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Showing posts from June 11, 2014

Defusing the Ukraine Crisis

Negotiations between Kiev and Moscow are progressing relatively nicely, thanks in part to the help of a few European governments. On June 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier convened in St. Petersburg for a Kaliningrad Triangle meeting that had been scheduled in January. Meanwhile, newly inaugurated Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that his government would create safe passages for those who want to flee eastern Ukraine safely. The meeting and the announcement are hardly coincidental. Rather, they illustrate a certain degree of reconciliation.

Indeed, what happened as a result of the meeting appears to show that all involved are tempering their stances. Lavrov said Russia would not sanction Ukraine for signing the economic chapters of the EU association agreement -- a clear departure from its earlier position, since Russia discouraged the previous administration from si…

Russia Counters the West in Its Borderlands

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin are embarking on a series of diplomatic visits.(Evert-Jan Daniels - Pool/Getty Images, DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The Kremlin is looking for ways to maintain its influence in Russia's borderlands even as Washington becomes more involved there. With the United States becoming more assertive in the region, Russian officials will use economic tools and military threats -- as well as incentives ranging from loans to energy price discounts -- to counterbalance Washington's efforts toward constructing a regional alliance against Moscow.

Analysis


In the coming weeks, Russian officials will meet with a variety of leaders throughout Russia's periphery. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already begun a two-day visit to Finland, and this week he is scheduled to meet with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in St. Petersburg a…

Karachi Strikes Signal a New Cycle of Regional Violence

People look on as smoke rises after militants launched an assault at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on June 9.(RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary
Two days after a team of Taliban rebels stormed Pakistan's largest civilian airport and killed 36 people, a second team struck the same facility. This time they specifically targeted a training facility belonging to the country's Airport Security Force.

The attacks in Karachi are the first assaults on a civilian airport since the jihadist insurgency broke out nearly eight years ago. The Taliban are trying to expand their offensive, and the attacks were somewhat of a strategic success, accentuating international worries about security in Pakistan. However, the attacks revealed a lack of tactical sophistication -- in fact, they were tactical failures. Far from intimidating Islamabad and forcing Pakistan to negotiate on the Taliban's terms, the attacks will invite a higher-pitched military response on Taliban positions…

In Iraq, a Militant Group Takes Mosul

Iraqi families fleeing violence in northern Ninawa province gather at a checkpoint in the autonomous Kurdistan region on June 10.(SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of high alert in Iraq on June 10 and asked parliament to approve a state of emergency as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militant group seized most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. This marks a serious downturn for Baghdad's monthslong attempt to contain the group in the Fallujah and Ar Ramadi region, where the militants seized territory at the beginning of the year.

The rapid seizure of Mosul demonstrates a new capability for the militant group in Iraq, where highly mobile light forces using technicals -- pickup trucks with medium to heavy arms mounted on them -- can cover territory quickly and mass to overwhelm the enemy's weak points. This will strain Iraqi security forces, which are already struggling to control a restive western Iraq. Regaining…

The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa

Continued fighting between Huthis and their various opponents could lead to a major conflagration, further undermining Yemen’s troubled political transition.



In its latest report, The Huthis: From Saada to Sanaa, the International Crisis Group examines the shifting power balance in north Yemen at a sensitive moment in the country’s transition. The Huthis, arguably the biggest winners from the 2011 uprising against former President Saleh, successfully capitalised on state weakness and widespread frustration with old-regime elites to expand their political influence and territorial control. While their politicians participated in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and support the political transition, their fighters continue to combat rival groups. An escalation threatens to draw the state into a prolonged conflict, imperilling national institutions and undermining the nascent political consensus.



The report’s major findings and recommendations are:


Renewed violence could significantl…