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With Russia's help, the disputed territory of South Ossetia is encroaching more deeply into Georgia, but the expansion is unlikely to escalate into a major conflict. On July 10, Russian-backed South Ossetian forces unilaterally placed border markers close to the Georgian villages of Tsitelubani and Orchosani. The newly occupied area incorporated 1,605 meters (almost a mile) of the BP-operated Baku-Supsa pipeline.
Though this symbolic show of power is important in its own right, it is part of a larger trend: The South Ossetians have slowly been pushing their boundaries southward into Georgian territory over the past several years. The drive is prompted by several factors, including Russia's insecure military position in South Ossetia, which lacks geographic depth and is threatened by the West's increased military activities in the Black Sea region. However, despite the slow advancement into Georgian territory, Russia is unlikely to stage a major military campaign any time soon.
Talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, and the Colombian government are entering a crucial phase. As the 39th cycle of negotiations continues this week, discussions between the two sides are likely turning to the subject of amnesty for FARC leaders to guarantee that they sign a peace deal.
Questions, however, remain as to how such an amnesty would be achieved. The Colombian government likely still intends to prosecute at least some FARC members in order to secure public support for any agreement. Public approval is important, though not legally required, for the signing of a final deal and the government is unlikely to simply forgive all FARC crimes in an attempt to sign an agreement.
Turkey is changing both its military posture and its political policy toward Syria. For many years, as the Syrian civil war raged, Turkey's primary focus was on removing Bashar al Assad's government rather than battling the Islamic State. Ankara avoided direct participation in the fight against either al Assad or the Islamic State, limiting its role largely to supporting certain Syrian rebel factions.
One reason for this stance was what amounted to an unofficial truce with the Islamic State under which Ankara turned a blind eye to Islamic State activities in Turkey as long as the militants stayed quiet within its borders. Turkey also refused to host any substantial U.S.-led coalition airpower. The lack of access to Turkish airspace, combined with Ankara's hands-off policy toward the Islamic State, conflicted directly with the primary U.S. mission of degrading, if not destroying, the Islamic State as the perceived main threat in the region.
Scott Stewart (Stratfor) — U.S. law enforcement is under incredible pressure to thwart every terrorist plot, an impossible task as made clear by the July 16 attack on a military recruiting station and a Navy Reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The attack underscores the reality of the current terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.
It shows that the most likely type of attack to occur inside the United States is one launched by a lone assailant or a small cell working under the leaderless resistance operational model. This shift to leaderless resistance first began with the white supremacist movement in the late 1980s. Animal rights, environmental activist and anarchist groups soon followed suit.
Although jihadist ideologues began discussing the concept as early as 2004, it wasn't until 2009 that jihadist groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula began to actively promote the concept to jihadists residing in the West. The Islamic State adopted the leaderless resistance strategy in September 2014.
Mukhamed Cherkesov, head of the traditional Circassian council Adyghe Khase, said the group will hold a congress this fall to discuss how to protect the ethnic Circassians in the Russian Caucasus and how to petition the Kremlin for a Circassian autonomous republic within the Russian Federation.
The Circassians' desire for unity among their divided populations and for autonomy from Russia is not new. However, intensifying nationalism, growing Internet use and a generational change have led the ethnic group to become more organized.
The Kremlin is keeping an eye on the increasingly capable Circassian pro-autonomy activists. Crackdowns on similar movements in recent years illustrate Moscow's growing unease with any movement that could lead to instability in Russia or challenge Moscow's control — particularly if the movement has foreign support. For now, the Circassians are seeking autonomy as a united republic rather than outright separation from Russia.