US Opinion and Commentary

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Heading for Failure on Syria at the UN

Posted September 30th, 2015 at 11:07 am (UTC-5)
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When you don’t agree on the root of the problem, you can’t agree on a solution.

Beware Putin’s Peace Offering

Posted September 29th, 2015 at 2:28 pm (UTC-5)
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By James Kirchick To best understand Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach to foreign policy, envision the world as a global protection racket. From the Scottish borderlands of the 16th century to the American urban areas of the mid and late 20th, powerful clans have extorted weaker actors for “protection.” What these poor farmers or shop […]

Obama and Putin Struggle to Find a Way Forward on Syria

Posted September 29th, 2015 at 12:09 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin (New York) — More than a year after their last uncomfortable encounter, the presidents of the United States and Russia have managed to conduct a lengthy and civil discussion about the issue dominating this year’s U.N. General Assembly – the multisided, devastating civil war in Syria. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke […]

Why I Can’t Get Worked Up about Russia in the Middle East

Posted September 29th, 2015 at 10:24 am (UTC-5)
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Given Putin’s track record in eastern Ukraine, I’m supremely skeptical of Russia’s ability to impose order in Syria, no matter how much help Iran provides.

Putin and Obama Have Profound Differences on Syria

Posted September 29th, 2015 at 9:01 am (UTC-5)
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Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin agree that the Islamic State, which is trying to establish a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and has by some accounts grown to tens of thousands of fighters, is a major threat. Beyond that, their two visions are radically at odds, and each used his speech to blame the […]

Syria Choas Draws Putin into Obama’s Orbit

Posted September 28th, 2015 at 4:06 pm (UTC-5)
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Just a day before President Barack Obama stepped up to the ornate lectern to deliver his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, his Russian counterpart stole the spotlight — and left the Obama administration scrambling. Over the weekend, Vladimir Putin struck a deal with Iran, Iraq and Syria to share military intelligence and security information about the Islamic State. It is yet another bold move on the part of Putin to make himself relevant to the unending misery of Syria, which has recently spilled onto the front porch of Europe in the form of tens of thousands of refugees. The two leaders, whose relations remain frosty, are set to meet on the sidelines of UNGA to discuss cooperation in Syria. The big sticking point: what to do with Bashir al-Assad.

A Modest Proposal: Pay Iran to Take Syria’s Refugees

Posted September 21st, 2015 at 11:17 am (UTC-5)
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It would enable Iran to brag of its tolerance in accepting non-Shiite, non-Muslim, and non-Persian refugees. It would embarrass the Gulf states, which have also taken in no refugees in spite of their wealth and direct responsibility for the conflict. And it would earn Iran some much-needed hard cash.

Putin’s Pre-U.N. Charm Offensive: Fake or Breakthrough?

Posted September 21st, 2015 at 11:06 am (UTC-5)
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Moscow think tanks believe the carefully planned and staged remarks were meant to send two important signals to the West before Putin’s meetings at the U.N. General Assembly later this month: First, he is ready to freeze the war in Eastern Ukraine, and secondly, he wants to join the West in the fight against ISIS

Like it or Not, America and Russia Need to Cooperate in Syria

Posted September 17th, 2015 at 11:43 am (UTC-5)
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The expansion of Russia’s military role in Syria has real risks. Both Russian political and military leaders and the Russian people still remember Afghanistan … Another risk is a potential collision with the United States and its allies, who have long been striking IS targets in Syria and who can also bomb Assad’s forces

Triangulation: Russia, Syria and the United States

Posted September 14th, 2015 at 1:16 pm (UTC-5)
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President Obama said Friday there will be a “long discussion” involving Russia’s move to provide military assistance to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. While the assistance may seem modest — 200 naval infantrymen, modular housing for 1,500 troops, howitzers, a short-range guided-missile controller and a dozen armored vehicles according to the Pentagon — it’s seen as another audacious gesture by Russian president Vladimir Putin. There is concern that Putin is creating facts on the ground similar to the situation in Ukraine with Washington unable, or unwilling, to confront Moscow. And there are those who suggest Russia should take note of history and its unsuccessful invovlement in Afghanistan? There are plenty of suggestions for all sides on how to stop the war in Syria.

The Fearsome Foreign Fighters of Islamic State? Many Are Just Children

Posted September 8th, 2015 at 4:33 pm (UTC-5)
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A recent Danish intelligence report noted that the typical age range of foreigners joining the fight in Syria was 16 to 25. That makes them younger than the foreign fighters who streamed into previous jihadist struggles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia, who were 25 to 30.

The Best Way the US Could Help Syrians: Open the Borders

Posted September 4th, 2015 at 3:03 pm (UTC-5)
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The US’s real shortcoming isn’t an undue hesitancy to help Syrians by dropping bombs. It’s our refusal to let Syrians help themselves by allowing more refugees to move to the United States — a solution that would certainly work, would carry little in the way of short-term financial costs, and that would likely provide a powerful boost […]

The Death of Aylan Kurdi and the Need For a Moral Policy on Refugees

Posted September 4th, 2015 at 10:04 am (UTC-5)
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These refugees and migrants are mostly innocent victims of political failures, from the war in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State to incessant insurgencies and political oppression in Africa. The world should not compound those failures with a moral one.

Ignoring Wrongs in Syria to Battle Islamic State

Posted September 3rd, 2015 at 9:43 am (UTC-5)
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While President Obama has deployed American bombs and US-trained Syrian fighters to target IS fighters, he has taken little action to bring down the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad…. In fact, the Assad regime is now tacitly regarded as a bulwark against the advance of Islamic rebels – even though the atrocities of the […]

Petraeus’ Plan to Defeat Islamic State Won’t Work

Posted September 2nd, 2015 at 4:29 pm (UTC-5)
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The key problem with Petraeus’s idea is that the U.S. may no longer have any chance of being “credible” in Syria. Four years after the crisis began, U.S. support for groups fighting the Assad regime has slowed. Those moderate groups that haven’t been crushed or coopted by Islamic groups feel abandoned by Washington.