US Opinion and Commentary

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‘Conspiracies R Us’: Trump Theories Damage American Image in Middle East

Posted August 15th, 2016 at 10:32 am (UTC-5)
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has a new admirer: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. After Trump said last week that President Barack Obama is “the founder of ISIS [the Islamic State],” the Lebanese militant leader quoted Trump as an authoritative source about the rise of the brutal rival jihadist group. Addressing a rally in southern Lebanon on Saturday commemorating Hezbollah’s 2006 […]

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.

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.

Civil Society Against Terrorism

Posted July 25th, 2016 at 11:38 am (UTC-5)
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The French are now frustrated and anxious. They are used to some semblance of security in their cities, which have long been bastions of knowledge and art, not sites of relentless terror. They want to feel safe again – whatever it takes. These feelings are entirely understandable, but they don’t necessarily contribute to effective decision-making.

The Coup that Wasn’t

Posted July 18th, 2016 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The attempted coup in Turkey demonstrated the practicalities and pitfalls of how alliances work.

Without mentioning him by name, President Obama reiterated his “unwavering support for the democratically-elected, civilian Government” of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Obama’s paper statement on Saturday specifically mentioned needing Turkey’s cooperation against terrorism (read: Islamic State.)

Erdogan was slow to allow the U.S. to use Incirlik Air Base to launch attacks against ISIS. He has cracked down on human rights, free speech and freedom of the press.

But Turkey is an ally the United States and NATO need if there is hope for peace in the Middle East.

Obama’s Whac-a-Mole Strategy

Posted July 15th, 2016 at 10:47 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. military policy under Obama has been different, narrower in its scope and more modest in its goals….These are ongoing military actions, not unending wars, and ones that the U.S. can easily afford. They also work. A Whac-A-Mole strategy is no fun for the mole. Just ask the Islamic State as it watches its territory shrink…

America Is Acting Locally, the Islamic State is Thinking Globally

Posted July 12th, 2016 at 11:41 am (UTC-5)
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The United States will fail to defeat the Islamic State and protect the homeland if it does not reframe its strategy to contend with the Islamic State globally, rather than focusing on tactical successes in Iraq and Syria.

A World Awash in Change

Posted July 12th, 2016 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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There is a global effort opposed to the longstanding state system for bringing order to the world. [T]here are more refugees today than at any time since the end of World War II. All this is in sharp contrast to the economic and security commons that coalesced as the Cold War came to an end.

The U.S. Can’t Ignore Russia, or its Increasingly Horrendous Behavior

Posted July 6th, 2016 at 11:26 am (UTC-5)
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The White House and State Department believe the only way to make progress in Syria is to work with Moscow, even if that means setting the isolation effort aside. That makes some sense, only if Russia actually honors its agreements in Syria and makes progress resolving the Ukraine crisis. But neither of these things is happening.

Islamic State’s Terror Spree

Posted July 5th, 2016 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Carnage marks the end of Ramadan 2016. Attacks on the airport in Istanbul, a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a market in Baghdad and a suicide bombing in the holy city of Medina punctuated the final week of Islam’s holiest month.

Blood was shed in the name of Islam throughout Ramadan: the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando; suicide bombers at an army post in Jordan as well as in Yemen and Lebanon; the shooting of an Israeli man in a road and stabbing of a 13-year old Israeli girl while she slept in the West Bank.

Whether carried out or inspired by Islamic State or other actors, the blood-letting is unlikely to abate. And that leaves all of us to wonder what to do next.

What Americans Owe Iraqis

Posted July 5th, 2016 at 2:24 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin While Americans were celebrating their 240th year of independence with cookouts, trips to the movies and peaceful fireworks, Iraqis were digging victims out of the rubble after one of the worst bombings in that country’s history. At least 175 people are now confirmed dead, hundreds more injured from the suicide bombing Sunday […]

From Russia With Hate

Posted July 1st, 2016 at 10:07 am (UTC-5)
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Russian citizens — many of whom are Chechens or Dagestanis from the largely Muslim North Caucasus region of Russia — are the largest group of foot soldiers in ISIS from a non-Muslim majority country, and they have played key roles in the group.

Reconsidering Safe Zones in Syria

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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We have little choice but to return to the question of safe zones for Syria….It would not have to focus on immediate regime change, but rather…providing a safe space for moderate opposition to…rebuild civil society…If properly enforced, refugees could resettle in these protected areas and begin the process of building an alternative to Mr. Assad…

Who’s Winning the Middle East’s Cold War?

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 3:29 pm (UTC-5)
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Iran also has an overwhelming manpower advantage, with a population of an estimated 77 million, compared to Saudi Arabia’s 28 million. And while its army is far less well equipped than its rival’s, it is much larger….This has left the Saudis feeling abandoned and vulnerable.