Hugh Dugan writes: With his surprise, 180-degree decision to avenge innocents in Syria, President Donald Trump entered the particle accelerator that is foreign affairs.
The barrage of urgencies—inhumanity, chemical weapons, Syrian civil war, North Korean missiles, Russian warships, truck bombings, ISIS—has streamed his focus into a statesmanship that impresses even his detractors. This reminds us of Trump’s speech to Congress in February where he grew visibly into his presidential shoes.
Taking decisive action in Syria indeed was in the U.S. national interest, not only an understandable human response to a human atrocity. How is it in the national interest? Chemical weapons cannot be tolerated a bit. No excuse exists. Any shadow of their acceptability would quickly become a black cloud over a world cowed into suspicion and fear. Our national interest depends upon a world open to itself and to the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian Diplomat is Shot Dead at his Home in Moscow Hours After the Assassination of Ambassador in AnkaraPosted: December 20, 2016
A high ranking Russian diplomat has been found dead from gun shot wounds in Moscow, it was reported early today.
Petr Polshikov, 56, was found at his home in the capital city with a bullet wound to his head.
The shooting disclosed by Ren TV came soon after news broke of the assassination of Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov.
The circumstances of the shooting remained unclear, and it is understood police are examining all possible theories as to his death.
Two empty bullet shells were found in the flat on Balaklavsky Prospekt.
A gun was discovered under the sink in the bathroom.
Ren TV showed footage from the crime scene. Read the rest of this entry »
David French writes: The world just got more dangerous. A gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey and then stood over his body, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and began ranting about Syria and Aleppo. I won’t embed video of the shooting, but you can see the entire thing here. Warning, the footage is extremely disturbing.
Early reports are often wrong, but it appears the shooter was a Turkish police officer:
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) December 19, 2016
We can’t forget that this incident comes just a little more than a year after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet, and it comes after Erodgan has comprehensively purged Turkish security forces to allegedly leave only his loyalists on staff. Read the rest of this entry »
Gen. James Mattis questions White House strategy in Iraq and Afghanistasn, ponders what’s happening in Syria and bemoans America’s lack of influence in the Middle East.
Suspects planned ‘synchronized’ attacks in Kosovo and Albania, police say; weapons, ammunition and a drone seized in sweep
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
The police said the suspects were communicating and receiving orders from an Islamic State member, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq.” Read the rest of this entry »
TEL AVIV – An article published on CNN’s website featured a map that erased Israel and replaced it with “Palestina,” a Spanish or Portuguese translation of ”Palestine” the HonestReporting media watchdog revealed.
“Following the publication of this post and the complaints of many HonestReporting subscribers, CNN has removed the map in question and replaced it with an image of the aftermath of a Syrian airstrike in Aleppo.”
The map, taken from Getty Images, accompanied a CNN Money article titled, “Beyond ISIS: 2016’s scariest geopolitical hotspots.”After HonestReporting cited the error, CNN took the map downand replaced it.
“Following the publication of this post and the complaints of many HonestReporting subscribers, CNN has removed the map in question and replaced it with an image of the aftermath of a Syrian airstrike in Aleppo,” said HonestReporting.
HonestReporting managing editor Simon Plosker added:
”Whether it was an oversight or something more…(read more)
Lee Smith writes: The United States, President Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly last week, “worked with many nations in this assembly to prevent a third world war—by forging alliances with old adversaries.” Presumably, the president was not referring to his deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent agreement that the White House has marketed as the only alternative to war with a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran.
“Once you seize a position by force, as the Russians have. you are in the diplomatic driver’s seat. Putin is schooling the U.S. foreign policy establishment in foreign affairs. He has put his armed forces not at the service of Bashar al-Assad, but at the service of Russian interests.”
— Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University
Rather, it seems he was referring to the post-World War II period, when the United States created and presided over an international order that prevented an even larger, potentially nuclear, conflict with the Soviet Union. Now, that Pax Americana may be ending.
Not with a bang, but with Obama
Indeed, Russia’s airstrikes against CIA-vetted Syrian rebels last week looked like a punctuation mark. When the secretary of state holds a joint press conference with Moscow’s foreign minister after Russia has decimated American proxies bearing American arms, we are not witnessing anything like a return to the Cold War. Rather, we’re witnessing a new order being born. It is an order that is being designed by others, without any concern for American interests.
“At what point does the Syrian conflict create political instability in places like Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing states in the Persian Gulf? As long as nothing is happening to block the oil flow, it’s the refugee flow that makes Syria an international issue.”
— Walter Russell Mead, professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College
Its cradle is not the conference rooms of the U.N., but the killing fields of Syria. After four and a half years, the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis it has spawned threaten to disrupt two zones of American vital interest, the Persian Gulf and Europe.
America’s Cold War prosperity depended on our ability to trade with the rest of the world across both oceans. The United States built a powerful blue-water navy and far-flung bases as tokens of our willingness to protect our allies and stand up to their, and our, adversaries. What facilitates both trade and the movement of a military as large as America’s is access to affordable sources of energy, which is why the security of the Persian Gulf has been a vital American interest for 70 years.
“There already is a third world war underway. It’s the war between Sunnis and Shiites. It’s a world war because it engages people all around the world who happen to be Muslims.”
— Angelo Codevilla
The nuclear agreement with Iran signals that Obama doesn’t see things this way. From his perspective, no core American interest would be threatened by either the domination of the Gulf by revolutionary Iran or the likelihood that other regional powers will go nuclear. The JCPOA told American partners in the Middle East that the old alliance system was finished. Israel and Saudi Arabia would get stiff-armed, and Iran would get to call plays in the huddle. What Obama sought, as he said in a New Yorker interview, was a “new geopolitical equilibrium.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Syria Reveals the Chaos of a World Without American Leadership.
A friend of ours quipped amid the Iraq debate of 2003 that the only thing Europeans dislike more than U.S. leadership is a world without it. Well, we are now living in such a world, and the result is the disorder and rising tide of war in the Middle East that even the Obama Administration can no longer dismiss. How do you like it?
“The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus.”
The epicenter of the chaos is the Syrian civil war now into its fifth year. President Obama justified his decision to steer clear of the conflict by pointing to a parade of horribles if the U.S. assisted the opposition to Bashar Assad. Every one of those horribles—and more—has come to pass in the wake of his retreat.
Syria has become a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” as former General David Petraeus recently put it. It was the breeding ground for Islamic State and is a new sanctuary for terrorism. It has nurtured a growing regional conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, while unleashing the worst refugee crisis on Europe since World War II. And now it has become an arena for potential major power conflict as Vladimir Putin forms an alliance with Iran to make Russia the new Middle East power broker.
“The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.”
Mr. Putin unveiled his strategy this week with a disdain for a U.S. President unseen in a Russian leader since Nikita Khrushchev “beat the hell out of” John Kennedy, as JFK put it, at the Vienna summit in 1961. Mr. Putin coaxed Mr. Obama to grant him a private meeting, then told the world to rally behind his alternative coalition to fight Islamic State and prop up the Assad regime. It’s as if he set up Mr. Obama for humiliation.
Now Russian planes are bombing in Syria—but not Islamic State targets. They are bombing the anti-Assad forces that the U.S. has haltingly supported. The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.
The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus. Read the rest of this entry »
Russia launched its first airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. They were almost all in western Syria. They did not fall on the Islamic State or the other terrorist groups raping and pillaging the Syrian countryside, creating the largest international refugee crisis in decades.
Rather, the Russian airstrikes fell on the moderate rebel groups that the U.S. has been notionally supporting against the country’s tyrant Bashar al-Assad.
President Obama seems surprised by this, but his surprise is inexcusably disingenuous or obtuse.
McCain: Putin’s Ambitions ‘Blindingly Obvious’
Assad is and has long been an ally of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Russia entered the Syrian civil war as any rational person would have expected, on the side of his ally and of the Iranian paramilitaries that support him.
Does anyone in the administration dare to say they were shocked — shocked — that Putin is indifferent to both the horror and the strategic threat posed by the Islamic State. Why, yes the Obama administration does dare to claim surprise. When Russian bombs began to fall on their predictable targets, American officials reacted by claiming they were “taken aback,” as if they were genuinely wounded and upset.
On Monday, Obama had addressed the United Nations with the ridiculous idea that Washington and Moscow might would work together in Syria. “The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict,” Obama said. Read the rest of this entry »
ISIS police sentence musicians to 90 lashes because they were playing an ‘un-Islamic’ electronic keyboard
Chris Pleasance for Mail Online: Islamic State religious police have been filmed beating musicians and destroying their instruments as punishment after they were discovered playing an ‘un-Islamic’ keyboard.
“The men were pictured being hit across the back and legs with a wooden stick in a public square after ISIS’s fanatical Islamic enforcers ruled their electric keyboard was ‘offensive to Muslims’.”
Another picture shows two keyboards and what appears to be a lute smashed to pieces after raids thought to have taken place in Bujaq, a few miles to the east of Aleppo in Syria.
According to text posted along with the images on a file sharing website, the musicians were punished with 90 lashes alongside a man caught impersonating a ‘hisbah’.
“Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.”
The Arabic term generally refers to the obligation on Muslim leaders to uphold the law, but in this context likely refers to a local official or tribal elder.
According to the online post, which claims to have come from ISIS’s information office in Aleppo, a man caught smuggling cigarettes was also punished with 50 lashes.
Since taking control of large parts of Syria and Iraq last year ISIS claims to have formed a Caliphate in the Middle East, and has taken to enforcing strict Sharia law within its borders.
Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.
After the men had been beaten the instruments were destroyed. ISIS has been enforcing a terrifying vision of Sharia law across its so-called Caliphate, including executing people for breeding pigeons.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) October 15, 2014
“I didn’t have any specific information, but the fact was: when you bring grenade launchers to a demonstration, theres something else going on. And I just, from the very beginning, sensed that this was an attack — this was a terrorist attack on our compound.”
TEL AVIV—Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that entered its airspace over the Golan Heights, the first such strike in nearly 29 years amid heightened fighting between the regime and rebels for control along the sensitive border.
“The Syrian plane, identified by the Israeli military as a Sukhoi Su-24 Russian-made aircraft, penetrated about a half-mile into Israeli airspace and had turned to return to Syrian-controlled territory when it was shot down.”
The intercept is the latest sign of instability along the Golan Heights frontier due to the Syrian war, though former Israeli air force officers said they believed that the Syrian jet crossed into Israeli controlled airspace by accident. The aircraft downing came just hours after the U.S. and Arab allies launched an expansive air offensive against Islamic State fighters and strongholds in Syria, though Israeli experts said there appeared to be no connection. Read the rest of this entry »
It isn’t so much that former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was a prophet. Just that he had read a book or two.
…In 2012, Romney called it “troubling” and “alarming” that Barack Obama had essentially appeased the Russian bear by offering concessions like the withdrawal of interceptor missile and radar installations in Eastern Europe without reciprocity from Moscow. He said that Russia’s actions have made that nation “without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
This prompted a flood of scorn and mockery from a raft of self-assured critics. But by 2014, after Russia had frustrated America’s ambition to contain the Syrian civil war, invaded neighboring Ukraine, and unilaterally annexed a portion of that nation’s territory into Russia proper, nearly all of Romney’s self-respecting critics were forced to concede that he had a point. Read the rest of this entry »
Erin McClam writes: Google hopes a little browser tool will help change the world.
The company that revolutionized Internet search is now unveiling a sort of online underground tunnel — a way for people in restrictive countries like Iran and Syria to get around digital censorship and surveillance.
The idea behind the tool — essentially a button for browsers — called uProxy, is simple: People in countries such as the United States provide their trusted friends a secure connection so that they can see and use the unrestricted Internet.
Google showed it off earlier this week at a conference called “Conflict in a Connected World.” Google also rolled out technology to map cyberattacks around the world, including by repressive governments.
The innovations, from a division of the company called Google Ideas, come at a time when the Internet, and social media in particular, is playing an increasing role in popular upheaval around the world, most notably in the Middle East.
Fundamentalist clerics are encouraging women to hook up with lonely Syrian militants
Theunis Bates writes: The jihadists fighting on the frontlines of the Syrian civil war are the rock stars of fundamentalist Islam. Fans make internet videos compiling their greatest hits, and Islamist-run TV stations extol the fighters’ manliness and fighting prowess.
And just like rock stars, these religious fanatics also attract groupies.
Scores of young Tunisian women have been traveling to Syria to wage “sex jihad” and boost the morale of love-starved Islamists, according to Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi ben Jeddou. “[The women] have sexual relations with 20, 30, 100 [rebels],” the minister claimed in an address before the country’s constituent assembly, adding that many of the girls return home pregnant. “They come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle.”
The minister didn’t say how many girls have headed to Syria with dreams of making out with a mujahideen, but the local media claims hundreds* have done so, says Agence France-Presse.
*(though, as Glenn Reynolds notes, maybe this story is just being spread by the Tunisian government as a ploy to lure local jihadi-wannabes off to Syria, where they will likely die.)
Such promiscuity might sound like a flagrant breach of Sharia law, the Koran-inspired religious code that bans the faithful from indulging in everything from premarital sex to cigarettes and alcohol. Yet some fundamentalist preachers are more than happy to bend the rules for their religious warriors. Read the rest of this entry »
With his solitary, last-minute decision to ask Congress for authorization in advance for any military strikes on Syria–taken against the advice of his senior advisors–President Obama has set himself up for the biggest failure of his presidency, one that could haunt the United States for years to come.
Perhaps Obama figured that he would get easy approval from Congress–although why he thought the House, which has been growing increasingly isolationist, would go along with the strikes is a mystery. And indeed the publicly available evidence of House members’ voting intentions shows scant support for the Syria strikes. So far 118 House members have come out publicly against the strikes; only 25 have come out in favor of them. The Washington Post reports that another 119 are “leaning” against the resolution. Read the rest of this entry »