US Opinion and Commentary

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Obama’s Generals Want More U.S. Troops in Iraq

Posted June 22nd, 2016 at 10:47 am (UTC-5)
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According to several senior military, congressional and administration officials, the generals on the ground, including Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland…have been frustrated by what they see as arbitrary caps on troop levels set by the White House and a process that discourages them from directly asking for what they need.

Diplomatic Revolt on Syria Policy

Posted June 17th, 2016 at 12:54 pm (UTC-5)
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51 U.S. diplomatic officials took the advantage of a a legally protected channel to express their dissent with Obama administration policy in Syria, and called for the use of targeted military strikes against the Syrian government.
The cable came from the State Department’s Dissent Channel, designed to give the Secretary of State and others an opportunity to hear alternative or dissenting perspectives from official U.S. policy.
This comes on the heels of criticism from Sen. John McCain in which he blamed President Obama and his policies regarding Iraq and Syria for the mass shooting in Orlando last Saturday.
Obama’s policies regarding Syria has been well chronicled (see “The Obama Doctrine” by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg) and subjected to dissection by some of the world’s foremost experts on foreign policy.

The Danger of Killing Islamic State’s Caliph

Posted June 16th, 2016 at 3:09 pm (UTC-5)
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The best way to cripple a terrorist group may be to take out its “middle managers.”…the figures found on the org chart between the leadership elites and the field troops are the “connective tissue” that holds the organization together….”Without them, nothing could be done on the ground.”

How America Stopped Thinking Strategically About the Middle East

Posted June 3rd, 2016 at 11:52 am (UTC-5)
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The absolutely simplest strategic objective might run something like this: Protect American interests. By such a standard, the last 15 years of war have been a massive failure. Imposing a new political order at bayonet-point has failed, squandering trillions of dollars and thousands of lives — while spawning even more violent successors to al Qaeda.

U.S. and Turkey Clash Over Islamic State Lifeline to Syria 

Posted May 19th, 2016 at 9:40 pm (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin It’s called the Manbij pocket and it’s a major impediment to the U.S. goal of defeating the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. The enclave in northern Syria, which borders Turkey for 60 miles, has remained open to IS infiltration. It is a lifeline for the IS “capital” of Raqqa that the Barack […]

Why Iran Should Focus on Turkey, not Russia, for Syria Cooperation

Posted May 19th, 2016 at 9:02 am (UTC-5)
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Iran and Turkey are most interested in the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity…. Moreover, Turkey and Iran’s other interests in Syria — preserving a level of influence, maintaining stability in their neighboring regions and containing Kurdish centrifugal tendencies in the wider region — can only be served by preserving its unity and territorial integrity.

Sykes-Picot +100 Years

Posted May 18th, 2016 at 4:37 pm (UTC-5)
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100 years ago this week, a British colonel and a French diplomat drew a few lines on a map of the Middle East. Those lines were the first draft of borders that are still disputed, and battled over today.
Mark Sykes and François-Georges Picot were empowered by their governments to secretly work out an arrangement to split up the Levant part of the Ottoman Empire even before World War I was over.
Sykes & Picot came up with areas of British (area A and area in red) and French influence (area B and area in blue). The brown shaded area would be internationally administered. The secret plan was signed on May 16, 1916, two-and-a-half years before World War I ended.
Sykes-Picot was seen as a betrayal of the Arabs by the British, who promised their support for an independent state in exchange for Arab support against the Ottomans.
Memories of that supposed betrayal remain strong. When the Islamic State bulldozed the barrier marking Sykes-Picot border between Iraq and Syria in 2014 they tweeted #SykesPicotOver.
So, is a line drawn in the sand 100 years ago the cause of the Middle East’s problems today?
Like most issues involving the Middle East, ask 10 people and you will get 10 different opinions.

Trump’s “Madman” Foreign Policy Strategy

Posted May 10th, 2016 at 11:39 am (UTC-5)
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by James Kirchick Perhaps the secret to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that he actually wants the world to believe he’s crazy. The presumptive Republican nominee’s promise of a return to an “America First” foreign policy isn’t the only aspect of his worldview hearkening back to the past. He also appears to be mimicking the […]

Leave Root Causes Aside – Destroy the ISIS State

Posted April 29th, 2016 at 4:36 pm (UTC-5)
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Admittedly the costs of destroying ISIS as a jihadist ideological movement…are daunting. But that isn’t, or shouldn’t be, the mission. The mission should be crushing ISIS as a state and as a military and economic power. That is a different challenge, and one far more responsive to conventional military power.

Targeting Hospitals in Syria

Posted April 29th, 2016 at 2:30 pm (UTC-5)
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To the amazement of many, Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” generally held for two months. To the surprise of none, it crumbled this week with devastating consequences. More than 200 people have been killed this week in Aleppo between rebel attacks on government-controlled neighborhoods and government air-strikes on rebel-held territory. Most alarming was Wednesday night’s air raid on Aleppo’s Quds hospital, killing more than 20 people, including six staff members. Targeting hospitals wreaks havoc beyond the rubble. There are now two fewer doctors, two fewer nurses to care for Aleppo’s traumatized survivors. The message is clear: no place is safe. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and blamed the Syrian government for it. With several dozen more American troops deployed to Syria in the battle against Islamic State, can Kerry and other diplomats who brokered the last cessation of hostilities duplicate their magic?

Obama Ramps Up ISIS Fight

Posted April 25th, 2016 at 3:18 pm (UTC-5)
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Among the new deployments are American special operations forces. Last week, the president authorized sending more American military support to assist Iraq in retaking the city of Mosul

Would a Mideast Marshall Plan Work?

Posted April 22nd, 2016 at 12:14 pm (UTC-5)
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“We face, as the Marshall Planners did not in their dealings with Western Europe, the challenge of intervening in countries in which ethnic strife is high, democratic traditions are few, and America’s presence is a source of suspicion…”

Giving Iraq a Fighting Chance

Posted April 18th, 2016 at 11:34 am (UTC-5)
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It is all too clear, however, that Iraq cannot succeed in defeating ISIS—or in creating some form of stability and security—without a major U.S. “train and assist” mission to aid the Iraqi army. It is also clear that there can be no security or stability in Syria until ISIS loses its power base in Iraq.

Containing the Chaos of Migration

Posted April 13th, 2016 at 12:16 pm (UTC-5)
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It takes a lot to uproot oneself (and family), arrange travel via a trafficker, step onto a boat with a few possessions and no guarantees.They are called migrants or refugees—or both. Whichever term comes to mind, they are all people, many looking to improve their lot in life. But most, experts say, are running from instability and violence. According to the United Nations, the recent wave of migrants represents the largest dislocation of people since the Second World War. The estimated number of migrants in Europe runs in the hundreds of thousands, up to over a million registered asylum seekers. Thus, the term “migrant crisis,” which is useful shorthand, but doesn’t allow for the scale and scope of human suffering involved. As Europe struggles to cope with the influx (via the sea from Turkey or Libya into Greece or Italy, for the most part), America is bracing for the expected spillover.

The End of the American Empire

Posted April 12th, 2016 at 4:53 pm (UTC-5)
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Congress may be on strike against the rest of the government, but our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines remain hard at work….The major achievement of multiple interventions in the Muslim world has been to demonstrate that the use of force is not the answer to many problems, but there are few problems it cannot aggravate