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Showing posts from May 16, 2014

Rebel- and Regime-Held Cities in Syria

Throughout the Syrian conflict, the regime has had the strongest control over the predominantly Alawite coastal areas despite brief and isolated rebel offensives, the most recent of which took place in late March. The regime mostly has control over Damascus proper, but rebels are still entrenched in a number of rural areas surrounding the capital, undermining the regime's complete control of the province and tying up vast numbers of loyalist forces. But Aleppo is one of the areas where the regime has had the most difficulty exerting control over the past three years. While the regime and rebels continue to battle for complete control of the city, the surrounding area includes large chunks of rebel-controlled territory, and a combination of Kurds and the two al Qaeda affiliates -- the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra -- control the areas in eastern Syria.

Given the current conditions, it is unlikely that the Syrian regime will be able to seize complete contro…

The Iraqi Military Prepares an Assault on Fallujah

A masked Iraqi policeman on the outskirts of Fallujah on May 7.(AZHER SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The Iraqi military has initiated a slow-moving but potentially significant counterassault on al Qaeda-inspired militants in the western province of Anbar. Iraq's Defense Ministry announced May 9 the commencement of a military offensive that aimed to permanently dislodge militants from Fallujah and possibly Ar Ramadi as well. Already, security forces have attempted to contain militants in Fallujah, potentially laying the groundwork for a final assault that would retake the small portions of the city held by militants since earlier this year. The Iraqi army will have to plan its next steps carefully. Moving in too quickly and without sufficient support from local tribal leadership risks inflaming sectarian tensions, creating a scenario that could end up benefiting the very jihadists Baghdad is trying to eliminate.

Analysis


Iraqi forces initially responded with small-scale troop deploy…

Pragmatism Will Outweigh Rhetoric When the EU Decides on South Stream

A construction worker stands in front of two giant pipes arranged to be welded together near the village of Sajkas, Serbia.(ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The European Union remains unwilling to apply meaningful sanctions against Russia. However, as the crisis in Ukraine exacerbates tensions between Moscow and European capitals, a high-visibility pipeline project, South Stream, has become a target for rhetoric.

The complex structure of the EU decision-making process for such projects could translate into long delays for South Stream's approval and implementation, especially with the current European Commission nearing the end of its term. But the commission is unique among European institutions in its ability for independent action and will be pragmatic in assessing the Continent's continued need for a solid energy partnership with Russia, its most important supplier.

Analysis


Energy fuels the relationship between Russia and the European Union. Natural gas flows from the…

Algeria: U.S. Drone Dispute Underscores Tensions

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika on April 3 in Algiers.(JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Algeria's recent presidential election granted a fourth term to President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, giving the political establishment additional time to implement constitutional changes as well as political and economic reforms. The president and his allies hope to foster a civilian state that can check the power of the military and security forces. Whether under civilian or military rule, however, security concerns will continue to play a key role in Algerian politics. This fact is underscored by a recent disagreement between Algiers and Washington over the sale of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, known colloquially as drones, and associated technology.

Algeria and the United States share concerns about regional militancy and view drones as useful tools in the fight against terrorism. However, deep divisions remain between the two on w…