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Showing posts from June 24, 2014

South Africa: Concerns Over Lesotho's Dams and Waterways

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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 could prompt President Jacob Zuma to intervene and restore order in Lesotho, as his country did in 1998.

South Africa's main interest is avoiding a security breakdown that would jeopardize its water supplies. Nearly a quarter of the country's naturally available water originates in Lesotho, which receives 60 percent more rain than South Africa. The water is funneled into South Africa through a system of reservoirs, dams and transport tunnels, providing critical supplies for the population as well as the mining industry. Locations that would suffer the most from a decreased wa…

Geopolitical Calendar: Week of June 23, 2014

EUROPE
June 23: Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades will meet to discuss the reunification of Cyprus.
June 23: The EU Foreign Affairs Council will convene in Brussels.
June 24: The EU General Affairs Council will meet in Brussels.
June 24: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Vienna at the invitation of Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
June 24-25: NATO foreign ministers will gather at NATO headquarters in Brussels for a meeting chaired by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
June 25: Coreper I will meet in Brussels.
June 25: An Iranian parliamentary delegation composed of lawmakers representing religious minorities will visit Germany to participate in an annual religious conference.
June 25: Justice and home affairs ministers from the United States and European Union will gather in Athens.
June 25-26: The plenary session of the EU Committee of the Regions will take place in Brussels.
June 27: The European Council will meet in Brussel…

In Austria, Russia Hopes to Exploit Europe's Divisions

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at a 2007 news conference in Vienna.(ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Austria and Russia have a long and deep relationship; history and geography have often aligned their foreign policy interests. Russia does not expect anything specific from Russian President Vladimir Putin's June 24 visit to Austria, but the meeting itself is a way for Moscow to exploit the political divisions in Europe. Although Austria is not a particularly important EU decision-maker, it is a part of the German supply chain with political and economic influence in Central Europe and the Western Balkans. Austria is also interested in remaining a major hub for Russian energy. For its part, Russia wants to benefit from its good relationship with Austria as it makes sure the European Union remains fragmented.

Analysis


Austria historically has seen Central Europe and the Western Balkans as part of its natural sphere of influence. In broad terms, Austria's interest…

North Korea and Japan's Growing Interest in a Better Relationship

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is surrounded by reporters at his official residence in Tokyo on May 29.(JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


North Korea is quietly moving toward a temporary political accommodation with Japan that could ease Japanese sanctions and chip away at North Korea's economic isolation. Although the central issue under discussion is the status of nearly 90 Japanese citizens North Korea is thought to have abducted, deeper strategic interests are opening an opportunity for increased bilateral cooperation. A detente would offer North Korea a chance to soften its over-dependence on China, balancing relations with Tokyo against Beijing's disproportionate influence in Pyongyang. Meanwhile, easing tensions with North Korea would help Japan shore up its northern and western flanks so that it can shift the bulk of its security attention to its southern maritime interests.

Analysis


Japanese and North Korean officials will meet again in the coming days to assess Py…

Iraq Update: Sunni Militants Make Key Gains in Anbar Province

Iraqi troops arrive to support Sunni anti-al Qaeda militia Sahwa (Awakening) in Ramadi, Anbar province, on June 21.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Over the weekend of June 22, Sunni opposition fighters, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants, seized several important towns and border crossings in western Iraq's Anbar province. The insurgents took advantage of the army's reduced presence there; troops are being redeployed northward and eastward ahead of a planned offensive along the Tigris River. The Sunni gains made in Anbar will pressure the government and distract Baghdad from the impending offensive.

Analysis


The militant attacks in Anbar province were fast and concentrated, and they were directed against weak government forces hundreds of kilometers away from Baghdad. The result was the seizure of the towns of Rutba, Qaim, Rawah and Anah and three border crossings: the Qaim and Al Waleed crossings into Syria and the Trebil crossing into Jordan.

The militants'…