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Showing posts from May 8, 2014

Flight of Icarus? The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria

The PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party) has imposed its dominance in northern Syria, but its long-run prospects – like those of the areas it controls – depend on the party’s ability to adopt a more balanced and inclusive strategy.

In its latest report, Flight of Icarus? The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria, the International Crisis Group examines the implications of the Kurdish group’s military strategy and governance project in the north of the war-torn country. Since mid-2012, when the regime withdrew from the Kurdish areas, the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units, have filled the security void and fended off the jihadi opposition. In November 2013 – drawing on its legitimacy as an offshoot of the PKK, the Kurdish Turkish insurgent movement – the PYD proclaimed a transitional administration of Rojava (Western Kurdistan) over three predominantly Kurdish enclaves. Viewed by some as a step toward stability and advancement of Kurdish aspirations, PYD dominance in fact re…

Ukraine's Port of Odessa

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In recent days, unrest in Ukraine has spread to Odessa, a port located west of Crimea. Odessa marks the southwestern edge of at least some pro-Russia sentiment, though the city is considerably different from the eastern regions. While Odessa is not like the east, it has given Russia a chance to try to weaken Kiev. The first and most important element is for the pro-Russia groups in Odessa to become more organized in an effort to provide some strategic planning and tactical guidance, giving them the potential to be more effective. In the east, Russia accomplished this by inserting covert military and intelligence personnel into the fray to help drive local sympathizers.

Nothing indicates that Russia has done this yet in Odessa. Since this strategy involves a small number of people, however, sneaking them into the city would not be too difficult; they could travel through Crimea or Transdniestria, both of which are close to Odessa (some reports stated that an unknown num…

South Africa's Ruling Party Will Focus on New Leadership After Elections

Election posters with the faces of Jacob Zuma (in yellow), African National Congress and South African president, and Helen Zille (in blue), opposition Democratic Alliance are displayed on May 2.RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images


As South Africa holds national elections May 7, the ruling African National Congress is in a relatively comfortable position. After the elections end, it will focus on grooming President Jacob Zuma's successor as party leader and on relations between party leadership and ethnic voter bases. The party will also turn its attention toward its socio-economic alliance with the Communist Party and the main labor movements, continuing efforts to stabilize the mining sector and working toward its longer-term goal of expanding state control over the South African economy.


Although the African National Congress faces several other parties in the elections, none of the opposing parties will seriously challenge the absolute majority of the African National Co…

Russia Would Face Complications in Odessa

Pro-Russian militants clash with police as they storm the police station in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa on May 4 to free pro-Russian activists arrested May 2.DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images


Eastern Ukraine has been the scene of severe unrest facilitated, or at least encouraged, by Russia. In recent days, this unrest manifested in Odessa, a critical port located in southern Ukraine west of Crimea. Odessa marks the southwestern edge of at least some pro-Russia sentiment, though the city is considerably different from the eastern regions.

Odessa, whose historical significance resonates deeply in Russia and whose port is vital to Ukraine's economic livelihood, could be exploited by Moscow as the Russians look for opportunities to cripple Kiev. Pro-Russia groups in Odessa currently lack the same level of organization and skill displayed by separatists in eastern Ukraine, which means that Russia will have to make a substantial investment and carry more risk if it dec…

Russia's Putin Changes His Tone, But Not His Goals, in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) meet with Swiss President and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe head Didier Burkhalter in the Kremlin May 7.(ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)


On May 7, following a meeting with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairman and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for separatists in southeastern Ukraine to postpone their referendums on independence scheduled for May 11 in order to allow for dialogue. Moreover, in a rhetorical shift from the Kremlin's recent opposition to Ukraine's plan to hold a presidential election May 25, Putin referred to the scheduled election as a move "in the right direction." Meanwhile, Burkhalter said the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe would offer a proposed "roadmap" on Ukraine later May 7.

Stratfor has maintained since the outbreak of the Ukrainian…