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Home country: USA
Current location: nice place
Member since: Thu May 15, 2008, 04:37 PM
Number of posts: 22,156
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Britain is set to join the air campaign against Isis in Iraq, but, going by David Cameron’s speech to the UN General Assembly, the Government has no more idea of what it is getting into in this war than Tony Blair did in 2003.
Mr Cameron says that there should be “no rushing to join a conflict without a clear plan”, but he should keep in mind the warning of the American boxer Mike Tyson that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.
The Prime Minister says that lessons have been learned from British military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan but it is telling that he did not mention intervention in Libya for which he himself was responsible.
In fact, there is a much closer parallel between Britain joining an air war in Libya in 2011 than Mr Blair’s earlier misadventures which Mr Cameron was happy to highlight.
Air strikes will not beat Isis, but on the ground it’s hard to tell friend from foe
What is military common sense may not make political sense
Posted by Jefferson23 | Sat Sep 27, 2014, 04:40 PM (2 replies)
Neither the rebels nor President Assad’s army are strong enough to fight on two fronts at once
September 21, 2014
If the United States and its allies want to combat the Islamic State jihadists (IS, formerly known as Isis) successfully, they should arrange a ceasefire between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-IS Syrian opposition. Neither the Syrian army nor the “moderate” Syrian rebels are strong enough to stop IS if they are fighting on two fronts at the same time, going by the outcome of recent battles. A truce between the two main enemies of IS in Syria would be just that, and would not be part of a broader political solution to the Syrian crisis which is not feasible at this stage because mutual hatred is too great. A ceasefire may be possible now, when it was not in the past, because all parties and their foreign backers – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – are frightened of the explosive advance of the Islamic State. US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Security Council on Friday that there is room for everybody “including Iran” in an anti-IS coalition.
President Obama was much criticised for admitting that he had no strategy to cope with IS and, despite his address to the nation on 10 September, he still does not have one. Assuming he is not going to send a large US land army to the region, he lacks a credible and effective local partner in either Syria or Iraq with the necessary military force to take advantage of air strikes, even if they are intensified in Iraq and extended to Syria.
Mr Obama won the assent of the House of Representatives last week to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria who are supposedly going to fight both Assad and IS. This is essentially a PR operation, since IS forces 30 miles from Aleppo are poised to move against the last rebel strongholds, while the Syrian army is close to regaining control of the city itself.
Likewise in Iraq, air strikes can only do so much. The government in Baghdad and the Iraqi army are still Shia-dominated and, however much the Sunni in Iraq dislike IS, they are even more frightened of its opponents. The US will try to split Sunni tribes and neighbourhoods away from the fundamentalists as it did in 2007, but there were then 150,000 US troops in the country and al-Qa’ida in Iraq was much weaker than IS. At the same time, it will find it difficult to advance further because, aside from Baghdad, it has already seized the areas where live the 20 per cent of Iraqis who are Sunni Arab. In Syria at least 60 per cent of the population are Sunni Arabs, meaning that IS’s natural constituency is much bigger.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Sun Sep 21, 2014, 07:58 PM (0 replies)
The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) has been aided by the continuing failure of the US Government to investigate the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks and its support of jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda in the years since, says former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chairman of the official inquiry into 9/11.
Senator Graham, who chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that successive administrations in Washington had turned a blind eye to Saudi support for Sunni extremists. He added: “I believe that the failure to shine a full light on Saudi actions and particularly its involvement in 9/11 has contributed to the Saudi ability to continue to engage in actions that are damaging to the US – and in particular their support for Isis.”
Senator Graham, a distinguished elder statesmen who was twice Democratic governor of Florida before spending 18 years in the US Senate, believes that ignoring what Saudi Arabia was doing and treating it as a reliable American ally contributed to the US intelligence services’ failure to identify Isis as a rising power until after it captured Mosul on 10 June. He says that “one reason I think that our intelligence has been less than stellar” is that not enough attention was given to Saudi Arabia’s fostering of al-Qaeda-type jihadi movements, of which Isis is the most notorious and successful. So far the CIA and other intelligence services have faced little criticism in the US for their apparent failure to foresee the explosive expansion of Isis, which now controls an area larger than Great Britain in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
Senator Graham’s criticism of the US policy towards Saudi Arabia is important because it comes amidst growing doubts in the US about the wisdom of President Barack Obama’s plan announced on Wednesday to look to the Gulf monarchs as crucial allies in the US campaign to contain and, if possible, push back Isis after its victories in Iraq and Syria during the summer.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Tue Sep 16, 2014, 10:01 AM (3 replies)
US air strikes against Isis are unlikely to be as effective as Obama hopes. Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria may prefer the militants as a lesser evil compared to the return of vengeful government troops
A letter printed at the bottom of this article was emailed by a friend soon after her neighbourhood in Mosul was hit by Iraqi airforce bombers. This was some hours before President Barack Obama explained his plan to weaken and ultimately destroy Isis, which calls itself Islamic State, by a series of measures including air attacks. The letter illustrates graphically one of the most important reasons why American air power may be less effective than many imagine.
The reasons for this are political as well as military. The five or six million Sunni Arabs who live in areas controlled by Isis in Iraq and Syria may not be happy with the brutality, bigotry and violence of their new rulers. But they are even more frightened of the prospect of the soldiers and militiamen of the Baghdad or Damascus governments recapturing and wreaking vengeance in Sunni cities, town and villages. The Sunni communities in both countries have little choice but to stick with Isis as their defenders.
For all its bellicose rhetoric, Mr Obama’s plan is more of a strategy to contain Isis rather than eradicate it – and he may find that even this is difficult to do. His problem is that the US does not have reliable local partners in either Iraq or Syria.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Fri Sep 12, 2014, 10:26 AM (3 replies)
The United States is reluctantly but decisively becoming engaged in the civil wars in Iraq and Syria as it seeks to combat Isis, which calls itself Islamic State.
President Barack Obama will outline his plans in a speech today to create a grand coalition of Western and regional powers to contain and defeat Isis, which has established a quasi-state stretching from the frontiers of Iran to the outskirts of Aleppo.
The US is encouraged by the formation on Monday of what it sees as a more inclusive government in Iraq under Haider al-Abadi, the new Prime Minister. He replaces Nouri al-Maliki who, in his eight years in office, became a hate figure for the Sunni minority as the architect of Shia dominance and arbitrary power. Mr Maliki’s government was notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional, its 350,000-strong army routed in June by a few thousand Isis fighters in northern and western Iraq. Fear of Isis has led former rivals and opponents such as the US and Iran, Kurdish parties and Shia and Sunni politicians in Baghdad, to sink some of their differences, though these have not gone away.
Read more: Isis paid for tip to capture Steven Sotloff
Mr Obama said after the Nato summit in Wales last week that “we are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against Isil”, using the US government’s preferred name for Isis. But in seeking such partners in Iraq and Syria, the US will be taking sides in complex sectarian and ethnic struggles. Kamran Karadaghi, a Kurdish commentator and adviser to the former President Jalal Talabani, said: “It is still a sectarian government in Baghdad and Abadi had his ministers chosen for him by the different parties.” He says the Kurds were pressured into agreeing to join it by the US and UN envoys sitting in on a decision-making meeting in Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdish region, though the main Kurdish demands have not been met. Among issues at stake are the sale of Kurdish oil, the future of Kirkuk and the central government’s payment of the Kurdish share of Iraq’s oil revenues. Mr Karadaghi says: “So far we have got nothing except some promises over payment of salaries.”
in full: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-and-iraq-us-policy-is-fraught-with-danger-9722276.html
Posted by Jefferson23 | Wed Sep 10, 2014, 01:10 PM (4 replies)
Families camp out at the Bajid Kandala refugee camp, near Iraq’s northernmost border crossing with Syria, Aug. 16, 2014. (Photo: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times)
Friday, 05 September 2014 13:10 By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed
It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.
The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.
The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as "genocidal" by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck's devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.
One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times "visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria": the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today's sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.
Posted by Jefferson23 | Sun Sep 7, 2014, 04:13 PM (0 replies)
5 September 2014 Last updated at 12:08 BST
In Gaza, families are slowing returning to their homes, but for many they will find them razed to the ground.
Drone footage reveals the extent of damage to Gaza City caused by the recent conflict with Israeli that lasted 50 days, until a ceasefire was brokered.
Between 8 July and 27 August, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.
Last week, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told the BBC Hamas had "brought only misery and suffering on both sides".
Posted by Jefferson23 | Fri Sep 5, 2014, 10:21 PM (4 replies)
William Deresiewicz on Excellent Sheep ( discusses the miseducation of the American elite ) Harper's
August 28, 2014
By Trevor Quirk
William Deresiewicz is an underappreciated essayist and thinker, not to mention a literary critic whose acumen is comparable to James Wood’s. After writing an essay he felt was doomed to obscurity, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” he received such a strong response he decided to expand on his critique. The result, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, is a rangy and urgent diagnosis of the compromised higher-education system in the United States. A former professor at Yale, Deresiewicz is particularly adept at articulating the kinds of unspoken assumptions — for example, that the ethos of college should be practical and professional, and that success should be defined comparatively — that make many academics and students vaguely uneasy. Given that Excellent Sheep is at heart instructive, I asked Deresiewicz six questions from the perspective of one of the students to whom it is foremost addressed.
1. Reading Excellent Sheep was somewhat therapeutic, even vindicating for me. My undergrad institution, from which I graduated two years ago, is what’s commonly called a “Boutique School,” a regional college offering something resembling the traditional liberal-arts education of which you approve. In retrospect, I seemed to have never appreciated what a gift this was; it was one of my last opportunities for uninhibited intellectual play. Do you think it falls on the student to have this realization, in the face of pressure to succeed by traditional metrics?
I’d love it if elite college students expected themselves to take the opportunity for uninhibited intellectual play. But no, I don’t think it falls on them to have that realization — at least, not primarily. It falls on the adults they encounter in high school and college to make sure they understand that that is one of the most important opportunities that college provides. As things stand now, almost everything is pushing in the opposite direction. Fortunately, there are professors and even colleges (often liberal-arts colleges or public-honors colleges) that try to get students to resist the rush to practicality and credentialism.
2. Continuing in this vein, and considering your commentary on parenting and teaching, I wonder if parents and teachers are truly capable of imparting certain lessons to their children and students, given how self-enclosed the world of a teenager or even a young adult can be. Is this solipsism biologically and psychologically innate, or is it a historical and cultural artifact of privilege — to wit, is this something that must be outgrown or can it be punctured by education? Like, would a teenager from a low-income home ever have these illusions?
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Sep 4, 2014, 11:53 AM (0 replies)
Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com
There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.
But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis. It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.
The reality of U.S. policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well. This has now happened.
in full: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-cockburn/war-on-terror-failed_b_5697475.html
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Aug 21, 2014, 09:45 AM (7 replies)
July 31, 2014 6:00AM ET
by John Dugard
Israel claims that it is acting in self-defense in Gaza, thereby portraying itself as the victim in the present conflict. President Barack Obama and both houses of the U.S. Congress have endorsed this justification for the use of force. But is it an accurate assessment?
Gaza is not an independent state like Lebanon or Jordan. Israel accepts this but instead sees Gaza as a “hostile entity,” a concept unknown to international law and one that Israel has not sought to explain.
But the status of Gaza is clear. It is an occupied territory — part of the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2005 Israel withdrew its settlers and the Israel Defense Forces from Gaza, but it continues to retain control of it, not only through intermittent incursions into and regular shelling of the territory but also by effectively controlling the land crossings into Gaza, its airspace and territorial waters and its population registry, which determines who may leave and enter.
Effective control is the test for occupation. The International Court of Justice recently confirmed this in a dispute between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. The physical presence of Israel in Gaza is not necessary provided it retains effective control and authority over the territory by other means. Modern technology now permits effective control from outside the occupied territory, and this is what Israel has established.
in full: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/gaza-israel-internationalpoliticsunicc.html
Posted by Jefferson23 | Thu Jul 31, 2014, 06:56 PM (40 replies)