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Showing posts from January 15, 2014

The Gaza Withdrawal and Israel's Permanent Dilemma

By George Friedman

Israel has begun its withdrawal from Gaza. As with all other territorial withdrawals by Israel, such as that from Sinai or from Lebanon, the decision is controversial within Israel. It represents the second withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war, and the second from land that houses significant numbers of anti-Israeli fighters. Since these fighters will not be placated by the Israeli withdrawal -- given that there is no obvious agreement of land for an enforceable peace -- the decision by the Israelis to withdraw from Gaza would appear odd.

In order to understand what is driving Israeli policy, it is necessary to consider Israeli geopolitical reality in some detail.

Israel's founders, taken together, had four motives for founding the state.
To protect the Jews from a hostile world by creating a Jewish homeland.

To create a socialist (not communist) Jewish state.

To resurrect the Jewish nation in order to re-assert Jewish identity in history.

To create a natio…

Portugal Prepares for a Challenging Year as Its Bailout Nears Expiration

A store in Lisbon advertises a liquidation sale in December 2013. (PEDRO NUNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Portugal has had its share of highs and lows the past three years. Between 2011 and 2013, the country experienced a sovereign debt crisis; the collapse of the center-left government led by Prime Minister Jose Socrates and its replacement by a conservative government led by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho; the signing of a 78 billion-euro ($106 billion) bailout deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund; the arrival of international inspectors in charge of scrutinizing the Portuguese economy; and most notably, the application of painful economic reforms and austerity measures like other countries dealing with the ongoing European economic crisis. With Lisbon expected to end its bailout program by mid-May, 2014 promises to be as turbulent as every year since the start of the Portuguese crisis.

Analysis


As part of its bailout deal, Lisbon is expected to cut its…

Kyrgyzstan: Mayoral Elections Could Further Strain Political Stability

A Kyrgyz man casts his ballot in Bishkek in 2011. (VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Kyrgyzstan's upcoming local elections, combined with numerous ongoing issues in the country, are threatening to create further instability in an already tenuous political and security environment. Mayoral elections will be held in the key cities of Bishkek and Osh on Jan. 15, marking the first time that mayoral candidates were nominated by city governments rather than by the president. While the transfer of nomination is meant to make the process more democratic, it has also led to increased political friction as rival candidates jockey for favor. External powers with interests in Kyrgyzstan -- including Russia and China, but also Western countries with commercial interests in the country, such as Canada -- will be watching the elections closely to gauge the vote's impact on those interests.

Analysis


Bishkek and Osh are the most important cities in northern and southern Kyrgyzstan,…