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Showing posts from July 14, 2014

Border Areas in the Gaza Strip

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There are indications that Israel Defense Forces may enter the Gaza Strip yet again. The Israeli Cabinet has called for approximately 100,000 Gaza residents to vacate northern and southern border villages, a statement typically made before ground incursions or intensive airstrikes in the hopes of limiting civilian casualties. Hamas has urged Palestinians not to follow the order.

If the Israeli military does invade Gaza, it may simply be an operation in border villages, not the entire territory. That kind of offensive would require combat engineer units equipped with heavy bulldozers, and dedicated artillery and close air support assets such as helicopters. For now, ground operations will focus on intelligence gathering or interdicting movement and rocket launching systems.

Indeed, by targeting the border areas, the military means to destroy the launch sites closest to Israel, mitigating the risk the rockets pose to Israel's major population centers. In addition to …

Russia: Moscow's Plan to Relieve Regional Debt

Analysis


The Russian government has begun drawing up a program to help its regions address their skyrocketing debts. The initial plan -- agreed upon by the Ministry of Finance, State Duma and Federation Council -- will allocate $1.76 billion in 2014 for the 20 most indebted regions. The Tver, Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod and Astrakhan regions will receive the most funds. The program will also implement emergency tax provisions and subsidies. Regions with debts that exceed 50 percent of regional budget revenues will also collectively receive budgetary loans of approximately $2 billion from the federal government.



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The Russian regions' debt has skyrocketed since the 2008 global financial crisis because the Kremlin has allowed the regions to take the brunt of the country's economic decline while maintaining the health and strength of the federal government. The debt increases have also resulted from over-taxation by the federal government, decreases in federal subsidies,…

Iraq: Kurdish Options Limited in Northern Oil Fields

A North Oil Company natural gas field near an Islamic State checkpoint southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq.(MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Early July 11, the Kurdistan Regional Government deployed its peshmerga forces to take control of Iraq's state-owned North Oil Company operations in the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan oil fields, which are located in disputed territory. These fields will theoretically add about 500,000 barrels per day to the Kurdistan Regional Government's production capacity. Their ability to bring it to market, however, will be greatly limited by their current infrastructure and technical capacity, not to mention the security challenges that lie ahead.

Analysis


The peshmerga first exploited the security vacuum in northern Iraq in mid-June by deploying troops to the city of Kirkuk and around major oil fields in the region, including Bai Hassan and Kirkuk. Until this recent move, however, Iraqi federal officials and workers from the North Oil Company had been allowed to…

Thailand: Superficial Stability Veils Enduring Divides

Thai soldiers lead away an alleged Red Shirt member ahead of a planned protest in Bangkok on May 25.(Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


The Thai military's efforts to eradicate former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's political influence in Thailand have subdued his "Red Shirt" supporters, at least for now. Since taking power in a bloodless coup May 22, the junta has dismantled the opposition movement's leadership structure, disrupting its organizing capabilities and shutting off sources of funding, which will likely prevent the opposition from challenging the interim government in the immediate future. However, the Red Shirts will likely reconstitute themselves relatively quickly once the military eases the clampdown, and certain elements are capable of causing considerable chaos. If the military cannot divide, co-opt or contain the movement, it will be forced to tighten its hold on power, a development that would only galvanize the Red Shirt hard-liners…

Analytic Guidance: Keeping an Eye on Sudan's Supporting Role in Gaza

Sudanese President Omar al Bashir (L) shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after an official visit in Khartoum on June 27.(EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP/Getty Images)

Analysis


Editor's Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document produced to provide high-level guidance regarding exchanges of rocket fire and airstrikes in Israel and Gaza to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions for areas for focus.

There has been a noticeable uptick in diplomatic activity involving Sudan that could carry significant implications for the current Gaza crisis and its aftermath.

The following diplomatic engagements in recent days are worth noting:


June 23: Egyptian presidential assistant, Musa Muhammad Ahmad, holds a meeting with the Sudanese ambassador to Cairo, Anthony Kon.


June 27: Newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stops in Khartoum during his flight back from the…

The Nagorno-Karabakh Dispute: Then and Now

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (L) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian(Photo by Francois Lenoir - Pool/Getty Images; Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


There has been a burst of diplomatic activity in recent months over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenia and Azerbaijan have disputed for decades. Russia, the strongest power in the Caucasus, has become more engaged in the issue in light of Azerbaijan's growing leverage in the region, raising the possibility of a shift in this conflict. It is the changing positions of larger regional players such as Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States, more so than Azerbaijan and Armenia themselves, that will drive the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the months and years to come.

Analysis


As Russia and the West continue their confrontation over Ukraine, there is a subtler yet potentially equally significant competition occurring in the Caucasus. While Georgia attempts to move closer to the West and Armenia strengthens …