The threat spectrum

Planet A

Maldives is already experiencing significant impacts from rising sea levels, with severe coastal erosion affecting every island in the country, according to its minister of environment, climate change and technology, Aminath Shauna. In an interview with CNBC International, Shauna said that Maldives is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and stressed the need for a global treaty to reduce emissions and restrict temperature rises to within 1.5°C.

She also highlighted the need to ensure that developing countries such as Maldives have access to cheap financing so that they can make the switch to clean power. In 2020, Maldives set one of the world’s most aggressive climate-mitigation targets: to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030. But it has struggled to meet the exorbitant cost of financing renewable projects. This is partly due to the country’s credit rating, which has been lowered by high debt associated with political instability and Covid-19.

Democracy watch

Madagascar is due to hold elections next month in the midst of political turmoil and claims of electoral fraud. A group of 11 opposition candidates have collectively staged multiple protests against Madagascar’s incumbent president, Andry Rajoelina, after a court dismissed their bid to have his candidacy declared void because he’s a dual French national. Rajoelina resigned as president in September so that he could stand for re-election under the country’s electoral rules.

Authorities have reportedly increased the police presence in the capital, claiming a heightened risk of political violence after security forces clashed with demonstrators on 2 October. Despite a ban on protests in public spaces as voters prepare to elect a president, it’s likely they’ll continue in coming weeks. The UN has urged Malagasy authorities to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law throughout the polling period and beyond.

The 2019 poll triggered accusations of electoral fraud and incensed supporters of opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana to cause chaos in the capital by breaching a security cordon and blocking roads with burning tires.

Information operations

Following Hamas’s attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent retaliation in Gaza, social media platforms have experienced a surge in the spread of misinformation, including manipulated images and falsely labelled videos that contain graphic violence. The European Union has responded by calling on companies to act against illegal content and misinformation, warning of severe penalties. Companies found to be in violation of European law could face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover and, in some cases, be banned from operating in Europe.

The EU industry chief, Thierry Breton, specifically directed warnings to X owner Elon Musk, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. He urged them to ensure that their companies comply with European law and address harmful content within 24 hours. In response, X CEO Linda Yaccarino highlighted actions taken against Hamas-affiliated accounts, while Musk emphasised the role of crowdsourced fact-checking.

X in particular has faced criticism for allegedly favouring posts from blue-check subscribers, irrespective of their accuracy, which is seen as creating a financial incentive for the spread of misinformation.

Follow the money

The US has eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry after receiving a commitment from President Nicolas Maduro to hold a competitive, internationally monitored presidential election in 2024. Maduro reached an agreement with opposition leaders that paved the way for the US rollback of restrictions.

While details of how bans on opposition candidates will be lifted are still unclear, the development could be pivotal to breaking Venezuela’s political deadlock, and showcases Washington’s willingness to support the country to hold free and fair elections.

The US has imposed a time limit on the easing of sanctions to maintain its leverage in case of non-compliance. While a US official noted that the most important negotiations are between the opposition and Maduro, it’s significant that the deal includes a commitment to allowing international electoral observers and media access during the elections.

The breakthrough is part of a broader shift in US foreign policy towards Venezuela after previous efforts to pressure the Maduro government yielded limited results.

Terror byte

Israeli soldiers have conducted ground raids in Gaza targeting Palestinian rocket crews as its defence forces prepare to launch ‘Operation Swords of Iron’. The anticipated ground offensive aims to dismantle Hamas and rescue more than 200 Israeli hostages held in Gaza. The operation’s success will likely rest on several factors, including minimising the threats posed by anti-tank mines and ambushes, which were used to great effect against Israeli infantry battalions in 2014.

In an interview, US President Joe Biden stated that it would be a ‘big mistake’ for Israel to reoccupy Gaza and that Israel should ultimately adhere to a path that would allow a two-state solution. On Wednesday, the US vetoed a UN resolution calling for ceasefire on the grounds that the US couldn’t support the resolution without a mention of Israel’s right to self-defence.

The human cost of the Israel–Hamas war is increasing daily. At least 4,7800 people have been killed and 15,800 people wounded on both sides since the 7 October Hamas attacks.