US Opinion and Commentary

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Quick, Direct US-Iran Diplomacy Pays Off for Sailors

Posted January 13th, 2016 at 1:57 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin When Iran detained 10 American sailors who had intruded into Iranian territorial waters, opponents of President Barack Obama’s diplomacy with Tehran thought they had struck political gold. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush immediately tweeted. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asserted Iran was “testing the boundaries of this administration’s resolve.” Cable news channels, seeking to fill […]

Saudi Plays Dangerous Regional Game with Executions

Posted January 4th, 2016 at 12:37 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Just when a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq appears to be making headway against the group that calls itself the Islamic State (ISIS), Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shi’ite cleric threatens to harden the sectarian divide fueling the region’s conflicts. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who led Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority in protests […]

US-led Coalition Chips Away at Islamic State ‘Caliphate’

Posted December 29th, 2015 at 11:28 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As 2015 fades into history, so too do are forecasts that the group that calls itself the Islamic State (ISIS) is still on the rise in the Middle East. Iraqi forces supported by the United States are shrinking the ISIS “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria to such an extent that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi felt obliged […]

Iran Nuclear Agreement Faces ‘Significant Turbulence’

Posted December 21st, 2015 at 1:43 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Eager to see relief of punishing economic sanctions, Iran is moving swiftly to implement the landmark nuclear deal it reached with the international community in July. But other actions in Tehran and Washington are souring the climate for compliance. Stephen Mull, the State Department’s lead coordinator for the agreement, faced tough questioning […]

Republicans Stress Threat of ISIS in Final Debate of 2015

Posted December 16th, 2015 at 4:52 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Republican presidential candidates at their debate last night in Las Vegas focused on terrorism as a major threat to the American way of life. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the most dramatic, accusing President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of “betraying” Americans through “weak” and “feckless” leadership. “People […]

Trump Further Damages U.S. Image in the Muslim World

Posted December 9th, 2015 at 2:19 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin At a time when American leadership is already doubted by traditional U.S. allies in the Middle East, Donald Trump’s remark that he would bar all foreign Muslims from entering this country did serious new damage to U.S. national interests. It is tempting to dismiss Trump as a narcissistic buffoon whose policy “ideas” […]

More ‘Special Operators’ Head to Iraq and Syria as Anti-IS Coalition Grows

Posted December 2nd, 2015 at 3:58 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Galvanized by the terrorist attacks in Paris, President Barack Obama is sending another 100-200 Special Forces troops to the Middle East to augment the fight against the group that calls itself the Islamic State (IS). The decision, revealed Tuesday, is a cautious escalation characteristic of a president who campaigned on a pledge […]

Christie Bets Fear of Terrorism Will Boost His Chances in 2016

Posted November 25th, 2015 at 11:17 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin The horrific attacks in Paris and elsewhere in the world this month are giving new energy to the campaign of New Jersey governor Chris Christie for the Republican presidential nomination. In campaign appearances in New Hampshire – site of the first primary vote next year – and on Tuesday before the Council […]

A Multinational, Multidimensional Strategy Against the Islamic State

Posted November 16th, 2015 at 12:51 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Among the most unhelpful suggestions in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris was Republican Mike Huckabee’s proposal that President Barack Obama cancel the recently signed nuclear agreement with Iran. Huckabee’s reasoning: “Radical Islamists, whether Sunni or Shia, are a clear and present danger to civilization.” Never mind that Iran is […]

Netanyahu Offers Soothing Words, But No Clear Plan for Peace

Posted November 11th, 2015 at 11:23 am (UTC-5)
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My late editor at The Economist, Peter David, once inserted into an article this reporter had written about Israeli politician Benjamin Netanyahu the words “too mellifluous” before his name. At several appearances during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week, the four-term prime minister lived up to that description as he defended Israeli policies in dulcet […]

The Mixed Legacy of Iraq’s Ahmed Chalabi

Posted November 3rd, 2015 at 2:37 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin News that Ahmed Chalabi died today in Baghdad brings back a flood of memories of the time when Chalabi was the most influential Iraqi in Washington. Leader of a fractious exile group called the Iraqi National Congress (I.N.C.), Chalabi – who left Iraq as a teenager and lived most of his life […]

Iraqi Shi’ite Cleric Hopes for New U.S. President ‘Between Bush and Obama’

Posted October 26th, 2015 at 12:39 pm (UTC-5)
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by Barbara Slavin Nearly 4,500 American military personnel have died in Iraq since 2003. The latest, Delta Force Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, was killed during a raid on an Islamic State prison compound last week. Many in the Middle East, as well as in the United States, fault the Bush administration for invading the country […]

A Tale of Two Elections: Canada and Egypt

Posted October 21st, 2015 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Canadians voted out a conservative prime minister on Monday in a record turnout of nearly 70 percent that underlined the legitimacy of the process. Egypt also held parliamentary elections this week. But the participation rate reflected an absence of legitimacy and the lack of any suspense about the results or their impact […]

Key US Allies Israel and Turkey Face Tough Challenges

Posted October 13th, 2015 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As the Middle East continues a downward spiral, two important U.S. allies that had seemed relatively stable – Israel and Turkey — are both confronting significant new violence.   In Israel, a spasm of Arab attacks — and Israeli retaliation — is prompting fears of a third intifada. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu […]

Saudis Should Reveal a Political Endgame for Yemen

Posted October 8th, 2015 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As Saudi planes continue to bombard one of the world’s poorest nations, it is time for the Barack Obama administration to use its leverage as the Kingdom’s major arms supplier to put pressure on Riyadh to enter negotiations on a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. Testifying this week before the […]