Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

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The Nobel Committee announced today this year’s recipients for Physics. They are Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for research into neutrino oscillations. What is a neutrino? Neutrinos are subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements.  They are elementary particles that lack an electric charge, or, as F. Reines would say, “…the most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined by a human being”. Living in Washington, I can imagine a tiny amount of reality.

Looking at the definition of the neutrino phenomenon and applying it elsewhere, could there a better description of our current foreign policy blunder in Syria?

It was revealed today that the US considered handing over locations of US backed rebels to the Russians last week, thinking these areas might be targeted by Russian forces decided against it. Fortunately the White House and Pentagon ran that idea past the desk of Capt. Obvious who thought it better not to give the Russians targeting data for their first bombing runs.

The “most tiny quantity of reality ever imagined”  is what we are stuck with for the next seventeen (17) months with regard to this White House’s timid and indecisive policy regarding Syria and foreign policy.

The nascent US assistance program for the rebels battling the Assad regime is literally going up in smoke with every Russian sortie and the White House has shown no desire to counter these attacks except to “raise concerns about the targets of the attacks.” I’m sure that made the Russians reconsider.

Neutrinos are described as “hardly interacting with the rest of creation.”  This certainly describes this administration’s current foreign policy debacle in Syria-stumbling along outside the realm of reality interacting with no one else within an echo chamber.

Not to worry though, the President already received his Nobel Prize back in 2009.

Check and Checkmate in Syria

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Iran, Russia, Syria
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Our Daily Challenge: Checkered I too went with the obvious choice.

 

Today it was reported that Russian aircraft targeted sites outside of Homs which contained no ISIS elements but rather CIA funded rebels fighting the Assad regime.

Shocking.

Any hope that Russia is in Syria to take on ISIS is held only by the White House and its supporters. Vladimir Putin has no track record of being on “the right side of history” (as the White House has a proclivity to say).  To believe Russia would be an honest broker and a credible actor is nothing short of naive.

What is shocking is how bewildered this White House is in its reaction to Putin’s successful gambit of aiding President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the eleventh hour. From Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s remarks of “this is like pouring gasoline onto the fire” to John Kerry’s joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the announcement of Russia’s unilateral military action — this administration’s actions defy logic or explanation.

The Kremlin, in cooperation with Iran, has made an obvious promise to the Assad regime.  The Russians and the Iranians have promised to see the Assad regime through the present crisis. Russian airpower is the first strike in this promise. It has been reported in the UK press that Iranian and Hizbollah forces have entered the northwest area of Syria (targeted by Russian aircraft) in preparation for a ground attack on Syrian rebel forces holding that territory.

Inaction by the US has now brought on a wider conflict, leading to the real possibility of greater lethal complexity in Syria.  The White House has been checkmated but the true losers in this fiasco are the Syrian people themselves.

 

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In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Obama stated “a page has been turned, the shadow of crisis has passed.”  This references, among other topics, the security situation from the Middle East to Afghanistan and the assumption of a peace won.  The events below show peace is still far from a reality and that the shadow of the threat has passed only because the threat itself is now directly overhead.

Boko Haram has laid claimed to the genocide of the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria on January 3. Baga was a town of over 2,000 people with approximately 3,700 homes. It was totally destroyed by Boko Haram in one horrific act of violence. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, stated that Baga was “just the beginning with more mass deaths to follow.”  As the country gears up for Presidential elections on February 14, Boko Haram has stated this is the “end of politics and democracy in Nigeria.”

In Afghanistan’s Helmand Province it is now reported that “fissures in the Taliban leadership” have led to an opening for ISIS to slingshot its influence from the deserts of Iraq to the far flung provinces of Afghanistan and beyond. Truly a “corporate merger” of death and destruction that Afghanistan does not need as it struggles to hold on to the level of security it has today with no promise of a better day tomorrow.

In Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Shiite Houthi rebels have captured President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s home yesterday and forced him to agree to yet unspecified concessions from his government. The Houthi have been battling the government and Sunni tribal forces for years, reportedly with the assistance of Iran. It has been reported for the past several years that Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, has been assisting the Houthi’s in their battle for northern Yeman.

The above crisis hot spots are far from a shadow of a threat. They are, rather, the active and growing threat that faces the world today.  These dangers cannot simply be “willed away” through the power of speech or by ignoring them. Only by defining them for what they are, Islamic extremism, along with sustained military/political engagement will we overcome these larger than life challenges that we face today.

 

The Decision To Go To War

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Current Affairs, Iraq, Syria
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The greatest misnomer in today’s headlines is that the US is or is not choosing to go to war with (choose one of the following) ISIS, ISIL, IS.  Governments can be swept into war by events they may or may not control, they may drift into war through a series of events or they can have war declared upon them by an advancing belligerent. Rarely , however, does a government have a choice to go or not go to war. ISIS has declared war on modernity-to include the US- whether this is acknowledged by the White House or not.

The events that have led the US to confront the brutality of ISIS and to declare action to halt its advances in Iraq and Syria have been gathering for months. The vacuum that this administration left in Syria from August 2013 to present day is the catalyst which propelled ISIS on its course from the ungoverned desert of Syria to the misgoverned cities of Iraq. Now it is the first transborder area governed by non-state actors in modern history.

This war, and to be clear when airstrikes along with troop deployments and multi national coalitions formed-it is a war, is one that a belligerent (ISIS) has declared on the US. To ignore this reality would be foolish and to leap into to it blindly would be irresponsible.  That leaves a vast middle ground where measured but resolute action must be taken by the White House in confronting ISIS’ plans of redrawing the map of the Middle East.

The danger is, when the middle ground gives way to half made decisions once events have propelled a country into war. Defining a policy by what it isn’t is a dangerous policy and certainly dooms efforts made in its shadows.

We in the West tend to define future wars based on the last war. The danger with that template is when it attempts to force current events into past paradigms thereby limiting the options for the future. This further risks the real danger of not so much crossing a line but of never drawing a line of decisive action thereby emboldening aggressive behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISIS Affirms Washington’s Value

Posted: September 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Iraq, Syria
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Tonight President Obama will address the US public on the coming US response to the group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as that group consolidates its transborder territory consisting of portions of Syria and Iraq.

The White House’s response has followed a year long series of denials along with downplaying the danger which ISIS poses to the Middle East writ large.  As the US has systematically pulled out of the conflicts of the early 2000’s (Iraq and Afghanistan) this is a seminal pivot back to engagement in the region.

The White House has made a concerted effort over the past two years to emphasize the importance of Asia in what it labeled a “rebalancing ” policy.  The rebalancing however is needed in the Middle East from which the US has evacuated . This precipitous departure of US power in the Middle East over the past four years has left a power vacuum, one which was , in reality, not that difficult to fill by ISIS.

The upcoming strategy regarding ISIS must be nothing less than systematic design of its destruction. Merely degrading a terrorist organization allows it to live to fight another day in another region of the globe and simply dismantling a brutal regime will not bring about the needed new paradigm which would  allow a peaceful new beginning.

Much to the contrary of what is believed, paradigms do not shift, they must be supplanted.  What needs to be supplanted in this case is the horrific and brutal brigades of ISIS.

In the end ISIS has demonstrated the value of US engagement in the world.  Like it or not, the US must be actively engaged in stability operations in a number of regions in the world. Retreating from the horizon only energizes those actors who crave the world stage for their own warped vision of the future.

 

 

 

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Today Turkey is on the frontline battling the jihadists threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and they only have themselves to blame.

For the past several years Turkey has opened its borders to various jihadist groups traveling to Syria to battle Assad’s regime in Damascus.  Turkey has been that gateway for these groups, many of which have blended into what is ISIS today, with little vetting or discrimination creating a ripple effect of this open highway to the latest battleground between Shi’a and Sunni fighters.

Subsequently, Turkey was one of the first causalities as Turkish truck drivers delivering fuel as well as consultant officials in Mosul were kidnapped on June 10 as ISIS rolled into Mosul in northern Iraq.  Prime Minister Recep Tyyip Erdogan has vowed to recover these kidnapped Turkish nationals and to deal harshly with those responsible. The fact remains, however, that it’s Erdogan’s own policies that bear the lion’s share of responsibility for these events though he is slow in acknowledging this reality.

For the majority of Erdogan’s rule from 2002 Turkey has had a foreign policy based on what Erdogan has called “zero problems with neighbors.”  He even cooperated with Syria in the not so distant past but that changed dramatically following the Arab Spring of 2011 when the civil war broke out in earnest in Syria.  At that time Turkey became, essentially, the gateway for fighters to transit through to Syria.  This included self-styled jihadists from Europe traveling to join extremist fighters battling the Assad regime.

Ankara did little or nothing to regulate, let alone to limit, the number of extremists that passed through its borders.  Now Turkey lies on the border with this war between Sunni extremists, Iraq and Syria.

Recep Tyyip Erdogan always held Turkey up as an example of a “third way” during the time of the Arab Spring in 2011 —  a way to blend democratic rule with Islam. This “third way” as become blemished as his regime has stumbled in dealing with protesters in Istanbul and Ankara, a continuing corruption scandal involving Erdogan himself along with his son and a faltering economy.

Now Ankara must come to grips with the reality that its open door policy to any fighter traveling on to Syria has not only assisted in the creation of ISIS but has threatened Turkey’s own security and which now holds over 50 of its citizens hostage.

Erdogan’s time in the sun seems to be in the shadows as Turkey must bear the responsibility of being that jihadist highway that now runs from Syria to northern Iraq and threatens to roll into the streets of Baghdad in the coming weeks. Turkey has played a major role in these events.