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Posts by Axion

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  • France: Sarkozy, Chirac and the Beginning of an End

    06/01/2005 7:25:47 PM PDT · 1 of 17
  • Bolivia: The Brink of Civil War

    05/25/2005 6:23:10 PM PDT · 1 of 5
  • Russia: After Ukraine

    12/12/2004 9:47:02 PM PST · 1 of 19
  • STRATFOR: Germany: Merkel vs. Multiculturalism

    12/07/2004 7:53:37 PM PST · 1 of 16
  • STRATFOR: Global Market Brief: Dec. 6, 2004

    12/05/2004 7:52:42 PM PST · 1 of 5
  • India: U.S. Embassy Reaction to Attack Threat

    11/23/2004 9:29:10 PM PST · 1 of 2
  • The Staying Power of Iran's Nuclear Deal

    11/23/2004 9:27:12 PM PST · 1 of 1
  • Musharraf: Bargaining with the Opposition?

    11/22/2004 7:53:20 PM PST · 1 of 1
  • Ukraine: Presidential Politics and a Crossroads

    11/22/2004 7:51:41 PM PST · 1 of 5
  • Military Storms Fallujah in Major Assault

    11/08/2004 6:36:51 PM PST · 24 of 37
    Axion to ovrtaxt

    STRATFOR: Al Fallujah: The Assault Moves Forward
    November 08, 2004 2147 GMT


    Shortly after its opening strikes, the assault against Al Fallujah moved into a phase in which U.S. and Iraqi troops gained a tactical advantage. The capture of several key points within the city would make it possible for the coalition troops to push insurgents into a corner or, at the very least, divide the city and restrict the guerrillas' movements. The pace of the attack as it continues will reveal the political climate surrounding the military maneuvers.


    The joint U.S.-Iraqi assault against Al Fallujah has begun. After a lengthy preparation, troops moved quickly from the operation's opening strikes into what seems to be their main thrust into the rebel-held city.

    The coalition forces' moves have put them in a position to back the insurgents into a corner. The next maneuvers in the operation depend on whether the insurgents will give up any further ground -- and the rate of those maneuvers will depend on the political climate in the city.

    U.S. forces have taken two key bridges over the Euphrates River at the western end of the city. Between the entrances of those bridges is Al Fallujah's largest hospital, which U.S. and Iraqi forces have captured. The hospital has several tactical advantages. As one of the tallest buildings in the city, it provides a good observation point -- especially for troops to watch travelers on the main road through town or on the bridges on either side of the hospital. The capture of the hospital also made it unavailable to insurgents as a base of operations and as a medical facility. Al Fallujah's citizens -- guerrillas and civilians alike -- will have to depend on three smaller hospitals that remain in rebel hands inside the city.

    Click here to enlarge the image.

    The bridges and hospital were secured, along with a key railhead to the north of the city, just before U.S. and Iraqi forces thrust into two neighborhoods in the city proper -- the northwestern Jolan district and the northeastern Askari district.

    Whether U.S. forces intended this effect, the maneuvers they have conducted thus far will put them in a very tactically advantageous position. After seizing the two key bridges -- thereby blocking off the westbound Baghdad Highway -- and pushing south with two assault heads from the northeast and northwest, the U.S.military can push insurgent forces toward the Baghdad Highway running from east to west through the center of Al Fallujah.

    That highway is wide enough that close air support assets, such as A-10 attack planes and AC-130 gunships, could be used with little danger of collateral damage. The highway makes a perfect track for strafing attacks against those who attempt to move south across it. There have been reports that during the preparation for the U.S.-Iraqi attack, Al Fallujah's insurgents established a tunnel system in the city -- possibly under the main roads and possibly to avoid just such an air assault.

    The scenario of a U.S. "flush maneuver" designed to drive the insurgents south into a "kill zone" -- the Baghdad Highway -- hinges on one simple thing: whether the insurgents can be made to give up their ground and be driven toward the highway. If the insurgents dig their heels into the neighborhoods throughout northern Al Fallujah, they could either repel the U.S. assault or be killed where they stand.

    If the military cannot drive the insurgents toward the Baghdad Highway, then it will likely control the highway with air support in an attempt to bisect the city and effectively split the defending insurgents' strongholds. This would help the U.S. forces keep the guerrillas from moving their manpower and heavy weapons from the north to the south and vice versa.

    There have not been reports of troops in the southern half of Al Fallujah -- as there were when U.S. troops pushed in from the southeast during the April assault against the city. This does not mean there is no activity in that area; it only means there have been no official statements or other reports about troops in that area. If there is something going on in southern Al Fallujah, it will be some time -- possibly not until the end of the entire operation -- before the activity is made public.

    At this point, the initial assault against Al Fallujah is not over, nor has the fighting reached its apex. As of this writing, it seems U.S. forces are maintaining their tactical initiative against the insurgents. However, reports of counter U.S. thrusts or insurgent attacks have not filtered in -- other than an unconfirmed report from Al Jazeera that an Apache helicopter was shot down -- and thus the picture remains incomplete.

    The momentum of the maneuvers in Al Fallujah should be noted. The speed at which the assault continues will indicate the nature of the operation's political tactics. A slower assault with more pauses for logistics and rest will indicate more willingness to continue negotiations with leaders in Al Fallujah as the fighting goes on. An aggressive, fast-paced campaign will indicate the opposite -- that Washington and Baghdad are no longer interested in negotiations but want a military victory over the insurgent hotbed of Al Fallujah.

  • The Elections: Playing With Fire

    11/01/2004 6:09:29 PM PST · 1 of 11
  • Iraq: Looking More Like Lebanon

    10/28/2004 8:02:42 PM PDT · 6 of 7
    Axion to Fast1

    I agree, those whose reading skills do not rise to the level of a GED, should not read STRATFOR.

  • Iraq: Looking More Like Lebanon

    10/28/2004 5:56:46 PM PDT · 1 of 7
  • Arafat dying? Time to consider...

    10/27/2004 10:53:47 PM PDT · 16 of 16
    Axion to Little Big Man of Canada

    Geopolitical Diary: Thursday, Oct. 28, 2004
    October 28, 2004 0013 GMT

    Yasser Arafat appears to be dying. He is certainly very ill and most indications are that his condition is extremely grave. It is not clear what he is suffering from and it is always possible that he will recover, but the working assumption among most observers is that recovery would surprise them.

    The death of Arafat would end not only an era of Palestinian history, but also an era of Arab history. Arafat was part of the generation of Arab leaders that arose after the revolution of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. They were secularists for whom Islamic religiosity was secondary. Rather than Islam, they celebrated Arabic pan-nationalism. They were generally socialists, regarding the state as the primary vehicle for development. They were modernists in the sense that they pursued industrialization. They were militarists, regarding the army -- or the militarized party -- as the driver for their vision. And finally, they looked at the Soviet Union as a strategic partner in their struggle against Israel. Most Arab countries outside the Arabian Peninsula were swept by this fever.

    Arafat was the last Nasserite firebrand. Here and there, in Syria or Egypt, a regime that can draw its lineage back to the Arab revolutionaries still hangs on, but the fire is gone. Arafat alone still stood and fought -- but he fought more as a fossil than as a contemporary force. Arafat, like much of the Arab world, saw the mantle of revolution taken away from the Arab secularists, and seized by the Islamist revolutionaries. The United Arab Republic gave way to al Qaeda. Hamas came to challenge the authority of al-Fatah, Arafat's party.

    Arafat survived by tacking with the Islamist wind, but he never fully capitulated to the Islamist spirit. That spirit transcended the Arab world and focused on the broader Islamic world. Arafat remained, in his heart, committed to the Palestinian people as part of the broader process of Arab nationalism. He never dealt with the fact that Arab nationalism was no longer a driving force. He never really came to terms with the Islamic revolution.

    He also never named a successor or defined a succession. In a sense, no succession is possible. How do you replace a symbol? But the problem is that he was more than a symbol. He was the leader of the Palestinian revolution and he left that revolution without the political institutions that could transcend his death. Indeed, the institutions he created could not really manage the Palestinians while he was alive. Part of the problem is that revolutionaries make poor managers. Part of it was simply that the Palestinian reality outgrew Arafat's paradigm. He never seemed to know what to make of Hamas and he could never really accommodate it in his structure. His personality sort of controlled the situation, but with his passing an entirely new structure will have to emerge.

    Arafat's ultimate legacy could well be a civil war among the Palestinians. With Arafat gone, Hamas will lay claim to authority. And Arafat's associates -- bereft of Arafat -- are a singularly unimpressive lot, far more interested in protecting their own interests than in pursuing Arafat's revolution. They will not easily follow Arafat, and the more vibrant, Islamist wing of the Palestinians is not likely to bend its knees to them as it reluctantly did with Arafat.

    The Israelis have long argued that Arafat is the main obstacle to peace. In our opinion, the main obstacle to peace is that there is now a Palestinian people, but there is no Palestinian authority that can speak for all Palestinians. In truth, Arafat couldn't do that any more either, but he could give the impression that he did. Now no one can give that impression and nothing can go forward -- among the Palestinians or with the Israelis -- until that issue is settled.

    Arafat's legacy is that he willed the Palestinian nation into being. But his failure to create a Palestinian government means that he could well leave another legacy -- a bloody civil war between the various Palestinian factions to determine the nature of the Palestinian state and government. It cannot be simultaneously secular and religious, socialist and mercantile, Arabist and Islamist. These issues not only were not settled by Arafat, but also he prevented them from being effectively addressed. The piper now will have to be paid.

  • S.Korea Boosts North Security After DMZ Fence Cut

    10/26/2004 8:10:34 PM PDT · 5 of 5
    Axion to DeaconBenjamin

    October 26, 2004 0500 GMT

    U.S. media were filled Monday with questions and speculation about the whereabouts of some 350 tons of explosives that went missing in Iraq sometime between January and mid-summer 2003. Late in the day, however, news broke of something much smaller that was missing - a piece of fencing, 40 centimeters by 40 centimeters. This hole, while far from Iraq, has the potential to be of much more significance and immediate importance than explosives last seen 18-20 months ago.

    At around 1646 GMT (1:46 a.m. Oct. 26 local time), South Korean soldiers on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea discovered holes in the double fence along the southern border of the DMZ. The hole in the outer fence measured 40 cm by 40 cm, and a hole in the inner fence measured 40 cm by 30 cm. The cuts were found near the southern town of Cheolwon, near the central portion of the DMZ, Brig. Gen. Hwang Jung Seon, chief operations officer at the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

    South Korean defense forces in the area were put on their highest level of alert -- termed Jindokgae Hana -- and were searching for potential North Korean infiltrators. While North and South Korea maintain a somewhat bipolar relationship -- equal parts confrontation and cooperation -- there hasn't been a major infiltration into South Korea since 1996, when a North Korean submarine ran aground and its occupants led South Korean security forces on a hunt for several days before all members were killed, many by each other or their own hands.

    Since that time, there have been other submarine incidents, a North Korean attempt at a satellite launch atop an intermediate-range ballistic missile, two nuclear crises (one of which continues today), naval clashes (at least two of which were deadly), and the occasional spurt of automatic weapons fire within the DMZ. There has also been an inter-Korean summit, enhanced bilateral trade and investment, the development of a South Korean-run tourist venture in North Korea, the reconnection of long-severed rail lines, and early steps toward joint development of a new industrial complex in North Korea's Kaesong city.

    The new security breach comes as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Seoul for an Oct. 26 meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and other South Korean officials to discuss the continued nuclear standoff with North Korea. This is not the first time Powell has, perhaps not coincidentally, arrived at a time of North Korean provocation. On Feb. 24, as Powell was arriving in Seoul for Roh's inauguration, North Korea decided to test a shore-to-ship missile.

    Whether timed with Powell's visit or not, however, the event is sure to raise concerns about the continued threat North Korea poses -- not only to South Korea, but to the United States as well. East Asian issues, particularly the question of China, have remained a distant second in presidential debates and candidates' discussions of foreign policy initiatives, with the notable exception of the occasional spat over the best policy for dealing with Northeast Asia's token member of the "axis of evil," North Korea. Bush and Kerry differ in their opinion of how much attention needs be paid to North Korea, and the best way to resolve a nuclear crisis that Pyongyang incorrectly believed would be over by mid-2003.

    Interestingly, the administration of President George W. Bush has pursued a policy of benign neglect -- or perhaps more accurately, contemptuous neglect -- that, while not exactly what South Korea had hoped for, is certainly throwing North Korea's planned use of the nuclear card out the window and leaving the Northern regime backed into a corner. In essence, Washington has put Pyongyang in an international "time-out," relegating the rogue regime to standing in the corner. When Pyongyang pounds its fist, as it regularly does, Washington simply looks over, offers a little scolding and waits for the North Korean regime to recognize the error of its ways and back off it threats before showing any willingness to engage it more directly.

    As previously mentioned, this policy is contradictory to what both Pyongyang and Seoul want. While Seoul seeks peaceful co-existence, and perceives Washington's attitude as prolonging a state of confrontation, North Korea has sought to achieve its own national (and more importantly, regime) security through the accusations of nuclear weapons -- thriving on others' fears and claims of Pyongyang's weapons rather than ever actually showing its hand and proving (or disproving) the presence of said weapons.

    In essence, Pyongyang has blustered its way into being a U.S. foreign policy initiative, something the current U.S. administration has neither bought into nor encouraged. This has left North Korea with few places to turn, other than to continually raise the stakes or to capitulate and back down from its threatening posture if it wants the self-generated crisis to end. And Pyongyang may be moving to raise the stakes with this possible infiltration.

    In addition, Pyongyang has already raised concerns several times by allowing satellite imagery to capture increased activity at North Korean missile installations. And it may be signaling more -- perhaps another attempt at a satellite launch. An Oct. 25 commentary in the official [North] Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carries the remarks of a North Korean delegate to an Oct. 18 United Nations meeting on International Cooperation in Peaceful Use of Outer Space. The delegate chides developed nations for blocking the "peaceful development" of space by less developed countries, noting that "all the countries should be allowed to freely participate in the peaceful development and use of the space on an equal footing," and adding that North Korea intends to continue its own space development program.

    Given that KCNA presaged North Korea's 1998 missile launch with an article on the advancement of astrological achievements by the ancient Koreas, Pyongyang may well be threatening once again to throw itself into the center of the world stage, regaining the attention it so desperately craves as a bargaining chip in international political, security and economic negotiations.

    Copyright 2004 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

  • Global Market Brief: Oct. 25, 2004

    10/24/2004 7:53:58 PM PDT · 1 of 2
  • Geopolitical Diary: Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004

    10/20/2004 9:24:09 PM PDT · 1 of 5
  • Force Structure

    10/19/2004 5:31:06 PM PDT · 1 of 18
  • Security Breach in Iraq's Green Zone: Trend or One-Time Lapse?

    10/14/2004 7:54:18 PM PDT · 1 of 1
  • Geopolitical Diary: Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004

    10/14/2004 2:16:40 AM PDT · 1 of 3