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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:30 GMT
Iran
Iran
Iran sits at the crossroads of the Islamic world. Linking the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central and South Asia, Iran has struggled to balance the benefits and risks of its geographic position. Iran's core is located in the western Zagros mountain range. From this secure geography, the beginnings of the Persian Empire spread throughout Iran's mountainous topography securing the Alborz, the southern Zagros and much of the Iranian plateau. Iran's primary geographic challenge has been to secure itself from the many external threats on its borders. Arabs, Mongols and Turks all conquered ancient Persia at various times, prompting Persia to expand its territorial control whenever possible to establish a buffer to protect its core. At its height, the Persian Empire stretched from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush mountains, bridging modern-day Europe and Asia. Echoes of this former empire can be seen even today, with Iran's support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the al Assad regime in Damascus and the Shiite-led government in Iraq. Iran has also struggled to unite and control the various language and ethnic groups located within its core territories, a process impeded by the country's difficult terrain. Modern-day Tehran is aided by its large hydrocarbon reserves; Iran boasts the fourth-largest oil reserves and largest natural gas reserves in the world. The 20th century saw British, Russian and American interests competing not only to control Iran's strategic geographic location, but its significant energy reserves as well. This modern-day reliance on energy revenues has resulted in Iran's focus on securing the Strait of Hormuz and expanding control over the Persian Gulf to secure its core territories from the threat of outside invasion.
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SITUATION REPORTJan 27, 2020 | 16:26 GMT
Global: Five Eyes Pact Agrees With France, South Korea, Japan to Increase Monitoring of North Korea
Representatives from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, as well as South Korea, Japan and France, agreed in late 2019 to expand their activities around North Korea, according to a Jan. 27 report by The Japan Times, citing Japanese and U.S. government sources.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:56 GMT
Niger
Niger
Niger is a landlocked Sahelian state in West Africa that is surrounded by Algeria and Libya to the north, Chad to the east, Nigeria and Benin to the South and Burkina Faso and Mali to the west. Niger's greatest geographic challenge is its landlocked status in the Sahel, the transition zone between the Sahara Desert and the savannahs of West Africa. Niger's lack of immediate coastal access and the global markets beyond increases the cost of imports and exports there. Moreover, it forces the country to rely on costly or lacking infrastructure and to manage relations with neighboring countries carefully to ensure its trade opportunities are not cut off. The Sahel region has often been home to significant instability. Mali, Niger's neighbor to the west, remains the epicenter of regional militancy thanks to its weak government, internal tensions and a host of other issues. Niger, for its part, has also experienced cycles of rebellion but has largely maintained a somewhat stable, if weak and porous, security environment in recent years. Niger's geographic position in the impoverished and unstable Sahel has done it no favors regarding infrastructure or economic development. In the years ahead, rapid population growth and strained resources will become even more pressing, causing Niger to struggle as it grapples with these problems for the foreseeable future.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:34 GMT
Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia sits at the northwest corner of North Africa, and is divided geographically between its temperate, mountainous northern coastline, its warm, central plains, and its hot, dry Sahara Desert interior. To maintain its prosperity, Tunisia's primary geographic challenges are to manage the economic divide between its interior and coastline, while also defending the country's geographically open borders and trade routes with Europe. Though it lacks major natural resources, agriculture has flourished for centuries in Tunisia's mountainous north. Tunisia's location on the Mediterranean is a double-edged sword. It provides it with access to trade routes while also opening it up to attacks from powerful states. Though the country's interior is much more defensible, the coastal region produces 85% of Tunisia's gross domestic product. Its capital and largest city, Tunis, sits on the Bay of Tunis where a natural harbor facilitates trade, but provides an easy landing point for invasion. Beginning with the Roman conquest of Carthage in the second century B.C., Tunisia was under foreign occupation for much of its history. Its last occupation ended in 1956 when French colonization ceased, but trouble on Tunisia's southern border persists today. To maintain prosperity, Tunisia needs access to European trade routes across the Mediterranean Sea. Doing so requires close relationships with powers strong enough to keep those routes open, and Tunisia has thus remained close with its powerful former colonizer, France. Because Tunisia is too weak to control or influence neighboring Algeria or Libya, it chooses to focus on maintaining its trade routes to Europe.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 15:13 GMT
Egypt
Egypt
Located in the northeast corner of Africa, Egypt lies at the heart of the Arab World. Comprised of mostly uninhabitable desert, 99 percent of the country's 93 million people live along the banks of the Nile River. This region, from the Aswan High Dam to the Mediterranean shore is Egypt's core. The Nile, while not commercially navigable, forms the basis of Egypt's irrigation-dependent agricultural sector. The long, narrow stretch of population requires expensive infrastructure development — especially related to transportation, straining the capital-poor government's resources. The desert topography demands a great deal of investment on a national scale necessitating a strong central state, helping to explain Egypt's history of authoritarian regimes beginning with the pharaohs. Egypt's main geographic challenge has been to develop beyond the narrow Nile corridor and project power eastward. The Saharan desert has largely insulated the Nile core from its western flank and contained Egypt's westward expansion. Egypt has been able to translate its strong central government and border with Israel into developing a relationship with the United States, the key foreign backer protecting the Suez Canal and the northern coastline. This area contains the majority of Egypt's offshore hydrocarbon reserves. The Sinai Desert has traditionally been the overland route of foreign invasion, but its more manageable geography also accommodates Egyptian attempts to interact with the Levant and Arabian Peninsula and competition with Saudi Arabia for the role of regional Arab hegemon.
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