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Showing posts from July 25, 2014

Can Putin Survive?

By George Friedman

There is a general view that Vladimir Putin governs the Russian Federation as a dictator, that he has defeated and intimidated his opponents and that he has marshaled a powerful threat to surrounding countries. This is a reasonable view, but perhaps it should be re-evaluated in the context of recent events.
Ukraine and the Bid to Reverse Russia's Decline

Ukraine is, of course, the place to start. The country is vital to Russia as a buffer against the West and as a route for delivering energy to Europe, which is the foundation of the Russian economy. On Jan. 1, Ukraine's president was Viktor Yanukovich, generally regarded as favorably inclined to Russia. Given the complexity of Ukrainian society and politics, it would be unreasonable to say Ukraine under him was merely a Russian puppet. But it is fair to say that under Yanukovich and his supporters, fundamental Russian interests in Ukraine were secure.

This was extremely important to Putin. Part of the reason P…

Iraq Is Divided but Not Fractured

The ability of Iraq's various ethnic and sectarian political actors to elect a president and a parliamentary speaker in just nine days, despite the ongoing Sunni insurrection and Islamic State offensive, belies claims of the demise of the Iraqi nation. However, Iraq is not exactly a single political entity. The Kurds are seeking as much autonomy as they can get and the Sunnis are in rebellion, meaning that Iraq -- a federal entity on paper -- will largely behave as a confederation over time.

On July 24, Iraqi lawmakers elected senior Kurdish leader Fouad Massoum as the country's new president. Massoum's election comes a week after lawmakers chose Sunni leader Salim al-Jubouri as parliamentary speaker. Deciding which Shiite leader will become prime minister, the most powerful position in the post-Baathist republic, is the next step in forming a government following the April 30 elections.

Understanding the tensions within and among Iraq's three main communal groups is ess…

Nicaragua: Political Attacks Pose No Imminent Threat to Government

Supporters of the Sandinista National Liberation Front fly party flags at the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Managua on July 19.(Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images)


Two ambushes of buses carrying political supporters of Nicaragua's ruling party signal a notable escalation in political violence in the country. The attacks, conducted by gunmen on July 19 and 20, mark the deadliest instances of political violence since the end of Nicaragua's Contra insurgency, which lasted from 1979 to 1990.

The incidents suggest the presence of small, politically motivated militant groups operating against the government. A group calling itself the National Salvation Forces-Popular Army claimed responsibility. However, guerrillas operating in the country likely lack the popular and financial support that would be needed to pose an immediate threat to the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.


The gunmen targeted two buses in Matagalpa department tra…

Ukraine: Collapse of Ruling Coalition Could Lead to Early Elections

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on June 16.SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images


Ukraine appears to be headed for early parliamentary elections. The Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party and the Svoboda party, announced their departure from the ruling coalition July 24; Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk subsequently announced his resignation. By law, the parliament now has 30 days to form a new coalition. If it fails to do so, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko can dissolve parliament and call for early elections -- a likely outcome, given the parliament's current composition.


Ukraine's parliament has gone through several changes since the uprising against former President Viktor Yanukovich. Before the uprising, Yanukovich's Party of Regions dominated the 450-member parliament. The party held the greatest number of seats, 187, and relied on its allies in the Communist Party, which had 32 seats, and many of the 43 independent lawmake…

Sites of Attack on Sandinista Supporters in Nicaragua

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Two ambushes July 19 and July 20 were the deadliest political attacks in Nicaragua since the end of the Contra insurgency, which lasted from 1979 to 1990. Gunmen targeted two buses in Matagalpa department that were transporting supporters of Nicaragua's ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, from political events commemorating the anniversary of the country's 1979 revolution. Four people died in the first ambush, which occurred just before midnight July 19 near the community of Las Calabazas. Witnesses said an unknown number of gunmen hidden along the side of the road fired on the bus as it passed by; a police report said the assailants used AK-47s and shotguns. According to one report, the attackers also used caltrops to puncture the tires of vehicles traveling in the convoy. Soldiers arrested four people in connection to the attack. The second ambush occurred in the municipality of San Ramon after midnight July 20 and resulted in one death.


Oil Export Deal Could Further Destabilize Libya

Libya's Marsa el Brega refinery and oil terminal is pictured at night on March 11.(ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images)


News of an impending deal to bring oil exports back online is likely to create more problems for Libya's embattled central government rather than solve them. After the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, Tripoli has found that such deals usually trigger a larger competition between various armed groups demanding often-competing concessions, further destabilizing the country. As long as Libya depends on cooperation from the various armed groups within its borders to maintain stability, its reliance on negotiating and granting concessions (rather than using force) to end protests and fighting will perpetuate the very pattern of extortion and violence by militias that Tripoli is trying to end.


Libyan media outlets are reporting that members of the government-funded Petroleum Facilities Guards and Tripoli have reached an initial deal allowing for a temp…