US Opinion and Commentary

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Will Clinton Resist Her Inner Hawk?

Posted October 25th, 2016 at 3:14 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin The Washington foreign policy establishment is salivating at the thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency, which promises to be more interventionist than Barack Obama’s administration and more open to elite views than a Donald Trump White House would be. Think tanks are churning out papers on a variety of topics and pushing them […]

Syria’s Darkest Hour

Posted October 24th, 2016 at 4:06 pm (UTC-5)
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After more than five years of conflict in Syria, retreating without having found a solution is not an option. Although the new map of players complicates things, there is no doubt that they must all participate in a peace deal; otherwise, any agreement will prove ephemeral.

Turkey’s New Maps Are Reclaiming the Ottoman Empire

Posted October 24th, 2016 at 2:12 pm (UTC-5)
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These maps purport to show the borders laid out in Turkey’s National Pact, a document Erdogan suggested the prime minister of Iraq should read to understand Turkey’s interest in Mosul. Signed…after the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, the National Pact identified those parts of the empire the government was prepared to fight for.

Bring Syria’s Assad and his Backers to Account Now

Posted October 24th, 2016 at 10:49 am (UTC-5)
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Escalate the conflict. The United States must challenge the status quo and end the regime’s war crimes, by force if necessary. This need not require some major pronouncement. Indeed, for now, a quiet warning may be more effective, since a major public announcement would almost certainly polarize the situation further.

Move on Mosul

Posted October 17th, 2016 at 3:56 pm (UTC-5)
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Battle plans for retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul has been in the works for months. Now, it is time to execute those plans.
Many observers believe Islamic State fighters and supporters, who took Mosul in June 2014, will offer some resistance, use Mosul civilian residents as human shields, lay some traps for those coming after them, and retreat back into Syria.
Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi army, Shi’a militias, and some Sunni tribal forces will try to coordinate on the ground with air and logistics support from the United States-led coalition.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the country would “celebrate victory as one.” Can a victory in Mosul do what so far has been unattainable, unite Iraq?

Clinton v. Trump: Foreign Policy & National Security

Posted October 11th, 2016 at 4:29 pm (UTC-5)
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Beyond questions about Donald Trump’s sexually salacious dialogue on an 11-year old videotape; beyond accusations about the role Hillary Clinton may have played regarding her husband’s salacious dalliances, was there any substance to chew on during Sunday’s presidential debate?

Foreign policy and national security issues were touched on ever so slightly, mostly regarding Syria, Islamic State, Russia and Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims coming into the country.

So much of the 2016 presidential campaign has been about what the two candidates have done in their past. Americans have 28 days left to find out more about what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton propose to do in the future.

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.

Russia’s Alliance With Assad, One Year On

Posted September 30th, 2016 at 4:44 pm (UTC-5)
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A year ago today, Russian entered the Syrian civil war. Allied with forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashir al-Assad, Russian said it was entering to stop terrorism and extremism.
While Russian warplanes have hit some Islamic State targets, much of their fury has been aimed at various rebel groups inside Syria, helping to tilt the battlefield in favor of Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it can document 9,364 deaths by Russian warplanes in the past year. 3,804 — 40 percent — were civilians, including more than 900 who were under 18-years old.
President Obama, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the Russian and Syrian assault of the ancient city of Aleppo as “barbarous.” The indefatigable Secretary of State John Kerry says he’s “on the verge” of suspending efforts to negotiate yet another ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blames the United States for failing to separate the jihadist and extremist groups from more moderate rebels.
Kerry talks of “pursu(ing) other alternatives” as the airstrikes continue. What might those alternatives be for the United States? And what’s the endgame for Russia, if there is one?

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, […]

Obama Addresses UNGA for Final Time

Posted September 21st, 2016 at 9:28 am (UTC-5)
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Delivering his final address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama called on the world to move forward with “a better model of cooperation and integration.”

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?

After ISIS: A New ISIS

Posted September 20th, 2016 at 2:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Without its strongholds in Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, ISIS will not disappear but will splinter into territorial and terrorist offshoots. ISIS pockets could either regroup in unstable areas of the region, as has already been demonstrated in Libya, or stir trouble in places with symbolic resonance, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

ISIS’s Deadliest Weapon Is the Idea of Heaven

Posted September 19th, 2016 at 11:48 am (UTC-5)
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The idea of Heaven, the vision of Paradise, is ISIS’s secret weapon, the source of its willingness to fight to the end. Convincing fighters that Paradise is real, that it’s a certainty because they die as martyrs to jihad, is what made Islamic State’s military forces so fearsome, its suicide bombers so ecstatic.

America’s Mr. Diplomacy

Posted September 15th, 2016 at 10:49 am (UTC-5)
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Such criticism is not uncommon among outside experts (and) administration officials who believe that Mr. Kerry too often pursues unwinnable goals and settles for imperfect outcomes. But there has been something honorable, even heroic, about the persistence, hard work and faith in diplomacy that this decorated Vietnam veteran…has brought to his search for peaceful solutions.

Alliances and the Blurred Battle Lines Against ISIS in Syria

Posted September 2nd, 2016 at 4:28 pm (UTC-5)
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Battle lines and alliances seem to be getting murkier in the U.S. fight against Islamic State in Syria.
Last month, Turkey sent tanks and warplanes over its border with Syria in an offensive against Islamic State forces while also targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, whose success against ISIS brought it too close for Turkey’s comfort.
On the day the offensive began, Vice President Joe Biden stood side-by-side with Turkey’s prime minister, signaling which ally the U.S. was standing behind.
How the U.S. will keep both Turkey and the Kurds on its side is just one of the many diplomatic dramas playing out as the five-and-a-half year Syrian civil war continues with no end in sight.