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 Intelligence Guidance for the New Year

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Tony Reynolds
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PostSubject: Intelligence Guidance for the New Year   Intelligence Guidance for the New Year Empty12/26/2010, 13:22

New Guidance

Intelligence Guidance for the New Year STRATFOR_Icon

1. Iran: We need to bring Tehran and the U.S.-Iranian dynamic back to the forefront of our focus. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki the week of Dec. 12 while he was out of the country. Mottaki, with what may be some support from Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, does not appear to be accepting his ousting quietly. This may be another indication that Ahmadinejad is consolidating his power in Tehran, but we need to be watching this closely and redoubling our efforts to understand the power dynamics in the Iranian capital.

As we conclude our annual forecast for 2011, the status of the political dynamic in Tehran and the U.S.-Iranian relationship are important issues. Our existing guidance on examining whether progress on Iran’s nuclear negotiations and the formation of a governing coalition in Baghdad signifies some progress between the United States and Iran — and whether Iran is feeling much pressure to negotiate at all — remains central to this forecast.

2. Pakistan, Afghanistan: The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force has made some progress militarily in Afghanistan, but the Taliban have now retaliated in Kabul. The war will not turn on intermittent militant attacks, even in the capital. We need to be examining how the Taliban view the American-led counterinsurgency-focused strategy and how they may be consider reacting to it. Inextricable from all this is Pakistan, where we need to be looking at how the United States views the Afghan-Pakistani relationship and what it will seek to get out of it in the year ahead.

3. Russia: Moscow has made some productive gestures in terms of allowing the transit of U.S. and allied supplies for the war effort in Afghanistan. But it is also warily monitoring both militant activity and increased in violence and instability in Central Asia. We need to examine the status and trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations, while continuing to monitor the evolution of militant activity in Tajikistan and the wider region.

4. South Korea, North Korea: South Korea is insisting on a live-fire exercise on Yeonpyeong Island in the next two days (where there is admittedly a military base, making this a routine matter, though with recent tensions and North Korean attacks, both sides are fixated on it). With the U.N. Security Council discussing the issue, we need to keep one eye on the Korean Peninsula.

Existing Guidance

1. Iraq: A governing coalition is taking form in Baghdad, albeit slowly. We need to lean forward on this, looking at the final breakdown of power and understanding what this will mean for Iraq, the United States and the region. In just over one year, all U.S. forces are slated to be withdrawn from the country, and with them an enormous amount of American influence. Will this go through? With the governing coalition issue settled, what are the key points of contention between Washington and Tehran?

2. Japan: A new guiding document for the Japan Self-Defense Forces is expected this week that will reorient the country’s military strategy to specifically focus more on countering China. We need to examine both the military specifics here as well as regional reactions to this overt shift — particularly in Beijing and Pyongyang, as well as Seoul.

3. Brazil: Brazilian security forces have seized Rio de Janeiro’s two most violent and drug-ridden favelas, or shantytowns. We need to watch this closely as the campaign progresses. Can Brasilia translate its initial offensive into lasting success? Groups such as the First Capital Command (PCC) and Amigos Dos Amigos are very powerful — and brazen — and will not go down without a fight. Not only are key individuals not being arrested, but the favelas are a symptom of deep, intractable problems with crime, corruption, narcotics and poverty. How are these underlying issues being addressed? We need to be wary of Brazil’s embarking on an endeavor it cannot see through (Mexico’s drug war comes to mind), and thus run the risk of ultimately making the problem worse, rather than better.

Outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s recognition of Palestinian statehood raises a number of questions. Brazil has been dabbling more assertively in international affairs, and da Silva is in the twilight of his presidency. But, we need to take a closer look at Brazil’s rationale — why this, and why now? Will the backlash from the United States and Israel be rhetorical or significant?

4. United States: U.S. State Department diplomatic cables continue to trickle out of WikiLeaks. How are countries and their populations reacting to the revelations made in the cables? What will be the functional consequences for the practice of American diplomacy? Are there any major rifts emerging? We need to keep track of the public reaction and stay aware of any constraints domestic politics may place on the countries in question. Though few radically new or unexpected revelations have been unearthed, the release offers remarkably broad insight into the world of American foreign policy as it takes place behind closed doors. How do the leaks either confirm or call into question standing STRATFOR assessments?

Read more: Intelligence Guidance: Week of Dec. 19, 2010 | STRATFOR Intelligence Guidance for the New Year STRATFOR_Icon
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