US Opinion and Commentary

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A Wounded Islamic State Is a Dangerous Islamic State

Posted March 24th, 2016 at 12:56 pm (UTC-4)
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But while the Islamic State may be gloating over the Brussels attack, it will lose ground in the coming months as the coalition seems poised to retake Mosul… To survive, it must seek new targets for its fighters and new successes to sustain its brand. Future attacks in Europe aren’t a possibility, they’re a likelihood.

Terrorists, Bathtubs and Snakes

Posted March 24th, 2016 at 10:12 am (UTC-4)
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‘We have a political system that engages quickly and powerfully in response to terrorism and security risks,’ notes Daniel Esty, an environment expert at Yale Law School, ‘but doesn’t seem capable of galvanizing action on climate change and other risks that are less visible and spread over time and space.’

Brussels: Our New Normal?

Posted March 23rd, 2016 at 3:15 pm (UTC-4)
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“We have been through this two times last year,” a diplomatic official told a VOA reporter. “We have to get used to this.” The heinous attacks on two soft targets in the heart of the European Union shattered any delusion that acts of terrorism are one-offs. Amid the horror, came a torrent of criticism, targeting the Belgian government, the effectiveness of EU security apparatus and the Obama administration’s ISIS strategy.Perhaps the most pressing question right now is what can be done to stop the massacre of innocent people? In Europe, the French prime minister urged the EU to “invest massively” in security systems. In the United States, Obama called for unity and resolve. Trump once again called for a crackdown on Muslims. And Clinton called for reinforcing America’s alliances and doing away with what she termed “bluster.”

Making Sense of the Mideast Oil Muddle

Posted March 21st, 2016 at 12:37 pm (UTC-4)
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Low oil prices don’t just affect the wealthy sheiks of the Gulf, but also the Kurdish peshmerga fighters operating on the front line against the Islamic State group. With the decline in market value comes a decline in oil exploration, and diminished budgetary expectations in countries like Iraq that are already hanging on by a thread.

A Hollow Superpower

Posted March 18th, 2016 at 1:04 pm (UTC-4)
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Judging by the pictures on television, Vladimir Putin won a famous victory in Syria this week. After his unexpected declaration that the campaign is over, Mr Putin is claiming credit for a ceasefire and the start of peace talks…. Look closer, however, and Russia’s victory rings hollow.

Genocide

Posted March 17th, 2016 at 5:06 pm (UTC-4)
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Critics of the Obama administration’s Mideast policy say the United States has waited far too long to use the word genocide to describe the brutality exacted by Islamic State militants against its perceived foes. Today, Secretary of State John Kerry satisfied the president’s opponents. “In my judgement Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims,” said Kerry. Genocide is a legal—and loaded—term. In 1948, the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the U.N. Security Council. After Kerry’s statement, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner briefed the media:

REPORTER: “So if the Secretary was to decide what is going on is a genocide, that would have legal implications for policy, would it not? You’re obliged to do more about it?… ”

MR. TONER: “So, it’s a fair question. So acknowledging that genocide or crimes against humanity have taken place in another country would not necessarily result in any particular legal obligation for the United States. However, we have joined with the international community in recognizing the importance of protecting populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes.”

Therein lies the thorns of defining Islamic State’s brutality as genocide. As signatories, is the United States compelled to do more in Iraq and Syria to stop the genocide? Just think back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the words of former President Bill Clinton: “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost…it had an enduring impact on me.”

Syria Truce Holds, So Far

Posted March 10th, 2016 at 3:46 pm (UTC-4)
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Saturday marks two weeks since a ceasefire began in Syria. While the Assad regime, the Russians and opposition groups have all reported violations, combat has been greatly reduced and humanitarian aid has been moving to more areas. Anti-government protests have even taken place amid the truce. A new round of U.N.-mediated peace talks are set […]

Turkey, Russia Use Syria Refugees to Blackmail E.U.

Posted March 9th, 2016 at 10:33 am (UTC-4)
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By Barbara Slavin As the European Union struggles to find a way to reduce the inflow of Syrian refugees to manageable proportions, it is under pressure to downplay human rights violations by Turkey and Russia. Turkey, which has lost much of its democratic luster in recent years because of a crackdown on political opposition by […]

The Islamic State Is Degraded but Far from Being Destroyed

Posted March 9th, 2016 at 8:20 am (UTC-4)
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The Pentagon’s top priority in the campaign against the Islamic State remains disrupting external operations against potential targets in the United States and elsewhere….To gain better intelligence, the United States is seeking to capture Islamic State leaders.

ISIS Is Losing its Capital

Posted February 25th, 2016 at 12:32 pm (UTC-4)
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ISIS appears to have calculated that it would rather take on Syrian Army ground forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, than Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led forces, defense officials and watchers of the conflict have concluded.

Closing Guantanamo

Posted February 23rd, 2016 at 5:17 pm (UTC-4)
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While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama said he would close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On January 22, 2009, his second day in office, President Obama ordered Guantanamo closed within a year. Tuesday, with 613 days left in his presidency, Obama sent to Congress a plan to close Guantanamo. While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama said he would close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On January 22, 2009, his second day in office, President Obama ordered Guantanamo closed within a year. Tuesday, with 613 days left in his presidency, Obama sent to Congress a plan to close Guantanamo. There are several reasons for Obama’s inability to fulfill his promise: the slow grind of the U.S military justice system; difficulty finding nations willing to accept detainees once their risk is suitably assessed; congressional legislation that blocks any detainee from being transferred to U.S. soil. Nearly 800 detainees have been held at Guantanamo since President George W. Bush opened it in 2002, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. According to a detailed study by The New York Times, 242 detainees were in the facility when Obama was inaugurated and 91 remain as of today. If the reaction from many in Congress and Republicans running for President are an indication, it’s unlikely closing Guantanamo will be part of the Obama legacy.

Fight or Flight

Posted February 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm (UTC-4)
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If the next U.S. president is unwilling to commit to stepping up to stabilize the Middle East, the only real alternative is to step back from it…civil wars do not lend themselves to anything but the right strategy with the right resources, trying the wrong one means throwing U.S. resources away on a lost cause.

How the Kurds Became Syria’s New Power Broker

Posted February 19th, 2016 at 11:59 am (UTC-4)
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The Kurds are skillfully playing the Russians and Americans off each other to extract as much influence as possible. Kurdish threats to defect squarely to the Russian camp propelled Brett McGurk, (U.S.) special envoy for the anti-(ISIS) coalition, to speed up a long-mulled visit to Kobani.

Bystanders to Genocide

Posted February 18th, 2016 at 11:55 am (UTC-4)
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Just five years ago next month, President Obama proclaimed a “responsibility to act” when American “interests and values are at stake”…Within days, a no-fly zone was established over Libya…Why didn’t Mr. Obama apply the “responsibility to act” to end the Assad regime’s threat to “our common humanity and our common security”?

More War Than Peace

Posted February 17th, 2016 at 3:29 pm (UTC-4)
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Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz two centuries ago gave the pithiest answer to the question of why we resort to violence: War is an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” But can force alone compel the submission of the Islamic State and the demise of jihadist extremism in the Muslim world?