial intelligence or research on operational methods exhibited in recent foreign
    conflicts such as the United States military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marawi Reflections Reveal Urban Warfare Challenges for Philippine Army

Boming on Marawi City.

Boming on Marawi City.

“Marawi showed all potential enemies the advantages of urban warfare [for insurgents].”

The Filipino publication recently published the excerpted article featuring portions from a book by Filipino author Gail Ilagan about the 2017 occupation of Marawi, Mindanao by up to 2,000 militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS) and the military’s recapture of the city. The article recounts details of the occupation, noting that the trigger of the occupation was the Philippine army’s attempt to capture the militants’ leader, Isnon Hapilon. Unbeknownst to the army, the militants had already established sleeper cells in Marawi that they activated once the operation to capture Hapilon began, including attacking a prison to release group members, bombing a church, and sending fighters to control university campuses.[i]

The article points to missteps by the army, including interpreting the militants to be local fighters when, in fact, they not only had inspiration from IS, but also had invited foreign IS supporters to Mindanao and employed IS tactics. In addition, Philippine security forces overlooked earlier bombings at night markets near universities and occupations of smaller towns in Mindanao, which had displaced residents and should have been seen as a harbinger of the future occupation of the much larger city of Marawi. Ultimately, the article claims the military’s unpreparedness resulted in more soldiers’ lives lost than necessary. Military equipment, such as tanks, were unsuitable for maneuvering Marawi’s narrow alleyways, while the insurgents’ hijacking of fire trucks and other public vehicles made it difficult for soldiers to identify their adversaries in the urban combat environment. However, the article concludes that hard lessons were learned from the siege of Marawi that make a similar insurgent takeover unlikely in the near term.[ii] The military has changed its organizational structure, acquired new equipment, and improved training methods to prepare for urban warfare.


“Local Frontlines of Globalized Islamic States Network: The Emerging War Arena for the Filipino Soldier,” (regional newspapers focusing on Mindanao), 16 October 2022.

Violent extremists are rare among Muslim Filipinos. However, it does not take a lot of them to cause a scale of destruction such as was seen in the aftermath of the 2017 Marawi Siege.

Among its choices, the region of Mindanao seemed to be most appealing [to ISIS] because of its porous maritime boundaries and the safe haven that local extremist groups could provide. One such local extremist group was the Basilan-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that had pledged allegiance to ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in June 2014. In 2016, al-Baghdadi accepted the Abu Sayyaf’s pledge and appointed ASG commander Isnilon Hapilon as the ISIS’ emir in Southeast Asia. Hapilon and his soldiers traveled soon after to Marawi where they were embraced by the Maute Group, as well as other local terrorist groups that shared the ISIS’ aspiration.

The Marawi Crisis was ignited in the early afternoon of 23 May 2017 when security forces tried to arrest Hapilon in Barangay Basak Malutlut in Marawi City. It was two days before the Muslim holiday of Eid’l Fitr. Intelligence sources would later reveal that the ISIS-inspired groups intended to mark Eid’l Fitr by taking over the only Islamic city in the Philippines and declaring it ISIS territory. At the time when the security team was sent to Marawi with the warrant of arrest, they were unaware that Hapilon’s forces were positioned in the adjoining buildings, ready to defend their leader. The arresting team immediately came under heavy fire as soon as they entered the narrow street where Hapilon’s quarters were located.

It would take five long months for the government to neutralize the extremists and rid Marawi of them.


[i] In mid-2014, the longtime Abu Sayyaf commander Isnon Hapilon and around a dozen other militants released a video pledging allegiance to IS leader Umar al-Baghdadi. Hapilon noted in the video that these militants and other factions had made pledges separately but were now coming together, which signaled the unification of Abu Sayyaf factions and set the stage for the group’s eventual attack on Marawi under the leadership of the Maute Brothers and Hapilon, all of whom were killed during the battle. See: Jacob Zenn, “The Islamic State’s Provinces on the Peripheries: Juxtaposing the Pledges from Boko Haram in Nigeria and Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group in the Philippines.” Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 13, no. 1, 2019, pp. 87–104.

[ii] The restoration of critical infrastructure in Marawi and the return of the city’s inhabitants to their original homes, which were destroyed during the battle in 2017, has been slow. This has also raised concerns that grievances of the local population regarding their treatment in post-conflict Marawi could result in their supporting antigovernment militant groups in the future or their remaining alienated from the government, which was one of the reasons why Abu Sayyaf was initially able to gain some traction from among the youths in Marawi. See: Jacob Zenn, “Marawi Rehabilitation Progress Slows in the Philippines,” OE Watch, July 2018. 

Image Information:

Image: Boming on Marawi City.
Source: Mark Jhomel
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

South Africa Spotlighted for Links to Funding Islamic State in Africa

Flag of the Islamic State.

Flag of the Islamic State.

The impression created by recent events is that Washington rather than Pretoria is steering counter-terrorism operations in South Africa.”

South African reactions to the newest round of U.S. counterterrorism sanctions on its citizens underscore systemic policing challenges in the field of counterterrorism. In November 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned four South Africans and eight South African businesses for offering material support to the Islamic State (IS),[i] namely, its newest branches in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.[ii] This follows similar sanctions of four South Africans, also listed for supporting the IS, in March 2022.[iii] Commentaries from two noted South African geopolitical commentators shed light on how South Africans understand the degree of threat that the IS poses to their country and just why it has become a target for U.S. sanctions.

In the first of the two excerpted articles from the noted centrist pan-African think tank The Institute for Security Studies, South African foreign policy analyst Peter Fabricius questions whether the threat of IS in South Africa is overblown. On the one hand, since the warnings of IS within South Africa are coming from external entities—namely the United States—some citizens perceive the threat as minimal and sanctions as simply being an extension of Western “obsession” with terrorism. On the other, he notes that there may well be an air of legitimacy to such sanctions, given that assessments by international monitoring entities have underscored South Africa’s lackluster counterthreat finance efforts.

In the excerpted article from The Conversation Africa, noted South Africa terrorism scholar Hussein Solomon articulates his lack of surprise that South Africa has emerged as a relative hotspot for terrorism threat financing. At the source of its institutional insufficiency in counterthreat financing, Solomon notes South African “corruption, general lawlessness, and a security apparatus focused on party factional battles.” Long regarded as a bastion of security in a continent recently beset by terrorism, cracks are beginning to show in South Africa as well.


Peter Fabricius, “Are red flags about the Islamic State in South Africa alarmist?” Institute for Security Studies (centrist pan-African think tank), 11 November 2022.

Alarm bells about the threat of terrorism in South Africa have recently been sounding more stridently and more often. Are these false alarms or is the danger growing?

This question is complicated by the fact that the warnings are largely from foreigners, especially the United States (US). To many, this indicates alarmism or even outside interference. To others, panic buttons are being pressed because South Africa’s law enforcement, intelligence and prosecution services aren’t doing their jobs well enough.

South Africa’s failure to deal effectively with IS and terrorist financing has a host of causes. These include problems in the intelligence, detection and prosecution services still recovering from the ravages of state capture during Jacob Zuma’s presidency…These issues are aggravated by political factors such as an ideological disposition to underestimate the terror threat and see it as an obsession of the West….

The impression created by recent events is that Washington rather than Pretoria is steering counter-terrorism operations in South Africa. That obviously can’t be good.

Hussein Solomon, “South Africa Provides Fertile Ground for Funders of Terrorism. Here’s Why,” The Conversation Africa (centrist pan-African editorial site), 10 November 2022.

There is a long history of concerns about [South Africa’s] deficiencies in dealing with terrorism financing activities within its borders…

The latest US action comes as South Africa is rushing to avert “greylisting”: being placed on the list of countries subject to increased monitoring by the Financial Action Task Force. The inter-governmental task force has identified deficiencies in the country’s policies and efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing…

In its last evaluation, published in October 2021, the task force said South Africa had a strong legal framework against money laundering and terrorism financing. But its implementation had significant shortcomings, including a failure to prosecute criminal cases….

Since 2007, the South African government has not done much to ensure that the country does not become a terrorist haven. Corruption, general lawlessness, and a security apparatus focused on party factional battles all account for why terrorist financiers thrive in the country.


[i] For the official statement from the November 2022 sanctions, see: “Treasury Designates Members of ISIS Cell in South Africa,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 7 November 2022.

[ii] For an extensive overview of the emergence and evolution of the Islamic State in Africa, see: Jason Warner et al., The Islamic State in Africa: Emergence, Evolution, and Future of the Next Jihadist Battlefront, (Hurst/Oxford University Press), 2022.

[iii] For the official statement from the November 2022 sanctions, see: “Treasury Sanctions South Africa-based ISIS Organizers and Financial Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1 March 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Flag of the Islamic State. 
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0.

Colombia’s Congress Authorizes “Total Peace” Negotiation With Guerrilla and Criminal Groups 

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the Peace Accords with the FARC in 2016.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the Peace Accords with the FARC in 2016.

“The law…empowers the president to initiate peace negotiations with groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who rejected a 2016 agreement and returned to the armed struggle, and another group that never signed the pact.”

Colombia’s new president, Gustavo Petro, came to power promising to negotiate a peace deal with the country’s notorious guerrilla groups and sundry criminal organizations. As with the 2016 Peace Accords, which ended the decades-long conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Petro’s plan for what he calls “Total Peace” has become controversial. Broadly speaking, Petro plans to offer a blanket immunity in exchange for the demobilization of guerrilla groups, the disarming of criminal organizations, and the cessation of drug trafficking.[i] In the first excerpted article from CNN en Español, the Spanish-language affiliate of the popular U.S. outlet, the authors report that Colombia’s Congress approved enabling legislation permitting Petro to embark on peace negotiations with nearly all armed groups in the country. The article also notes that the legislation would set aside money to ensure development investment in demobilized areas. The second article, from Colombia’s generally left-leaning El Espectador, notes that rather than experiencing a decline, violence has instead surged under Petro, confounding the expectations of peace negotiations.

Petro’s plans for “Total Peace” will face increasing challenges as negotiations take off in earnest. First, the Colombian government’s dialogue with leaders of the Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) is a gamble. It is unclear how much control the leadership, exiled in Cuba for years, still has over the guerrillas operating in Colombia’s borderland area with Venezuela. During previous negotiations with the FARC, the Colombian government quickly realized the autonomy that some FARC groups had from its central leadership structure, meaning an inability to impose the terms of agreement on individual groups. Second, the Colombian government may find it difficult to commit to concessions and simultaneously entice guerrilla groups to lay down their arms. During previous negotiations with the FARC, vacuums created by the demobilized guerrillas quickly were filled by other criminal groups, suggesting at least some Colombian criminal organizations will not commit to this latest peace process so they can take advantage of the lack of law enforcement pressure to increase territory and revenues from illicit economies.


“Congreso de Colombia aprueba ley para negociar la paz con grupos armados como el ELN, facciones de las FARC y otros (Colombian Congress approves law to negotiate peace with armed groups such as the ELN, FARC factions and others),” CNN en Español (the Spanish-language affiliate of the popular U.S. outlet), 27 October 2022.   

The law approved by the plenary session of the House of Representatives and previously by that of the Senate, empowers the president to initiate peace negotiations with groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who rejected a 2016 agreement and returned to the armed struggle, and another group that never signed the pact.

The legislation also authorizes the president to initiate dialogues with criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining such as the Clan del Golfo, whose leaders and members may receive benefits such as reduced sentences and non-extradition in exchange for the disclosure of routes to export cocaine and the delivery part of the fortunes obtained illegally.

“Violencia contra población civil: uno de los desafíos para alcanzar la Paz total (Violence against the civilian population: one of the challenges to achieve Total Peace),” El Espectador (Colombia’s oldest daily that generally leans left), 15 November 2022.

During the first 100 days of the current government, the highest peak of massacres of the year occurred.  The number of victims of acts of massacre and forced displacement in the country also increased.  The number of cases and victims of forced confinement…increased and was concentrated in three departments, specifically in territories inhabited by indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations.


[i] For greater context into Petro’s campaign promise and the outlines of his negotiation strategy, see: Ryan C. Berg, “Colombia’s Leftist President Seeks to Resume Negotiations with National Liberation Army,” OE Watch, Issue 9, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the Peace Accords with the FARC in 2016.
Attribution: Wikimedia, CC-BY-2.0

Iran Claim of Hypersonic Missile Capability Probably Exaggerated

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed Iran had successfully developed a hypersonic ballistic missile.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed Iran had successfully developed a hypersonic ballistic missile.

“The missile… represents a generational leap.”

The Iranian government takes great pride in its domestic military industry, particularly a robust drone fleet and ballistic missile capability courtesy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Indeed, many Iranian politicians argue that heavy investment in indigenous industry is a silver lining to international sanctions applied to Iran. However, Iranian leaders are also prone to exaggeration, which appears to be the case in the following article excerpted from Tasnim News, an outlet close to Iran’s security services. In the article, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, announced that Iran had developed hypersonic missiles capable of evading and destroying enemy air defense systems. He provided no detail and offered no ability for the Iranian press to photograph the alleged platform.

That said, such Iranian statements, even when seemingly exaggerated, often signal the direction of ongoing Iranian research. As Russia and China develop such capabilities, it is natural for Iran to try to follow suit given their diplomatic and military ties. While Iranian scientists and engineers probably cannot yet develop such systems, Iran would be likely to achieve the capability more quickly should either Moscow or Beijing assist. Hajizadeh’s statement may prove to be a potential starting point for a new Middle Eastern arms race given Iran’s willingness to directly, or indirectly by proxy, attack targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with drones or cruise missiles.


“Hajizadeh: Iran Mushak-e Ballistik-e Hipersonik Sokht (Hajizadeh: Iran Builds a Hypersonic Ballistic Missile),” Tasnim News (media outlet with close ties to Iranian security apparatus), 10 November 2022.

General Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force, told reporters this morning about the construction of an advanced hypersonic ballistic missile is capable of passing through advanced air defense systems to target them. He added, “The missile has a high speed and can maneuver in the atmosphere and out of the atmosphere. This new missile passes through all missile shield systems, and I don’t think there will be any technology to counter it for several decades,” Hajizadeh said. The missile targets enemy anti-missile systems and represents a generational leap in the missile field.

Image Information:

Image: Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed Iran had successfully developed a hypersonic ballistic missile.
Source: Tasnim News
Attribution: Public Domain

Iran Asks Tajikistan Not To Use Iranian Drones in Dispute With Kyrgyzstan

The Ababil-2 drone which the Islamic Republic of Iran exported to Tajikistan

The Ababil-2 drone which the Islamic Republic of Iran exported to Tajikistan.

“The drones should not be used in conflicts between the two countries…”

In September 2022, fighting erupted along the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border for the fifth in less than a year between the two Central Asian states. Several dozen soldiers and civilians were killed on each side. While both states have pulled forces from the un-demarcated border, tensions remain high and neither state is prepared to renounce its claims.

The excerpted article from popular, reform-leaning Iranian news source, highlights another angle to the conflict—Iranian drones. Iran has long sought to cultivate allies across Central Asia, a region with which Iran has traditionally had deep ties. In recent months, this has paid dividends with Kyrgyzstan, who voted in favor if Iran joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. However, the good relationship between Kyrgyzstan and Iran could be under pressure given Bishkek’s accusations, according to the article, that Tajikistan has used Iranian Ababil-2 drones along the disputed border. In an October 2022 statement released via Telegram, Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security said there were at least 10 instances of Tajik drones violating its airspace along the border since in recent weeks. Tajikistan, meanwhile, has accused Kyrgyzstan of using Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drones against Tajik forces and civilian targets.

Iran has become a drone-exporting power in recent years. and is unique compared to other drone exporters—principally Israel, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates—in that it allows client countries to manufacture its drones under license. Such outsourcing affords Iran a modicum of plausible deniability in case there is blowback regarding their use by Iranian proxies or others. In this case, however, the use of drones by one Iranian ally against another country to which Iran seeks close ties has escalated into a diplomatic headache. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the Iranian Army Chief of Staff, sought to allay Kyrgyzistani concerns by saying the Ababil-2 was merely a surveillance drone, and it is unclear whether the drone might have broader functions, such as suicide operations. Forfeiting operational control might have once been an attractive tactic for Iran, but client autonomy can have a cost when its target holds Iran, rather than the client, accountable for the use of Iranian drones.


“Sarlashkar Bagheri: Pehpadha-ye Ababil-2-e Iran dar Dargiri Morzi Tajikistan va Qirqizstan Istifadeh Namishavad (Major General Bagheri: Iranian Ababil-2 Drones are not Used in Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan Border Dispute),” (popular reform-leaning Iranian website), 8 November 2022.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces, spoke by phone with Kyrgyz Defense Minister Gen. Baktybek Bekbolotov about important issues in the region…. The Chairman of the General Staff of the Armed Forces said, “Given the border disputes and conflicts between Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in September [2022], the Islamic Republic of Iran has always stated its readiness for any assistance in order to resolve peacefully and prevent any conflict. Referring to the issue of sending Iranian drones to Tajikistan, Maj. Gen. Bagheri noted, “The Ababil-2 drones are only capable of reconnaissance, and such drones are not equipped with weapons and offensive equipment. In the border conflict between the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Iranian armed forces have always emphasized to the Tajik armed forces that the drones should not be used in conflicts between the two countries.


[1] The Telegram statement can be found here:  

[2] For background on the Iranian drone program and its exports, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, August 2020.

[3] For background, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Opens New Drone Plant in Tajikistan,” OEW, July 2022.

Image Information:

Image: The Ababil-2 drone which the Islamic Republic of Iran exported to Tajikistan.
Attribution: Islamic Republic News Agency

Little Evidence That Algeria Is Shifting From Russian to Chinese Arms Imports Amid Ukraine Conflict

SR-5 Chinese 220mm Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL).

SR-5 Chinese 220mm Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL).

The Russian official’s visit coincided with media reports about Algeria allocating a huge budget for armaments in the coming years …”

The Algerian government recently announced a substantial increase to its 2023 defense budget, thanks largely to windfall profits from high global energy prices. The announcement has led to various rumors about the weapons systems that Algeria may seek to purchase from abroad. For years, the preponderance of Algerian advanced weaponry has been sourced from Russia. Russian weapons sales, however, are expected to decline as international sanctions and Ukraine-related domestic needs cut into export production. This had led to speculation that Chinese manufacturers will compete for market share in traditional Russian markets, including Algeria. 

Belying speculation of declines in Russian arms exports to Algeria, the English-language news website Africa Intelligence recently published an unverified claim that Algeria will soon ink a 10-year “mega-contract” for Russian equipment, worth more than $10 billion dollars.[i] The report, which is behind a paywall, was picked up and amplified by prominent Arabic-language news outlets. As reported in the first accompanying excerpt, from the Russian news website RT Arabic, the deal would likely include submarines, advanced Sukhoi aircraft, and long-range air defense systems. The rumored deal received some indirect support with the early November visit to Algiers by Dmitry Shugaev, director of Russia’s Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation.

As reported in the second accompanying excerpt, from the Arabic-language website of the Turkish Anadolu News Agency, Shugaev heads a Russian state institution that oversees arms deals and foreign military cooperation. Some days prior, an Algeria-focused military observer who goes by the Twitter handle @fares4302 circulated a photograph of an Algerian-Chinese meeting purportedly discussing the Chinese SY-400 [RG1] platform, which can be configured as a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) or Short-Range Ballistic Missile System (SRBM).[ii] The same user had earlier circulated a photograph that showed what appeared to be a model SY-400 in the headquarters of the Algerian Land Forces.[iii] The timing of the tweets suggested a link between Algerian interest in these systems and the current context, specifically the expected attrition of Russian SRBM exports due to the Ukraine conflict. However, the photograph of Chinese-Algerian SY-400 discussions turned out to be from Abu Dhabi’s biannual IDEX weapons expo, which last occurred in February 2021—a full year before the Ukraine invasion. The photo displaying a model SY-400 in the headquarters of the Algerian Land Forces, furthermore, was from 2020 and may well depict a visually similar system possessed by Algerian forces, such as the Chinese SR-5 [RG2] MLRS, which Algeria acquired in 2017. In sum, while China may indeed be moving to compete with Russia in certain market segments, there is of yet no hard evidence that it is doing so in response to a Ukraine-related decline in Russian exports, at least insofar as Algeria is concerned.

In mid-November, the Algerian president’s office issued a decree forbidding government officials from talking to the media about defense issues without permission from the Defense Ministry. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, it is unclear whether the measure applies to media-friendly Army Chief of Staff Said Chengriha. The measure may well be related to the various rumors surrounding Algerian arms purchases, but it should also be considered in the context of an ongoing and highly opaque power struggle between competing factions in the Algerian military.


“مصدر إعلامي: الجزائر تتجه لتوقيع صفقة أسلحة ضخمة مع روسيا

(Media source: Algeria plans to sign huge weapons deal with Russia),” RT Arabic (Russian Arabic-language media outlet), 31 October 2022.

“Africa Intelligence” reported that negotiations are underway to conclude an agreement on Russian military supplies to Algeria over the next ten years. The deal will occur within the framework of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s official visit to Moscow next December. The Algerian military leadership is particularly interested in acquiring submarines, aircraft including the Su-57[RG1] , Su-34 [RG2] and Su-30[RG3] , and new air defense systems such as the S-400[RG4] , Viking (Buk-M3[RG5] ) and Antey-4000.

“قائد الجيش الجزائري يبحث مع مسؤول روسي التعاون العسكري

(Algerian military leader discusses military cooperation with Russian official),” Anadolu News Agency, 10 November 2022.

“The Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation is a state institution that reports to the presidency in Moscow and oversees all arms deals and foreign military cooperation. The Russian official’s visit coincided with media reports about Algeria allocating a huge budget for armaments in the coming years, amounting to about $10 billion, though the Algerian authorities have not confirmed this information.”

“الرئيس الجزائري يقرر منع الحديث في مسائل الدفاع إلا بترخيص منه

(Algerian president forbids talking about defense matters without his permission),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 14 November 2022.

On Monday, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune issued a decree banning military and government officials from speaking to the press about information about military issues without permission from the Minister of Defense… It is not known whether this decision also includes the statements of the Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Said Chengriha, who constantly appears in speeches on state television during army-related activities.


[i] The paywalled article can be found at:,109839871-art.

[ii]The tweet reads: “An Algerian military delegation in China is probably receiving explanations about the Sy-400 missile system.” A comment below notes that the picture is from IDEX.

[iii]The tweet reads: “From the headquarters of the Algerian Land Forces a mock-up of a surface-to-surface missile system appears, apparently the Chinese system SY-400.”

Image Information:

Image: SR-5 Chinese 220mm Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL)
Source: TRADOC Worldwide Equipment Guide,
Attribution: Public Domain

Russia’s Ukraine Narratives Find Appeal in Arab Countries

RT Arabic Logo.

RT Arabic Logo.

Sputnik Arabic Logo.

Sputnik Arabic Logo.

The war saved everyone from the Corona virus, which was prepared in Ukrainian laboratories. President Putin struck those laboratories and ended the virus. If this had not happened, the virus would not have ended, because America wants to reduce the global population …”

The “Arab street” has largely supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine several polls indicating that Arabs are more likely to blame the conflict on Ukraine or the West than on Russia.[i] Russian influence campaigns have almost certainly played a role given ample evidence that Russia’s Arabic-language outlets have deliberately sought to shape perceptions vis-à-vis Ukraine. There is also data showing that Russian Arabic-language media outlets RT and Sputnik Arabic are more popular than their Western counterparts, such as BBC Arabic or the U.S.-funded al-Hurra.[ii]Several national news agencies in the Middle East have signed content sharing agreements with these Russian outlets. However, focusing primarily on Russian influence operations misses the important social contexts in which these pro-Russian opinions are being formed.

The first accompanying excerpt, from the Arabic-language news website of the German media outlet Deutsche Welle, cites an Egyptian media expert who highlights the extent to which Arabs are registering “protest support” for Russia, based on opposition to Western policies that are seen as biased against Arabs and Muslims. Russian influence campaigns, he argues, need not be particularly strong, as “the audience is more susceptible and obedient to Russian counter-propaganda, without this meaning that the propaganda is good or effective.” The second accompanying excerpt, from the Arabic-language news website al-Bawaba, illustrates the extent to which Russian misinformation has spread to new segments of the Arab public. The excerpt is from an interview with an archbishop in Egypt’s Coptic Church. When asked about the impact of the Ukraine conflict on Egypt, he claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ended COVID-19, which was purportedly created by the United States in Ukrainian laboratoriese to trim the global population to 2 billion people. 

According to the third accompanying excerpt, an opinion piece published in the Qatar-aligned English-language news website The New Arab, the current global environment has “opened a floodgate of misinformation tainted with apocalyptic thinking and metaphysical explanations.”  The author notes how the combined effects of COVID-19, extreme weather events, and war in Ukraine have led many in the region to seek answers in scripture. Arab skepticism toward the U.S. role in Ukraine is neither novel nor surprising, since narratives portraying the United States as a latent source of regional conflict and instability are pervasive. What is new, however, is that fanciful, apocalyptic-tinted anti-U.S. narratives—made popular last decade by Islamic State ideologues—may be pushing their way into the region’s Christian minority populations with a little help from Russian media outlets.


“غزو أوكرانيا.. هل ربحت روسيا حرب المعلومات في الشرق الأوسط؟

(Ukraine invasion… did Russia win the information war in the Middle East?),” Deutsche Welle Arabic (German media outlet), 25 August 2022.

Yasser Abdel Aziz, an international lecturer and Egyptian media expert… says: “I believe that this support is ‘protest support’ because there are large segments of the Arab public who feel that the Western media is biased and that the West in general is biased against Arab and Islamic issues. There is historical and other bitterness, and because of this the audience is more susceptible and obedient to Russian counter-propaganda, without this meaning that this propaganda is good or effective… Abdel Aziz added, “The West has the right to feel resentment in light of this situation, because its effective and successful communication tools and its prestigious and venerable media outlets are sometimes unconvincing, while the ‘miserable’ Russian media tools, or others that do not have the same luster or capabilities, find popularity at times.

“الأنبا بنيامين مطران المنوفية: الزواج استشهاد دون سفك دماء..

(Anba Benjamin, Bishop of Monofia: Marriage is martyrdom without blood…).” al-Bawaba (Arabic-language news website), 20 October 2022.

Q: The Ukrainian-Russian crisis. How do you see its impact on the world and Egypt in particular?

A: The war saved everyone from the Coronavirus, which was prepared in Ukrainian laboratories. President Putin struck those laboratories and ended the virus. If this had not happened, the virus would not have ended, because America wants to reduce the global population, there are 7.5 billion people and they want to reduce it to 2 billion.

Emad Mousa. “MENA’s misguided climate change schadenfreude towards Europe,” The New Arab (Qatari-aligned English-language news website), 19 October 2022. the unusual weather conditions came shortly after a global pandemic and coincided with the Ukraine war and a global economic meltdown, it opened a floodgate of misinformation tainted with apocalyptic thinking and metaphysical explanations – similar to the height of the Covid-19 global emergency. During the pandemic, Egyptians reportedly ranked highest in Google searches


[i] Per the May 2022 ArabNews/YouGov poll on who is responsible for the Ukraine conflict (, 24 percent of respondents hold NATO responsible; 13 percent hold the current U.S. President responsible; 16 percent hold Russia responsible; six percent hold Ukraine responsible; and 42 percent do not know or are unsure who is responsible. Per the September 2022 Arab Youth Survey on who is responsible for the Ukraine conflict (,

31 percent of respondents hold the United States/NATO responsible; 18 percent hold Russia responsible; 15 percent hold Ukraine responsible; and 37 percent do not know or cannot say who is responsible.

[ii] According to a 2015 Nielsen study, RT’s Arabic-language news channel had higher daily audiences than BBC Arabic, Sky News Arabia, al-Hurra and China’s CCTV in Arabic in Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Iraq. (

See also: Norman Cigar, “COVID-19 and the Arab World: Opportunity for Russian Anti-American Disinformation?” MES Insights, Volume 11, Issue 2, The Krulak Center at Marine Corps University, April 2020.

Image Information:

Image 1:  RT Arabic Logo
Source: Twitter,
Attribution: Fair Use

Image 2:  Sputnik Arabic Logo
Source: Facebook,
Attribution: Fair Use

Russian-Led Military Alliance in Central Asia Weakening Amid Quagmire in Ukraine

Main Cathedral CSTO Summit 02.

Main Cathedral CSTO Summit 02.

“In particular, it directly hits the unity within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), as a result of which the Indestructible Brotherhood exercises in Kyrgyzstan were canceled…”

The excerpted article from the Moscow-based, Russian-language newspaper Kommersant discusses deepening fissures within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance in Central Asia. First, the ongoing border conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan resulted in Kyrgyzstan withdrawing from the CSTO’s upcoming exercises in Tajikistan, which have a collective defense scenario.[i] Moreover, according to the article, Kyrgyzstan postponed the exercises that are scheduled to take place in Kyrgyzstan next year, arguing that not taking part is within its rights as a CSTO member-state. However, the article notes that Russia appreciated that Kyrgyzstan requested that Russia mediate its conflict with Tajikistan because it preserved Russia’s central role in the CSTO and Central Asian affairs generally. The article emphasizes how this role is especially important for Russia because the war in Ukraine has placed it in a difficult situation geopolitically and the CSTO remains Russia’s Central Asian security linchpin considering growing competition in the region over the past two decades from the United States, Turkey, and China.[ii]

Finally, the article asserts that countries like Tajikistan can now take advantage of Russia’s vulnerable position resulting from the war in Ukraine. For example, in a recent speech at the Russia-Central Asia Summit, Tajikistani President Emomali Rahmon placed subtle demands on Russia to support Tajikistan. Tajikistan could, like Kyrgyzstan, decrease engagement with the CSTO and seek closer ties with China or other countries.


“Киргизия и Таджикистан громко ссорятся (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Fight Loudly),” (Moscow-based Russian-language daily focusing on business and politics), 17 October 2022.

The conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which developed for many years, but previously concerned only the residents of the border regions of the two countries, became an important factor for the entire post-Soviet space. In particular, it directly effects the unity in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which resulted in the Indestructible Brotherhood exercises in Kyrgyzstan being canceled, and the Frontier-2022 maneuvers that began today in Tajikistan taking place without the Kyrgyz military. In this context, the statement of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon that Moscow allegedly does not respect its partners in the region sounded as strong as possible.

The Kyrgyz side formally stated that it would not participate in the [exercises], which is completely within its rights. As for the exercises that were supposed to take place in Kyrgyzstan, it was requested in Bishkek for them to be postponed to the next year…. Moscow liked that Bishkek was ready to see it as a mediator in resolving the conflict, while Dushanbe strongly demanded on a bilateral format.

According to a Kyrgyz source of Kommersant, the President of Tajikistan made a somewhat harsh speech at the “Russia-Central Asia Summit….” He recalled that the Russian language is being studied in the republic “from kindergarten” and a Russian military base is located there.


[i] Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have had several intermittent clashes related to each country’s territorial exclaves within the other’s borders, creating competition regarding issues such as boundary demarcation and water and electricity use. Although these clashes often begin with local villagers using improvised weapons, in recent years the national armies have become involved, raising the risk that one of these localized clashes will eventually spiral into a national-level conflict. For more, see Matthew Stein, “Resolution to Kyrgyz-Tajik Border Problems?,” OE Watch, Issue 3, March 2019.

[ii] Turkey’s assistance to Azerbaijan during its 2020 military victory against Armenia over disputed territories in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as its military performance in Syria and Libya in the years prior, has resulted in Central Asian states, such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, seeking Turkish support for their military modernization programs, especially related to unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Image: Main Cathedral CSTO Summit 02.
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Russia Laying Groundwork Ahead of July 2023 Russia-Africa Summit 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a plenary session at the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, Russia in October 2019.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a plenary session at the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, Russia in October 2019.

Increasingly isolated by the West because of its special operation in Ukraine, Russia is actively turning to Africa, which it seeks to seduce”

As Russia prepares to host the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg in the summer of 2023, commentators from across the African continent are offering insights as to how they perceive Russia trying to making inroads. In the first excerpted article from central African news aggregator L’Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale, writer Noël Ndong articulates the widely held perception that Russia seeks to expand its reach beyond its foothold of partners in Mali, the Central Africa Republic, and possibly Burkina Faso—most notably in other francophone African states. Ndong highlights former French stalwart ally Chad, as well as Morocco and Cameroon, noting Moscow’s rhetoric about aiding African states in their quests for energy independence.

The second excerpted article from Malian newspaper Le Journal de l’économie Malienne confirms the leader of Mali’s junta government, Assimi Goïta, recently received his invitation to the July 2023 meeting. The amity between two international pariahs should be unsurprising given that Goïta’s government relies on Russian Wagner mercenaries to stave off its spiraling jihadist insurgency, reportedly paying Wagner $10 million a month. A noted commentator on African geopolitical affairs, Gustavo de Carvalho, argues in the South Africa’s The Daily Maverick that in advance of the 2023 Russia-Africa Summit, the African Union needs to lead African efforts to have a unified front. While noting that in 2021, Russia was the largest arms supplier in Africa—supplying 44 percent of major arms to the continent—he also urges caution about what Moscow’s aggressive new posture means: “Given the continent’s relatively weak global position…Africa urgently needs a Russia strategy.”


Noël Ndong, “Coopération: la Russie à l’assaut de l’Afrique (Cooperation: Russia on the assault in Africa),” L’Agence d’Information d’Afrique Centrale (Central Africa news aggregator), 18 October 2022.

After Central African Republic, Mali, and Burkina Faso, Moscow is now on the hunt to conquer Morocco, Chad, and Cameroon…

With Morocco, Russia has approved a cooperation agreement in the field of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes…. The agreement stipulates that Moscow will assist Rabat in the creation and improvement of nuclear energy infrastructure, the design and construction of nuclear reactors, as well as water desalination plants and particle accelerators. The agreement also consists of the provision of services in Morocco in the field of the fuel cycle, spent and radioactive nuclear fuel and waste management.

Increasingly isolated by the West because of its special operation in Ukraine, Russia is actively turning to Africa, which it seeks to seduce. Ambassador Extraordinary Oleg Ozerov, Head of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Secretariat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “We see that African countries currently want to ensure an industrial transition of their economies. It will nevertheless be impossible to solve the problem of industrialization without having solved the problems of energy, without having granted access to electricity to the population and to the companies which must create industry and production.”

The second summit of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum is scheduled for the summer of 2023. It aims to give new impetus to Russian-African political, trade, economic, investment, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation.

Aboubacar Traoré, “Mali: Le colonel Assimi Goïta invité au Sommet Russie-Afrique (Mali: Colonel Assimi Goïta invited to the Russia-Africa Summit),” Le Journal de l’économie Malienne (online Malian news source), 14 November 2022.

According to the diplomatic source, the Russian ambassador had come to officially deliver to Minister [of Foreign Affairs, Abdoulaye] Diop the letter by which the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, invites his Malian counterpart, Colonel Assimi Goïta, to participate in the Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for July 2023 in St. Petersburg.

­­Also, the Russian diplomat took this opportunity to inform the Malian authorities of the upcoming visit to Africa, including to Mali, of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Gustavo de Carvalho, “Africa needs to forge a unified approach to Russia before 2023 Russia-Africa Summit,” The Daily Maverick (centrist South African newspaper), 3 August 2022.

For five days in July 2022, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traveled to four African nations to signal Russia’s push into the continent. The visit to Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia symbolises the Russian offensive to gain and reinforce international support…

While the July 2022 engagements in Africa yielded few tangible outcomes, Lavrov reinforced the criticism of Western policies in Africa, with a complementing narrative of the independent stance Africa has taken….

Russia has been ramping up its military relationships with several African countries for at least a decade. Its approach is often influenced by close ties between Russia’s arms industry and its infamous private security contractor, the Wagner Group. According to Sipri, a Swedish think tank, Russia was the largest arms supplier to Africa in 2021, accounting for 44% of continental imports of major arms. In total, Russia has signed military agreements with more than 20 African countries…

Given the continent’s relatively week global position…Africa urgently needs a Russia strategy. To that end, the AU can — and should — engage with its members in a more structured manner and help them put together joint positions on critical issues related to Russia and other partners, like the US, China, Europe and others…

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Image: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a plenary session at the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, Russia in October 2019.
Attribution: CC BY-ND 2.0