Monday, December 9, 2013

Analysis - Latest developments with Hizballah, Iraq and Ukraine

1) The Lebanese Hizballah appears to have lost another leader. Whoever was responsible for Lakkis's death last week, it's obvious that hostile pressure on the group is growing. With Hizballah now fully invested in Assad's survival, sectarian reactions to that strategy are also growing in intensity - hence the less of three senior leaders in as many weeks. In basic terms, Hizballah's political adversaries are taking advantage from the group's associated guilt for incidents like this one. As I've written before, Hizballah is suffering from an identity crisis of serious proportions. Devoid of a cross-sectarian base of sympathy, the organization's carefully constructed 'anti-oppression' narrative is being rendered for the lie that it is. Whatever happens with Assad, in Lebanon and beyond, Hizballah's strategic choices will leave them increasingly vulnerable. For a few of my related thoughts on Hizballah, please click (point five here), here and here.

2) ISIL continues to wreck havoc upon Iraq. In the absence of US Intelligence capabilities (please see my BBC debate on the NSA - takes a minute to load!) and amidst continuing political discord (please see my thoughts here), ISIL and its affiliates are once again endangering Iraq's stability. As the ISW's Jessica Lewis notes, ISIL has embraced a highly effective strategy of impatient resurgence. Again, it's important that we note the targeting methodology that ISIL embraces. As with their Salafi violent-extremist counterparts around the world, they are members of a death worshiping cult. Recognizing this truth, we should still be astute to the political grievances that allow groups like ISIL to prosper. Nevertheless, we must also grapple with the reality of a movement that sees cafes, markets, malls, roads and playgrounds as military targets.

3) The protests in Ukraine continue to grow. President Yanukovych has a problem. At a basic level, he has wagered against a long brewing discontent. Outraged by endemic corruption and Yanukovych's subservience to Putin's bullying/influence, many Ukrainians believe they're in a struggle for the very future of Ukraine. Quite understandably, these citizens have little interest in a future that abandons them to the ignominy of existence as a buffer state for Putin's Russia. While it's true that Ukraine is far from unified in its support for a pro-west future, younger Ukrainians are firmly ensconced with the pro-EU/US crowd. The trend lines are clear. Still, there are US policies that could help catalyze this process. Recognizing Ukraine's deep vulnerability to Russian energy blackmail, the US should urgently begin to provide an alternate source of energy to Eastern European states. By loosening regulations on US companies, exports of US Liquefied Natural Gas exports could begin in earnest. That alternate supply portfolio would enable Ukrainians to break free from their present headlock-like relationship with Russia. For some of my thoughts on Putin, please click here and here.

Other related writings can be found here.

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