US Opinion and Commentary

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Have Russia and Iran ‘Won’ in Syria?

Posted February 10th, 2016 at 12:59 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As Russia continues to pound Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, sending thousands more desperate people surging toward the Turkish border, it is hard to deny that U.S. diplomatic strategy on Syria is in disarray. Secretary of State John Kerry, facing reporters Tuesday, conceded the obvious: “Russia’s activities in Aleppo and in the region […]

America’s Syrian Shame

Posted February 9th, 2016 at 11:42 am (UTC-5)
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Aleppo may prove to be the Sarajevo of Syria. It is already the Munich. By which I mean that the city’s plight today — its exposure to Putin’s whims and a revived Assad’s pitiless designs — is a result of the fecklessness and purposelessness over almost five years of the Obama administration.

Attacking ISIS Won’t Make Americans Safer

Posted February 5th, 2016 at 11:14 am (UTC-5)
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In a political environment where candidates won’t admit that isis attacks are partly a response, albeit a monstrous one, to the United States’ own use of force, further attacks will leave Americans even more bewildered and terrified than they are now.

The Pentagon’s Top Threat? Russia

Posted February 4th, 2016 at 10:18 am (UTC-5)
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…[T]his initiative seems like a reversion back to what the Pentagon has traditionally done — prepare to fight big wars with ever more costly weapons against adversaries like Russia. Threats from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups are messier and harder to predict. America must be able to confront both, but it is unclear […]

Republican Senator Bob Corker: A Rare Voice of Bipartisanship

Posted February 3rd, 2016 at 2:46 pm (UTC-5)
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While the President of the United States sets the country’s foreign policy and priorities, Congress gets to determine how much money to spend on those policies and priorities. A key person making those determinations is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker holds that gavel right now. He has openly criticized President Obama for having “no strategy in Syria from day one.” During an appearance on MSNBC, Corker said, “I do not understand this president” on his opposition to establishing a no-fly zone along the Turkey-Syria border. Despite Corker’s harsh assessments of administration policy, he has a reputation of being a deal-maker, known for rising above partisan bickering with his genteel southern charm. Corker sat down with VOA this week for a wide-ranging interview on some of the thorniest foreign policy questions of the day: the nuclear deal with Iran, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and Putin’s Russia.

Fight ISIS with Democracy

Posted February 3rd, 2016 at 2:14 pm (UTC-5)
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ISIS superimposes its global ideological narrative onto local contexts, presenting itself as the solution to local grievances. An effective response therefore must involve addressing these local problems, which are significantly different in Iraq than in Libya, and in Egypt than in Yemen.

From the First Gulf War to the Islamic State: How America was Seduced by the “Easy War”

Posted February 3rd, 2016 at 9:20 am (UTC-5)
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[T]he First Gulf War entrenched the notion that technology would provide near-omniscience on the battlefield, paving the road to an uncomplicated victory. Almost overnight, in the minds of strategists and policymakers, wars had become brief, casual affairs.

There Is No Plan B if the Syria Peace Talks Fail

Posted February 2nd, 2016 at 9:12 am (UTC-5)
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[T]he “Geneva process” is no more likely to succeed today than it was the last time it was tried, in 2014….those on the other side of the table — the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran — will not feel compelled to accept any offer to which Syria’s rebels or their backers in […]

Peace in Syria Still Looks Like Mission Impossible

Posted January 29th, 2016 at 11:09 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Expectations had never been high for Syrian peace talks scheduled to open Friday in Geneva — and the refusal of the opposition to come only underscores the fragile state of the negotiations. “They will start as planned, but I don’t have a time, I don’t have a location and I can’t tell […]

Confronting ISIS After Obama

Posted January 21st, 2016 at 3:58 pm (UTC-5)
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The idea of sending a large American military force to push Islamic State (ISIS) militants out of its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria and parts of Iraq has been firmly rejected President Barack Obama, whose ISIS strategy was dissected immediately after the mass shooting by ISIS sympathizers in San Bernardino, California.

But it’s a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, with prescriptions like Texas Senator and Republican hopeful Ted Cruz’s idea of “carpet bombing” the group in both countries. Critics, among them former Secretary of State Robert Gates, have publicly shunned such policy statements as simplistic and even irresponsible. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has said he “would bomb the hell out of those oil fields,” referring to ISIS controlled parts of Iraq.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded more hawkish than Obama, her former boss. Her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has been dismissed as thin on foreign policy for saying Muslim nations in the region must do the dirty work.

Experts widely agree that whomever wins the White House in November will not be able to avoid the ISIS problem. Right now, there is no way to accurately predict who that person will be. What we do know is that selling an answer to ISIS while campaigning and actually having to act on it as Commander in Chief are two very different things.

Why U.S. Counterterrorism Policy Is Failing, and Why It Can’t Be Easily Fixed

Posted January 15th, 2016 at 11:57 am (UTC-5)
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Responsible counterterrorism policy, therefore, must not merely disrupt terror cells, impede their planning, and thwart their ability to attract new recruits; it must also tackle the fear that terrorists seek to induce.

America May be Doomed to Cooperate with Putin

Posted January 13th, 2016 at 8:27 am (UTC-5)
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For President Obama, the willingness to work with (Vladimir) Putin is an act of foreign policy realism or desperation, depending on your point of view. Some would argue that in Syria, the two converge.

Mr. Erdogan’s Offensive

Posted January 11th, 2016 at 1:24 pm (UTC-5)
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Mr. Erdogan will never succeed in eliminating by force the PKK or Turkish Kurds’s aspirations for more autonomy, and by prosecuting his campaign he is impeding the fight against the Islamic State.

How to Defeat ISIS

Posted January 8th, 2016 at 4:20 pm (UTC-5)
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[S]tressing repeatedly what the United States is not going to do … signals to friends and opponents that the president is not serious about defeating ISIS. Limiting the means in any specific military engagement gives the impression that avoiding costs or commitments, rather than the mission one set out to accomplish, is the highest priority.

The United States Shouldn’t Take Sides in the Sunni-Shiite Struggle

Posted January 8th, 2016 at 12:51 pm (UTC-5)
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In general, the United States should support Saudi Arabia in resisting Iran’s encroachments in the region, but it should not take sides in the broader sectarian struggle. This is someone else’s civil war.