Categories
Religion

The Geopolitics of Ramadan

Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

This article was originally published by Stratfor on 28 June 2014.

Ramadan for most people is a religious occasion when Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk. During this lunar month, the faithful also try to pray as much as possible and seek to maximize the practice of good deeds. However, Ramadan has a much less talked about geopolitical dimension.

Analysis

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, begins on June 28 in North America this year (2014 on the Gregorian calendar, 1435 on the Muslim Hijri calendar). As is always the case, there are variations in the calendar — usually of one or two days — for Muslims living in different parts of the world. For instance, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will start Ramadan on June 29.

The Koran is believed to have been revealed in this month. The last 10 days are considered the most blessed — especially Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), which falls on the 27th night of the month.

Categories
Foreign policy Defense Regional Stability

Reflecting on the Baltics

Estonian and American troops during an exercise, Photo: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Stratfor on 15 June 2014.

About two and a half years ago, while spending a few months in Ukraine, I left Kiev to take a trip through the Baltic states. On a cold winter day in the middle of October, I flew into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. From there I would travel exclusively by bus from Tallinn on the Baltic Sea to Tartu in southern Estonia, then on to Riga, Latvia, and finally to Vilnius in southern Lithuania.

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Uncategorized

China’s Challenge in Northern Myanmar

Myanmar welcoming the Thai Prime Minister. Photo: Peerapat Wimolrungkarat/ Abhisit Vejjajiva

Northern Myanmar is strategically important to Beijing as a supply corridor and as a buffer between China’s ethnically diverse southwestern provinces and southern Myanmar. The heightened tension in northern Myanmar in the past several years presented Beijing with challenges regarding border security and maintaining a balance between Naypyidaw and various ethnic forces with strong connections to Beijing.

While Beijing remains the most important mediator in the ethnic conflicts, its broader strategic interests in the country played a part in Beijing’s reluctance to openly engage with ethnic forces involved in the fighting. With Naypyidaw gradually gaining support from the West, Beijing has to contend with Western threats to its energy and transport interests and with ethnic issues threatening stability along its border.