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SnapshotsJan 14, 2021 | 21:32 GMT
Israeli troops are pictured during a military drill in Golan Heights on Jan. 13, 2021.
Amid U.S. Political Uncertainty, Israel and Iran Go Head-to-Head
Israel will escalate pressure on Iran in the final days of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, increasing the risk of Iranian retaliation -- particularly in proxy theaters like Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and potentially Yemen. On Jan. 12, Israel conducted a widespread series of strikes against at least 15 Iranian-linked targets along the Iraqi-Syrian border, reportedly killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more. A senior U.S. intelligence official said that Israel conducted the strikes based on intelligence provided by the United States. The strikes targeted facilities that stored Iranian weaponry, which the U.S. official claimed served as a pipeline for components of Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian-linked, Afghan-dominated militia Fatemiyoun was also one of the targets. 
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AssessmentsJan 12, 2021 | 21:55 GMT
Destroyed homes are seen in the village of Aldeia da Paz outside Macomia, Mozambique, after a militant attack on Aug. 24, 2019.
In Mozambique, Militants Will Gain Ground Until They Threaten the Government
Militants in Mozambique will continue to gain ground near the liquified natural gas (LNG) park under construction in the country’s north until the government deems the economic and political threat large enough to warrant foreign support. On Jan. 1, the French supermajor Total evacuated some of its personnel from its $20 billion LNG project being built on the Afungi Peninsula in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, effectively freezing work at the site. The decision came after the Islamic State affiliate in Mozambique, Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ) -- which is also a part of Islamic State’s Central African Province -- attacked a village less than one kilometer from the facility’s airstrip.
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SnapshotsJan 7, 2021 | 18:13 GMT
An aerial view shows the ruins of a village on Jan. 5, 2021, in an area of Nagorno-Karabakh that was recaptured by Azerbaijan in October 2020.
Despite Violations, the Azeri-Armenian Cease-Fire Will Hold -- For Now
The Azeri-Armenian cease-fire will be undermined by both sides on the ground and in their capitals. But for now, Turkish-Russian cooperation and domestic problems in Armenia seem poised to prevent more large, state-on-state clashes. On Dec. 28, Azerbaijan said one soldier was killed by an Armenian armed unit in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, violating the Nov. 10 truce. The clash followed several earlier incidents in December. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities accused Azeri troops of capturing some of their soldiers following clashes between Azeri and Armenian-backed forces between Dec. 11-13 that killed several soldiers on both sides. Azeri and Armenian authorities have begun regularly accusing one another of violating the truce that ended weeks of fighting and resulted in reported casualties on both sides.
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On SecurityDec 29, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
FBI and first responders work on the scene after an explosion in Nashville, Tennessee, on Dec. 25, 2020. According to initial reports, a vehicle exploded downtown in the early morning hours of Christmas Day.
The Nashville Bombing and the Risk of Copycat Attacks
Investigations into the Dec. 25 bombing near an AT&T facility in Nashville are exploring the suspect’s potential links to conspiracy theories surrounding 5G wireless technology. Regardless of the assailant’s actual motive, the widespread disruption caused to telecommunications networks in Tennessee and nearby states, as well as growing online speculation of the attack’s connection to 5G conspiracies, will likely contribute to an uptick in threats against other communications infrastructure. Organizations operating in the telecommunications industry are potential targets and should thus prepare for an increase in threat activity. 
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SnapshotsDec 15, 2020 | 19:11 GMT
A blacksmith crafts metal in a village mansion in Ankara, Turkey, on Nov. 18, 2020.
S-400 Sanctions Risk Further Deteriorating U.S.-Turkey Relations
New U.S. sanctions will stymie Turkey’s strategy to develop an indigenous defense sector, prompting Ankara to continue exploring alternative security ties while intensifying bilateral tensions for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. On Dec. 14, the United States announced a series of defense sector-aimed sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), fulfilling long-term threats that Washington would impose penalties on its fellow NATO ally for the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system. The sanctions target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), including its chief Ismail Demir and three other senior officials, and come as the U.S. Congress was poised to mandate CAATSA sanctions through the annual National Defense Authorization Act.  
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AssessmentsDec 11, 2020 | 22:30 GMT
American supporters of Morocco’s “Autonomy Plan” for Western Sahara take part in a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 27, 2010.
The Risks of the U.S. Recognizing Morocco’s Control of Western Sahara
If upheld by the next U.S. administration, Washington’s move to recognize Moroccan control over the disputed Western Sahara region would mark a major diplomatic feat for Rabat, though it will risk inflaming tensions both at home and with Morocco’s African neighbors. The White House and the Moroccan royal court confirmed Dec. 10 that Israel and Morocco have decided to establish full diplomatic relations. As part of the normalization deal, the United States said it will also recognize Morocco’s “full sovereignty” over Western Sahara. These concurrent agreements suggest that Washington promised its recognition in exchange for Rabat normalizing its ties with Israel. Should U.S. President-elect Joe Biden follow through on this pledge by establishing a U.S. consulate in the disputed territory, it would be a huge boost to Morocco’s diplomatic strategy of claiming de facto sovereignty over the territory, as Washington’s global influence far exceeds that of the African and Middle
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On SecurityDec 8, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
Cars line up on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro crossing port at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, on March 12, 2020.
U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings Are Poised to Grow in 2021
The compounding crises of 2020 will likely contribute to a new wave of immigrants from hard-hit Central American countries. While previous surges of migrants in 2018 and 2019 contributed to significant disruptions along the U.S.-Mexico border, a repeat of those episodes in 2021 is unlikely. But addressing the many security challenges that still plague the United States’ southern border will require working more deeply with Mexico on a long-term solution.
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AssessmentsDec 3, 2020 | 23:26 GMT
Members of Iranian forces pray around the coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during his burial ceremony at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in northern Tehran on Nov. 30, 2020.
A New Iranian Law Could Bring the Nuclear Issue to a Crisis Point Under Biden
The Iranian parliament's ratification of a new bill expanding Iran's nuclear program reflects growing pressure by Iranian hawks on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and their expectation of early engagement with the incoming Biden administration to address bilateral issues. If the law is implemented entirely it would bring the Iran nuclear issue on the cusp of a crisis within the first 100 days of the Biden administration because the moves that Iran makes under the law would be aimed at significantly reducing Iran's nuclear breakout, the time Iran would need to produce enough weapons-grade material for one device.
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AssessmentsNov 27, 2020 | 17:44 GMT
IAEA inspectors (2nd, 3rd L) and Iranian technicians disconnect the connections between the twin cascades for 20 percent uranium production at nuclear power plant of Natanz, Iran, on Jan., 20, 2014.
Fallout From the Killing of a High-Level Iranian Nuclear Scientist
The assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh will not materially impact Iran's nuclear program, but the killing is a sign that the United States and Israel are accelerating their covert strategy against Iran in the waning days of the Trump administration. Iran will respond in some form, although it will probably refrain from a hasty response that could transform the covert war with Israel and the United States on Iranian soil into an overt one.
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On GeopoliticsNov 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
How the Plight of a Heartland Could Upset America's Balance
The unprecedented threats of violence and unrest surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election have shown just how deeply divided the American electorate has become. As the United States prepares for what’s likely to be a highly contentious power transition, we invite readers to revisit this 2019 column on how the polarization of U.S. politics goes hand-in-hand with the U.S. economic core’s continued shift away from the Mississippi River Basin to the coasts.
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SnapshotsNov 9, 2020 | 22:23 GMT
A photo illustration shows banknotes of the Turkish lira currency on Aug. 27, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Could a Personnel Shakeup in Turkey Help Stabilize Its Economy?
The emerging personnel shakeup among Turkey’s financial and economic leadership indicates growing political pressure on and within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to fix the country's flagging economy, and could initiate a shift in Turkey’s monetary policy that would be welcomed by markets and investors. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired the central bank governor Murat Uysal on Nov. 7 and replaced him with former finance minister Naci Agbal. Then on Nov. 8, finance minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak resigned via Instagram, which Erdogan accepted on Nov. 9. Turkey’s currency rallied when markets opened on Nov. 9 to 8.1358 lira per $1, but the degree to which the lira will continue to rally and the economy recover will depend on the decisions Ankara’s economic team makes from here, and whether they make a real shift from the last two years of unorthodox intervention and easing. 
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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AssessmentsOct 2, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A picture taken on Nov. 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.
The Limits of Biden’s Proposed Return to Diplomacy With Iran
U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has expressed he’d be open to quickly re-entering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran returns to full compliance. But his predecessor’s hardline policies would probably necessitate expanding the scope of negotiations with Tehran beyond the current deal, leading Iran to adopt an even harder position on its nuclear program. Biden criticized the Trump administration’s hawkish Iran policy and 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear deal in a Sept. 13 opinion piece, in which he wrote that returning to the JCPOA could be the start of broader diplomacy between Tehran and Washington. Simply re-entering the JCPOA, however, would be difficult for both Washington and Tehran, as the current U.S. sanctions architecture is now far more complex than it was when the deal was signed in 2015.
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SnapshotsSep 29, 2020 | 15:42 GMT
Armenian soldiers fire artillery shells toward Azeri forces in the town of Martakert, located in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, on April 3, 2016.
Armenia and Azerbaijan Intensify Their Border Battle
The current, intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenian forces near the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which started early on Sept. 27, follows months of atypically high levels of ceasefire violations between the two sides since a July 2020 skirmish in a different sector of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Russian efforts to alter its strategy in the South Caucasus may have signaled an opportunity to Azerbaijan, prompting an attempt to advance its position on the battlefield while still enjoying strong Turkish support. The established dynamics of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s ongoing conflict, however, are expected to persist, as local geography and a lack of resources limit both sides’ ability to challenge the higher-level reality along the line of contact.
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