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Geopolitics

Yahya Sinwar, A Charismatic New Hamas Leader Ready To Talk

Having spent 22 years in Israeli jails, Sinwar knows his adversary — and appears open to negotiate, with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Sinwar in July
Sinwar in July

GAZA CITY — It's a strange semantic convergence. Both Israel and top Hamas security officials use the same adjective to describe Yahya Sinwar: "pragmatic." In February, the 55-year-old native of the Khan Younis refugee camp became leader of the armed Islamist movement that rules Gaza, while veteran Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was appointed head of the political bureau. But in the 10 months since, the spotlight has been shifted squarely onto Sinwar.

As the Egyptians' chosen intermediary, Sinwar has put his credibility on the line in the reconciliation process with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, after 10 years of internal Palestinian divisions. By Dec. 1, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to take full control of civilian matters in the Gaza Strip. The path is steep, but there are encouraging signs. On Nov. 1, the Palestinian Authority has regained control over the border crossings with Egypt and Israel.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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