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Showing posts from June 16, 2014

Rebel Talks Distract Colombia's Presidential Runoff

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (R) and presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a TV debate in Bogota, on June 9, 2014. (GUILLERMO LEGARIA/AFP/Getty Images)


Colombians will go to the polls for the second time in a month June 15 to decide whether to re-elect Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Santos is running on a platform of reconciliation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army. His opponent, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who is running with the full sponsorship of former President Alvaro Uribe, appears to offer a return to the more militaristic policies of the Uribe days.

Far from offering hope for the future, the scandal-ridden campaign has left Colombians divided and unhappy. Santos and Uribe are two erstwhile allies fighting a public battle through Uribe's proxy, Zuluaga, myopically focused on the fate of a decades-old ideological war. The election can easily be cast as a referendum on the peace talks because the two cand…

Iraq's Energy Faceoff

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Ankara's relationship with Baghdad is being tested by 1 million barrels of crude oil, sourced from Iraqi Kurdistan, on board an oil tanker sitting idle off the coast of Morocco. The tanker, owned and operated by Greece-based Marine Management Services, was chartered by the Kurdistan Regional Government and set sail May 22 from a storage facility in the Turkish port of Ceyhan, with the approval of Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. Baghdad opposes unilateral exports by the Kurdistan Regional Government and has threatened legal action against any company that facilitates the oil's sale. The United States has backed Baghdad by emphasizing its support of Iraq's central control over oil exports.

Ankara, in league with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, timed the exports as Iraq is at a key juncture in the process of forming a new government. The Kurds want to play kingmaker for an eventual Shiite-dominated coalition in Baghdad,…

Iran Faces a Resurging Threat from Iraq

The Iraqi army recruits volunteers to counter the offensive of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.(ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)


The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's most recent offensive has rendered Iran's western flank vulnerable once again. The largest problem is that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi state has weakened to the point where Tehran will have to depend on Shiite militias to protect its interests across the Iraqi border. This policy likely will help to repel the militant forces but at a great cost as Iran's militias will undermine central control in Baghdad.


When Iran's Shiite proxies consolidated control over Iraq after the U.S. invasion, Tehran took comfort in the weakening of the Sunnis, the minority community that had dominated Iraq since 1920. However, Tehran has been concerned about a potential Sunni revival, especially since the Arab Spring in Syria metastasized into a full-scale civil war and regional sectarian conflict. If S…

Iraq Update: Security Forces Pick Their Battles

An Iraqi soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in the Iraqi town of Taji, at the entrance of Baghdad, on June 13.(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)


Iraqi security forces may have blunted the recent militant offensive, but the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant continues to wage its insurgency undaunted. In fact, the group and its allies, which include the Naqshbandi Army, Jamaat Ansar al-Islam and Jaish al-Muhajireen, are fanning out and striking weakly held government positions. To the northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has taken the towns of Jalula and As Sadiyah, as well as a number of nearby villages around the Himreen Mountains. The group is expected to converge next on Muqdadiyah, which Iraqi security forces currently hold.

But the militants have a serious problem: As good as they may be at taking towns, they may not be able to hold them. Iraqi security forces are simply better armed, particularly with heavy weapons such as a…

Reflecting on the Baltic Countries


Editor's Note: The current crisis in Ukraine and its spillover effects across the former Soviet periphery have spurred Eurasia analyst Eugene Chausovsky to reflect on a journey he took through the Baltics at the end of 2011. These reflections, combined and compared with the heightened activity we are seeing in the region now, may offer insight as to what we can expect in the Baltics in the coming months and years.

About two and a half years ago, while spending a few months in Ukraine, I left Kiev to take a trip through the Baltic states. On a cold winter day in the middle of October, I flew into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. From there I would travel exclusively by bus from Tallinn on the Baltic Sea to Tartu in southern Estonia, then on to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Vilnius in southern Lithuania.

At the time, the Baltics were relatively quiet. Tucked away in the northeast corner of continental Europe, the Baltics are often forgotten when it comes to mainstream European …