Tag Archives: stratfor

Stratfor: a Grand Bargain remains elusive in Ukraine

Summary: Stratfor provides a status report on the Ukraine civil war, a festering boil in the heart of Europe and spark that hawks on both sides are using to restart the cold war. These conflicts usually end in diplomacy; that point seems far away.


For Ukraine, a Grand Bargain Is Still Elusive
Stratfor, 14 October 2015


  • Because of political considerations, Kiev will not fully submit to separatist and Russian demands for amnesty and “special status” powers in eastern Ukraine.
  • Europe will encourage the Ukrainian government to be accommodating, but the United States will push for a hard-line approach.
  • Russia will keep its options open and will not abandon the possibility of ramping up militant activity if Kiev and the West are uncooperative.


After a year of slow-burning conflict in eastern Ukraine, the relationship between Kiev and Moscow seems to finally be improving. Fighting on the ground has dissipated, there have been positive developments in talks over the past few weeks and both sides began to pull heavy weaponry back from the line of contact in early October. Moreover, Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a temporary natural gas deal and will begin direct negotiations on Kiev’s terms of repayment for a bond that matures in December. And in a major concession to Kiev and its Western backers, the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk announced Oct. 6 that they would postpone local elections.

These developments signal progress toward ending the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. However, a broader settlement will still be difficult to achieve and is unlikely to be reached before the end of the year.

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Stratfor: The Loyalist Offensive Begins in Syria, with Russia’s help

Summary: As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead. This report by Strafor looks at the combined Russia – Syrian government offensive.

Russia’s military deployment to Syria was carried out with the permission of Damascus, and is “completely legal and legitimate under international law.” “The difference with Russian presence and presence of all these special forces that are now operating in Syria is that the US was not asked by the legitimate Syrian government to interfere and they were in breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

— Dirk Adriaensens (actiist, bio here).


In Syria, the Loyalist Offensive Begin

Stratfor, 8 October 2015

The Syrian government’s long-expected offensive against the country’s rebel forces has begun. On Oct. 7, loyalist troops advanced against rebel-held positions in northern Hama with the support of numerous Russian airstrikes as well as both rocket and tube artillery fire. Initial reports from the battlefield suggest that the rebels, primarily the Free Syrian Army, are putting up an effective defense in spite of heavy shelling. The rebels’ liberal use of improvised explosive devices and anti-tank guided missiles has taken a heavy toll on loyalist armor; several reports say rebels destroyed 17 armored fighting vehicles on the first day of the fight, and combat footage has confirmed the destruction of at least nine vehicles.

Despite the initial setback, the loyalists’ Russian-backed offensive has only just begun. Already there have been heavy airstrikes in the Al-Ghab plain, signaling the spread of the offensive to other areas of Hama. Loyalists are also preparing to assault the northern Homs pocket and to push toward the Kweiris air base, where several allied groups are still engaged in fighting with Islamic State forces.

Russian airstrikes in Syria

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Stratfor shows that the Russians Are Coming – to Syria

Summary: The United States has almost 800 bases in 70 nations around the world, so it’s natural that Russia building a base in Syria would spark hysteria among Americans. So rather than pay attention to our special operations units, active in 135 nations this past year, let’s focus on the Russians in Syria. Stratfor provides the satellite photos and analysis that tell you what you need to know. Use the knowledge wisely.


Explaining Russia’s True Presence in Syria

Stratfor, 25 September 2015

Stratfor has been closely tracking the Russian buildup of military power at Bassel al Assad air base in Syria, charting the uptick of forces throughout September. Aside from the air assets and defensive ground capacity identified at the air base, reports indicate potential Russian activity at several other locations across the Syrian coastal region.

Widely circulated satellite photography dated Sept. 13 revealed construction at the Istamo weapons storage facility and the appearance of tents at the al-Sanobar military facility south of Latakia. Though this led to conclusions of a possible Russian military presence at those facilities, more recent and detailed imagery provided by our partners at AllSource Analysis seems to contradict this assertion.

Satellite imagery of the al-Sanobar military complex from Sept. 23 does not show any sign of a notable Russian military presence. The tent camp that was present in the Sept. 13 imagery is nowhere to be seen. Also, no particular Russian military equipment or vehicles can be identified.

Russian forces likely move through the area frequently because of their continued activity at the port of Latakia, the activity at the nearby Bassel al Assad air base, and the transit of Russia advisers and trainers to the Syrian front lines, where they are embedded with military units. Because of this, it is possible that the Sept. 13 imagery caught a temporary encampment of Russian forces operating in the Syrian coastal area, as opposed to a more sustained deployment of combat forces to the al-Sanobar complex.

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Stratfor looks at Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Summary: Nothing shows the magnitude of our failure in Iraq as its transformation from foe to friend of Iran. More than an ally, Iran has become powerful in Iraq’s internal politics. Neither Iraq’s rulers nor its neighbors are happy with this, and now they push back. Stratfor seems optimistic about their odds of success. Color me skeptical about this analysis. However, Stratfor’s greatest value is as a window into the values, assumptions, and thinking of US elites. This shows how little we’ve learned after 14 years of FAILs in Iraq.


Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Lead Analyst: Omar Lamrani
Stratfor, 18 September 2015


  • The Iraqi prime minister will continue to pursue reforms to loosen Iran’s grip on his country.
  • A growing number of regional rivals will seek to challenge Iran’s position as the dominant foreign influence in Iraq.
  • Iran’s powerful proxies and considerable clout in the Iraqi parliament will continue to cement its presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future.


Iraq, a historical crossroad between major empires to the east and west, is once again caught in the middle of a battle among regional powers looking to protect their own interests. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has maintained its dominant foreign influence in Iraq, a status quo that was only reinforced after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

Now, however, Iran’s standing may not be so assured. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pushed through several reforms that have increasingly challenged Iran’s role in the country, creating an opening for other states in the region to make a play for greater leverage in Iraq. But Iran will not back down without a fight. Tehran will use every tool it has, including proxy forces, to guard its interests in Iraq.

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Stratfor Confirms Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria

Summary: The rumors have proven correct. Russia is building a base in Syria. Fourteen years of aggressive US moves in the Middle East and Eastern Europe have left the former in flames and the latter unstable. Now comes the inevitable next step, as a great power rival escalates by positioning itself to respond strongly. I doubt we’ll enjoy what comes next. We can hardly complain when others follow our example.

Stratfor on Syria

Confirming Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria
Stratfor, 10 September 2015


The projection of Russian forces into Syria could be an attempt to bolster the government of President Bashar al Assad or a means to exert pressure during a time of sensitive negotiations. Either way, it will be increasingly difficult for the Russians to avoid mission creep as they magnify support for their favored faction in the Syrian conflict.


Satellite imagery of the Bassel al Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, confirms reports of sustained Russian military transport flights to the Syrian airfield, where the Russians appear to be establishing a base of operations. The satellite imagery, captured Sept. 4, shows a recently constructed air traffic control station in the vicinity of newly laid asphalt surfaces, alongside shipping container-sized structures believed to be mobile housing units. Construction is underway throughout the airport; surfaces are being leveled and new structures are being erected. Earthworks are visible along the entire length of the easternmost runway, likely part of improvements to the airfield to allow the ingress of heavier transport aircraft.

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Stratfor describes the growing Russia-China alliance, allies against us

Summary: Hegemons push rival great nations into alliances against them, just as Russia and China are moving together. They’re developing deeper commercial ties, and perhaps even strategic relationships. It’s inevitable given our aggressive foreign policy, putting pressure on China and Russia. Here Stratfor explains their early steps to what might become one of the core alliances of the 21st century.

Putin In Beijing

New B.F.F. — Putin shakes hands with Xi Jinping. Photo by Greg Baker – AFP/Getty Image.

Russia’s Relationship With China Grows Slowly

Stratfor, 3 September 2015


  • Russia and China will sign 20-30 large deals worth tens of billions of dollars this week, but the two countries will continue to disagree on many issues, such as the natural gas supply deal. Therefore, substantial deals of the magnitude seen last May are not likely.
  • With Russia and China both experiencing economic slowdowns, China will continue to stall on financing many of these large projects until it can get more favorable terms.
  • In the long term, China will become one of Russia’s major partners, but not as quickly or on as large a scale as Moscow would like.


Russia has been touting its “pivot to the east” since the West’s efforts to isolate Moscow in the wake of the government change in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 1 that Russia and China were making consistent progress toward the creation of a strategic alliance that will play a significant role in international economic relations. Putin is in China from Sept. 2 to Sept. 3 for the country’s commemorations of the end of World War II — a reciprocal visit after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia for its celebrations in May. During Putin’s visit, China and Russia are expected to sign some 20-30 so-called mega-deals, agreements with either high price tags or great strategic importance to either country.

Russia’s turn toward China has been evident in recent years; Chinese foreign direct investment {FDI} into Russia nearly tripled in 2014 from the previous year, to $1.27 billion, making China the second-largest foreign investor in Russia (behind France). This may seem like a small amount, but with FDI into Russia falling to $21 billion in 2014 from nearly $70 billion the previous year, Russia is looking for investment from anywhere.

Moreover, according to the Russian central bank, China was the second-largest source of foreign financing for the non-financial sectors in Russia’s economy in 2014. Chinese lenders let Russians and Russian businesses borrow $13.6 billion. The only country that provided more financing was Cyprus, where Russian-affiliated parties likely provided the loans.

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Stratfor describes the Middle East – after the Iran deal

Summary: What lies in the future of the Middle East once the specter of an nuclear-armed Iran disappears (said tobe imminent every year since 1984)? Not peace, unfortunately. Stratfor describes what to expect in the next chapter of this misgoverned region.


Aftershocks of the Iran Deal:
Why Middle Eastern Conflicts Will Escalate

Stratfor, 28 August 2015


Tehran’s competitors in the region will not sit idly by without attempting to curb the expansion of Iranian influence. This will not manifest in all-out warfare between the Middle East’s most significant powers; Iran is not the only country well versed in the use of proxies. But the conflicts that are already raging in the region will continue unabated and likely only worsen. These clashes will occur on multiple fault lines: Sunni versus Shiite, for example, plus ethnic conflicts among Turks, Iranians, Arabs, Kurds, and other groups. The Iranian nuclear deal in the short term thus means more conflict, not less.

Flag of Turkey


Stratfor has long predicted that the role of regional hegemon will eventually fall to Turkey, which boasts the largest economy in the Middle East and is strategically situated at the confluence of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, on the Sea of Marmara. It is not a coincidence that what is now the Turkish commercial capital spent more than 1,500 years as the center of powerful empires, from 330 CE, when the Byzantine Empire was founded, until 1918, when the Ottoman Empire fell.

Like the United States, Turkey has some converging interests with Iran; its rivalry with its neighbor to the east is not a zero-sum competition. For one, Turkey depends on Iranian oil, which in 2014 made up 26% of Turkey’s oil imports. Lifting sanctions on Iran will offer Turkey’s commercial class, which is hungry for the potential economic returns, ample opportunity to invest.

Besides the economic links between the two powers, Tehran and Ankara also share some strategic interests. For example, both oppose the rise of an independent Kurdish state from the ashes of the Syrian civil war and the Iraqi conflict. While Tehran has at times offered military support to Kurds fending off the Islamic State in Iraq, Iran has a significant Kurdish population of its own, with estimates ranging anywhere from 6 million to 7 million people. Almost 15% of Turkey’s population is Kurdish, and Ankara has had to contend with Kurdish insurgency since 1984.

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