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Showing posts from June 23, 2014

Latin America's Trade Organizations

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As Latin American states vie for economic opportunities, the uncertain potential of regional economic blocs continues to draw attention. Latin America's history is rife with experiments in regional cooperation designed to encourage more local trade and investment, as opposed to being overly reliant on extraregional players such as Europe and the United States. For the most part, these regional groupings have emerged in a flurry of political excitement only to die as economic realities set in, or as the environment shifted. Except for Mexico and Brazil, Latin American countries are mostly small markets dominated by commodity exports with little industrialization and limited domestic consumer markets. As a result, export-oriented commodity industries generally find themselves stuck supplying the manufacturing and industrial hubs of the world, most prominently Europe, the United States and, more recently, China.

This limits compatibility among Latin American countrie…

The Iraqi Conflict Enters Its Next Phase

Mosul Gov. Athil al-Nujaifi responds to questions June 11 in Arbil, Iraq.(SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)


The previous days of the conflict in Iraq were focused on the jihadist surge led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The following days will see negotiations develop involving the Shiite leadership in Baghdad, the United States and a number of influential players in Iraq's Sunni political and tribal landscape designed to wean Iraqi Sunni support away from the militant group. At the same time, the Iraqi government is preparing a military counteroffensive that will be reinforced by Shiite militant proxies. While sectarian violence will continue growing, the current political efforts will likely succeed in taking the momentum from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-led offensive, thus insulating Iraq's core around Baghdad and the Shiite south from a jihadist siege.


The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has obvious talent for hit-and-run attacks a…

An Unstable Lesotho Risks Provoking South Africa

Lesotho's prime minister, Tom Thabane, attends the 2012 Harare Agricultural Show.(JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/GettyImages)


A political crisis in Lesotho has left the parliament paralyzed as the military mobilizes in the capital of Maseru. Although the fallout from a change of government, even a potential coup, would be largely contained in Lesotho itself, South Africa has a vested interest in maintaining stability in the landlocked country. The need to prevent any disruption to South Africa's water supply or a possible wave of refugees could prompt President Jacob Zuma to intervene and restore order in Lesotho, as his country did in 1998.


The situation in Lesotho stems from general elections held in 2012. In a move away from single party politics, the All Basotho Convention, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and the Basotho National Party formed a coalition government to run the country. The Lesotho Congress for Democracy effectively initiated the crisis by calling for…

U.S.-Cuba Relations May Be Thawing

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greets Cuban President Raul Castro during Nelson Mandela's memorial service in 2013.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


A breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba relations may be in the offing. On June 14, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica delivered a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro, according to Uruguayan media June 20, containing an offer to begin talks on a variety of issues, most prominently Washington's longstanding economic embargo. According to Uruguayan media, Obama had asked Mujica to help him improve relations with the island nation when Mujica was in Washington in mid-May. If the report is true, the transaction could be the first step toward reconciliation.

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Cuba certainly has its reasons for entertaining such an offer. The country's main benefactor, Venezuela, may no longer be in a position to support the Cuban economy. In fact, Venezuela is in the throes of a protracted economic crisis, w…

Iraq's Crisis Changes the Battle Space in Syria


The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are connected. The border between the two countries has become meaningless, and the emerging crisis in Iraq has direct consequences on the fighting in Syria. Neither the Syrian regime nor the rebels that oppose it stand to gain a decisive advantage from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant's recent actions in Iraq. As things stand now, the primary beneficiary will be the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant itself.


Because of the way its military advance in Iraq has played out, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has earned prestige and a propaganda boost -- it is viewed as a competent organization capable of decisive results. This growing perception will be crucial in the group's ability to attract a growing share of the foreign fighters heading toward the region, and possibly draw additional Syrian rebel fighters to its ranks. The group's seizure of weapons and vehicles -- much of this equipment taken from retreating…

Observations from Basra

An Iraqi man holds up a national flag at a rally in the southern city of Basra.(AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)


Editor's Note: The renewed insurgency in central Iraq led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has prompted Bret Boyd, Stratfor's Vice President of Custom Intelligence Services, to reflect on the potential spillover effects in the country's south. He recently returned from Basra and offers his observations on the region. Boyd has been to Iraq previously, having deployed four times with the infantry and Army Rangers. While the views expressed here are personal and not institutional, we are publishing them in light of Boyd's unique insight.

I began to write this set of reflections from downtown Basra, overlooking the Shatt al Arab River. I left Iraq during this most recent visit four days before a Sunni Islamist insurgency overran Mosul. Since then, the erratic march of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has captured the world's headlin…