Terrorist Trends in Europe

Aug. 25, 2017 Terrorism is a phenomenon with which Europe is all too familiar. Consider World War I. The proximate cause of the conflict was an act of terrorism – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Consider the year 1972, when, in Munich, Black September, a secular Palestinian militant group, killed members of the Israeli Olympic team. That same year was also among the bloodiest of the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

Just 13 years later, terrorist organizations carried out multiple attacks on civilian targets: TWA Flight 847, an Italian cruise ship, airports in Vienna and in Rome. In 1986, the Libyan government, led by Moammar Gadhafi, sponsored an attack at a club in West Berlin. Ronald Reagan said 1986 was the year “the world, at long last, came to grips with the plague of terrorism.” Two years later was the Lockerbie bombing.

The times we live in are not special. Terrorism has long been a part of European life. In fact, more people died from terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 1980s than in any recent decade.

Support for Political Parties in Germany

Jan. 18, 2016 Germany is facing internal political shifts that could ultimately impact the country’s relationship with Europe. Public support for the Euroskeptic, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party increased from only 4 percent in July 2015 to 11.5 percent in January 2016. With federal elections coming up in 2017, mainstream German political parties are under pressure to compete with forces outside of the traditional mainstream. At the same time, Europe’s crises are accentuating divisions inside Germany’s ruling coalition between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), especially when it comes to the country’s refugee policies.

Religious Composition of the Middle East

Feb. 23, 2016 This week’s map highlights the various religious groups in the Middle East. Governments in the region have struggled hold their countries together in the face of deep sectarian divides, while jihadist and rebel groups have taken advantage of them. In Iraq, the Islamic State re-emerged in the Sunni areas with its seizure in June 2014 of the country’s second largest city, Mosul, and its declaration of the caliphate. It is true that since that time, Iraqi and Kurdish security forces have prevented IS from further expanding and have even taken back significant areas. However, the fact of the matter is that neither the Shia nor the Kurds are willing to make the political compromises with the Sunnis or with each other needed to ensure that IS will be defeated. The bottom line is that Iraq is a state broken along triangular fault lines and is dominated by three different entities.

Canada’s Crude Oil Exports to the U.S., 2015

Feb. 24, 2017 Of the 10 largest economies in the world, none is as dependent on another country as Canada is on the United States. A quarter of Canada’s GDP comes from exports to the United States.

However, although the U.S. is less dependent on Canada than Canada is on the U.S., Canada is still an extremely important trading partner for the U.S. Canada is the second largest source of U.S. imports, at about 13 percent of the total; China took over the pole position from Canada in 2007. The fact that the U.S. economy is so massive and is not dependent on exports obscures the importance of the U.S.-Canada trading relationship for the U.S. The U.S. economy is balanced across different regions. This means that certain U.S. regions are much more dependent on the trading relationship with Canada than national economic data indicates.

The Islamic State Changes Course in Syria and Iraq

June 9, 2017 The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces began an invasion of eastern Raqqa on June 6. They captured the neighborhood of al-Mashalab before IS stopped their advance. Meanwhile, Syrian army forces loyal to Bashar Assad crossed into Raqqa province and are now less than 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Raqqa city.

The Syrian army has also moved against IS in Aleppo province and outside of the city of Hama, and continues to push east from Palmyra toward the IS heartland. The Islamic State is reeling, no longer in a good position to defend its capital. That means its strategy must change, and along with it, our baseline assessment of its strategic imperatives in Syria.

Islamic State Attacks Outside of Core Since June 2014

July 16, 2016 This is a map of attacks either directly carried out by the Islamic State or inspired by their message. The map does not take into account attacks in Syria and Iraq, as that is core Islamic State territory and strikes there are directly linked to IS’ goal of maintaining territorial control of its caliphate. The goal of this map is to show the global reach of IS ideology and activities.

IS has either directed or inspired attacks on every major continent except South America, and South America’s exceptional status is not for lack of trying. IS has targeted majority Muslim nations from Tunisia to Indonesia. It has targeted Western nations from the United States to Australia. There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Islamic State, however falsely, purports to speak for them all. Its ambitions are global.

How Interest Rates Affect US Discretionary Spending

May 5, 2017 The mounting debt owned by the U.S. government is as much a geopolitical question as a financial one. The federal government breaks its budget into three spending categories: mandatory, discretionary and net interest expense.

Mandatory spending includes pre-existing obligations. Discretionary spending requires passing legislation and is largely composed of defense spending. Net interest expense, which currently makes up about 6 percent of the federal budget, is expected to grow to nearly 12 percent in the next decade.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the U.S. debt will have a blended average interest rate of approximately 3.4 percent in 2017. If interest rates exceed the CBO’s current projections, net interest expense would increase and discretionary spending – and therefore likely defense spending – would decline.

Iraq’s Battle to Reclaim Ramadi

Dec. 29, 2015 The retaking of Ramadi is the first major victory for the Shia-dominated Iraqi government against the Islamic State, which, in the summer of 2014, seized large parts of the Sunni majority areas in the western part of the country. Baghdad still faces an uphill battle as it pushes further into Anbar province and, more importantly, Nineveh province and its capital Mosul, which is where IS has its Iraqi headquarters. This map reveals the proximity between Ramadi and Baghdad, as well as their distance from the IS-controlled city of Mosul.

The Ottoman Empire

Sept. 26, 2016 In our 2040 forecast, we identified Turkey as a major emerging power. We believe it will project power southwards into the Middle East, westwards into Europe and northwards into the Black Sea region. However, Turkey is currently mired in problems at home and struggling on the international front. This was the case even before the July 15 coup attempt.

Ottoman Empire Borders Versus Modern-Day Borders

May 3, 2016 This map is designed to show some of the hidden fault lines underlying the states of the Middle East, and the reasons these states, which were held together by foreign powers and domestic tyrants, disintegrated.

The Ottoman Empire lasted for about six centuries before it collapsed after World War I. Towards the waning years of the 17th century, its forces had penetrated as far west as Vienna. Its power and reach were enormous and enduring. The green areas of the map show what remained of the empire in the mid-19th century, after it was long past its prime. Its power had declined, but the extent of its rule, even in decline, bound together a region reaching from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula and to a large part of North Africa.

Showdown Over the Sea of Azov

A controversial Russian bridge over the Kerch Strait has escalated tensions around the Crimean Peninsula.

Key Players in Libya

Violence in Libya had been relatively contained prior to the recent clashes. That could change if we are on the brink of European military intervention.