US Opinion and Commentary

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Thanks to No Drama Obama, American Leadership Is Gone

Posted December 27th, 2016 at 11:09 am (UTC-5)
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If Dec. 7, 1941, is the day that Franklin D. Roosevelt said “will live in infamy,” then Dec. 20, 2016, has got to be a close second….Turkey, Iran and Russia met in Moscow to settle matters in the Middle East. The United States wasn’t even asked to the meeting.

We Have a Stake in Syria, Yet We Have Done Nothing

Posted December 23rd, 2016 at 11:47 am (UTC-5)
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As with past atrocities, Aleppo’s destruction inspired much high-minded talk and the illusion of action. Endless meetings in the gilded palaces of Geneva and Vienna and elsewhere. Red lines drawn and transgressed with no consequences….the name Aleppo will echo through history, like Srebrenica and Rwanda, as a testament to our moral failure and everlasting shame.

Stop the Hand-Wringing About Aleppo

Posted December 20th, 2016 at 3:20 pm (UTC-5)
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If there is a lesson for the West from the post-Cold War era of liberal interventionism, it is this: Either intervene decisively and be invested for the long term — or stay out.

Aleppo’s Last Gasp

Posted December 15th, 2016 at 5:21 pm (UTC-5)
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Despair. Destruction. Death. Words that have come to describe the Syrian city of Aleppo, epicenter for the Syrian civil war.

Anti-government rebels started taking parts of Aleppo in early 2012, eventually controlling the eastern half of the historic city. With the help of Russian air strikes starting in 2015, forces loyal to President Bashir al-Assad made gains in western Aleppo.

Now, with the evacuation of rebels and civilians in progress under a tenuous ceasefire, those pro-Assad forces on the precipice of controlling the entire city.

Estimates of the death toll in Syria’s civil war run as high as 450,000, including 50,000 children. Almost five million people have fled the country and more than six-and-a-half million are displaced within Syria’s borders.

How has the rest of the world let this happen?

A Leap into the Void with Trump

Posted November 9th, 2016 at 3:23 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin President Donald Trump. The words, I must admit, stick in my throat and prospect of him as commander in chief for the next four years is frightening. The people of the United States have narrowly voted for a man who campaigned on a platform of xenophobia and isolationism, who says he will […]

Assad Speaks

Posted November 2nd, 2016 at 11:02 am (UTC-5)
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In a sitting room off a large marble foyer, I asked Assad what it felt like to be branded a war criminal. “There’s nothing personal about it—I am just a headline,” he said.

The Great Myth About U.S. Intervention in Syria

Posted October 26th, 2016 at 2:46 pm (UTC-5)
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One can make a coherent case for intervening in Syria, based on the worthy goal of reducing human suffering. But we should reject the idea that the United States should intervene because its own security, prosperity, or reputation is on the line. It’s not.

The Russian Relationship

Posted October 6th, 2016 at 2:14 pm (UTC-5)
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Relations between the United States and Russia have reached another low point as Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday Moscow was pulling out of a nuclear security treaty, and then issued a list of conditions in which he would reconsider.

The deal, which dates back to the year 2000, involves the disposal of plutonium stockpiles, which can be used for nuclear weapons. It could signal Russia’s intent to withdraw from other nuclear weapons treaties with the U.S.

On the surface, the conditions on which Russia would reconsider appear unpalatable: lifting economic sanctions related to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine; compensation for those sanctions; reducing NATO’s footprint in Eastern Europe.

The U.S. announced Monday it is shutting off talks with Russia over Syria because of violations of the ceasefire, including suspected Russian bombing of an aid convoy last week. Some fear the U.S. pullback from talks will give Russia a free hand to execute its military plans in Syria. Others say it may leave Russia with no exit strategy.

No matter how this plays out, finding a solution will most likely be left to the next president of the United States.

First Presidential Debate Ignores Syria

Posted September 27th, 2016 at 2:37 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Assuming Donald Trump agrees to show up for the next two presidential debates after his uneven performance on Monday, moderators should raise an urgent issue neglected in his first encounter with Hillary Clinton. As the two candidates exchanged barbs about trade, the economy, crime, Trump’s alleged business acumen and treatment of women, […]

What Now for Syria?

Posted September 20th, 2016 at 5:27 pm (UTC-5)
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While world leaders convene in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, Syrians besieged by five years of civil war will have to wait longer for some humanitarian aid to arrive.
Aid shipments resumed Wednesday following Monday’s apparent air strike on a United Nations convoy, killing 20 civilians. “Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
A ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia allowed the convoy to start its dangerous trek from the Turkish border to Aleppo.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats say the ceasefire is not dead yet and the U.N. Security Council will take up Syria on Wednesday.
After an accidental airstrike that killed about 60 Syrian or Syrian-allied soldiers, does the United States have any leverage left to revive the ceasefire, get aid to those who need it and continue the battle against Islamic State?

Obama’s Worst Mistake

Posted August 11th, 2016 at 10:17 am (UTC-5)
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I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran, but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy.

Prosecutions of Syrian War Criminals Could Begin this Year

Posted August 9th, 2016 at 1:56 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As fighting continues for control of what was once Syria’s most populous city, Aleppo, the quiet, meticulous work of preparing dossiers for the eventual prosecution of Assad regime war crimes is about to bear fruit outside Syria According to Stephen Rapp, the former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, “there are several […]

What to do about Syria?

Posted August 4th, 2016 at 4:56 pm (UTC-5)
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It’s hard to imagine conditions in Aleppo getting any worse. But in the past few days, the rebel stronghold has been subjected to attacks from Syrian government forces who surround the city, aided by Russian air strikes. Gas attacks have been reported in Aleppo and the city of Saraqeb, which Syrian and Russian media blamed on rebels.

Humanitarian corridors have been created, but just a handful of Aleppo’s quarter of a million besieged have used it, fearful of a worse fate in the hands of the Syrian government.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set an August 1 deadline for a political transition in Syria. On Monday, Kerry put the onus on Syria and Russia to stop the cycle of violence in order to negotiate.

Is there an end in sight?

The Right Target for the U.S. in Syria; Hezbollah

Posted July 28th, 2016 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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President Obama has focused instead on fighting terrorism in Syria, but U.S. targets are limited to Sunni extremists such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates. There is also a Shiite terrorist organization in Syria: Lebanon-based Hezbollah. It should not be immune.

Saudi Backing of Iranian Exile Group Inflames Mideast Conflicts

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at infuriating each other, with dismal consequences for the region they co-inhabit. Facing off in proxy conflicts from Yemen to Syria, they are also practitioners in a propaganda war that now extends to open Saudi support for an Iranian exile group that seeks the overthrow of […]