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SnapshotsJan 15, 2021 | 18:53 GMT
A Turkish-backed fighter guards the rebel-held province of Aleppo in northern Syria on Nov. 17, 2020.
Turkey Tests the Limits of the Cease-Fire in Northeastern Syria
Turkey’s gambit to undermine the U.S.-brokered 2019 cease-fire in northeastern Syria could strengthen its position on the battlefield, while increasing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)’s reliance on Russia and the Syrian government. For weeks, the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) has been shelling the SDF-held strategic town of Ain Issa in northeastern Syria. Some nearby villages have fallen to Turkish-backed forces -- paving the way for a possible full offensive to take control of Ain Issa. The U.S.-backed SDF has called on Russia to set up observation posts west of Ain Issa to deter further Turkish-backed attacks, while the United States has stepped up diplomatic activity to negotiate a settlement between the SDF and Turkey to avoid further escalation in the area.
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SnapshotsJan 14, 2021 | 21:50 GMT
Targeting China’s third-largest oil company highlights the South China Sea’s importance to U.S. strategy, which is unlikely to change under Biden.
The U.S. Adds Chinese Oil Giant CNOOC to Its Export Blacklist
The U.S. Commerce Department added the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to its entity list on Jan. 14, effectively cutting off China’s third-largest oil company from U.S. exports. The move highlights the South China Sea’s importance to U.S. strategy, which will likely continue -- though not necessarily expand -- under U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The Trump administration has significantly increased pressure on CNOOC in recent months, beginning in December when it added CNOOC to a separate U.S. Pentagon list of companies that are either owned by or controlled by the Chinese military, which will force certain U.S. investors to divest from CNOOC’s shares by mid-November. Just hours before the Commerce Department’s announcement, the S&P Dow Jones announced it was removing CNOOC from impacted indices to comply with a Jan. 13 presidential order banning U.S. investment into designated Chinese military-linked companies. As a result, major U.S. exchanges will likely delist
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SnapshotsJan 14, 2021 | 16:39 GMT
Italy’s former prime minister and current leader of the Italy Alive party, Matteo Renzi (center), holds a press conference with outgoing ministers Elena Bonetti (left) and Teresa Bellanova (right) on Jan. 13, 2021.
Italy’s Government Is in Crisis. What’s Next?
Italy is in a political crisis after a junior member of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s coalition exited the government, effectively leaving it without a majority in Parliament. The most disruptive (but least likely) scenario would be an early general election, which would undermine Rome’s efforts to handle the health and economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Jan. 13,  the small Italy Alive political party withdrew its ministers from Conte’s cabinet to protest his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has left the senior members of the coalition -- the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the center-left Democratic Party -- without a majority in Parliament. 
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SnapshotsJan 13, 2021 | 18:46 GMT
German journalist Tanja Samrotzki (right) moderates a panel with the candidates vying for the leadership post of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party -- Friedrich Merz, Norbert Roettgen and Armin Laschet (from left to right) -- on Dec. 14, 2020, in Berlin, Germany.
Germany: What to Expect as Merkel’s Party Elects a New Leader
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party will elect a new leader on Jan. 15-16. The ideological orientation of the new CDU leader could influence Germany’s domestic politics, as well as its relations with the European Union. The CDU is Germany’s most popular party and its leader stands a strong chance of becoming the country’s next chancellor after the Sept. 26 general election. In 2018, Merkel resigned as CDU leader and announced she would not seek another term as chancellor in 2021. During a virtual congress, the CDU’s 1,001 party delegates will elect a new leader. According to CDU tradition, the next party leader should also be the candidate for chancellor, though some members of the party are questioning this principle. 
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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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AssessmentsJan 8, 2021 | 22:31 GMT
A large group of pro-Trump protesters stands on the steps of the U.S. Capitol after storming the building’s grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington D.C.
For U.S. Rivals, the Capitol Siege Offers a Window of Opportunity
U.S. adversaries are likely to see the recent Capitol siege as an opportunity to quickly take action against U.S. interests ahead of Inauguration Day, calculating that a distracted Washington will be ill-equipped to respond to provocations that may strengthen their negotiating leverage with President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration. Since Jan. 6, multiple key national security officials have announced their resignations, reducing the cadre of security experts who have longstanding relationships with President Donald Trump. To avoid anything close to a repeat of the Jan. 6 siege, national security officials in Washington will be laser-focused on guaranteeing the safety of the events surrounding Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, though doing so will risk diverting resources and attention from potential foreign threats. 
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AssessmentsJan 7, 2021 | 23:00 GMT
A pharmacist receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Miramar, Florida, on Dec. 14, 2020.
The Road to Global COVID-19 Vaccination Will Be Rife With Risks and Setbacks
The United States and Europe will overcome the slow and problematic rollout of COVID vaccination campaigns in the coming months, but concerns about new strains of the virus will likely push governments to adjust protocols in order to speed up distribution. Changing the timing of doses, skipping a dose or combining vaccines are all high-risk endeavors in that they would disrupt data collection and analysis of vaccine efficacy in ongoing studies. But such vaccine protocol changes may nonetheless be deemed necessary to increase vaccination rates as policymakers scramble to quickly secure herd immunity and bring an end to the pandemic. Vaccination rates, however, will still likely hit a roadblock once skeptics from broader swaths of the population begin to defer immunization in successive vaccination waves. 
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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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