US Opinion and Commentary

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Turkey’s Troubling Entry into Syria

Posted August 29th, 2016 at 2:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey’s strategic objective is not to “crush” ISIS. It is to crush the most effective part of the anti-ISIS coalition: the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Russia Feels the Sting of Olympic, Iranian Rebuffs

Posted August 24th, 2016 at 1:32 pm (UTC-5)
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August has not been the best of months for Russian President Vladimir Putin. His country largely excluded from the Rio Olympics — and completely barred from the Paralympics — because of a doping scandal, Putin is facing complicated challenges at home and abroad. Continued U.S. and European economic sanctions over Russia’s military intervention in the Ukraine, plus […]

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.

The Ever Tenuous Alliance Between the U.S. and Turkey

Posted August 10th, 2016 at 4:27 pm (UTC-5)
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As Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to mend fences with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the rift between Ankara and Washington seemed to widen a little more.

Turkey’s Justice Minister fired verbal a warning shot to the United States: hand over cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey claims was behind a July coup attempt, or risk sacrificing America’s relationship with its NATO ally.

Gulen has been living in self-exile in the U.S. since 1999. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau says extraditing Gulen is a “legal, technical process…governed by a 1981 extradition treaty.”

Turkey and Russia have been on opposite ends of the war in Syria, magnified in November when a Russian warplane that strayed into Turkish airspace was shot down. Now, foreign policy experts are trying to read the tea leaves from the Erdogan-Putin get together.

Prosecutions of Syrian War Criminals Could Begin this Year

Posted August 9th, 2016 at 1:56 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin As fighting continues for control of what was once Syria’s most populous city, Aleppo, the quiet, meticulous work of preparing dossiers for the eventual prosecution of Assad regime war crimes is about to bear fruit outside Syria According to Stephen Rapp, the former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, “there are several […]

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.

A Shaken Turkey Faces More Division and Instability

Posted July 18th, 2016 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin When news of an attempted coup in Turkey first broke on Friday, some Turks thought President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had planned it himself to distract attention from his many failures and justify a further doubling down of his authoritarian rule. Now, three days later, it is clear that the coup attempt was […]

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.

Saudi Backing of Iranian Exile Group Inflames Mideast Conflicts

Posted July 11th, 2016 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at infuriating each other, with dismal consequences for the region they co-inhabit. Facing off in proxy conflicts from Yemen to Syria, they are also practitioners in a propaganda war that now extends to open Saudi support for an Iranian exile group that seeks the overthrow of […]

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.

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.