World

The Kurds: Underdogs of the Middle East

By on 6.30.14 | 4:44PM

If after the World Cup anyone is looking for a new underdog worthy of support, I submit the Kurds as the most up-and-coming players of the geopolitical world.

The Kurds are the Middle East's classic underdog story: a swashbuckling ethnic group numbering 30 million and residing in pockets of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Left out of the twentieth-century nation-making due to a PR problem, the Kurds have been the favorite pin cushion of their respective governments. After decades of being used as pawns in geopolitical power plays, the Kurds have used the recent distraction of terrorists taking over Sunni Iraq to improve their real estate options.

The Kurdish Peshmerga army is the only fighting force that has successfully retaken Iraqi territory from the Sunni militant group ISIS. The Kurds have taken over much of northern Iraq, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. They plan to make the move permanent, said Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, at a news conference Friday:

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Bodies of Kidnapped High School Students Found in West Bank

By on 6.30.14 | 3:54PM

The bodies of three young men, assumed to be the two Israeli and one Israeli-American yeshiva (religious high school) students kidnapped on June 12, have been found "under a pile of rocks in an open field" between two towns in the West Bank, according to New York Times reporting. Initial reports are that the boys had been shot.

Let neither our utterly worthless Secretary of State, John Kerry, nor his utterly worthless predecessor, Hillary Clinton, utter a word about "calm" or "the peace process."

It is time -- well past time -- to end all U.S. financial support for the murderous Palestinians who, even when not directly involved in attacks on civilians and children, celebrate such attacks while teaching their own children that Jews are monsters deserving of suffering and death.

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Loose Canons

The Lost Lessons of World War I

By 6.30.14

Saturday was the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That event is supposed to have caused World War I, which was commonly labeled “the war to end all wars.”

I say supposed to have caused the war because if we look at what actually happened, we can gain a far better understanding of the lessons the world should have but never learned from World War I.

We know the vast scale of the number of dead, wounded, and missing. There were more than 200,000 Americans, three million British, six million French, seven million Germans and nine million Russians among them.

Ignorance of the lessons of World War I is a commonplace. The first among the lost lessons is: contrary to what we are told by an endless string of movies and novels, great wars cannot be begun by accident or by relatively small events such as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

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Sectarian War Across the Middle East: A Matter of Semantics

By on 6.26.14 | 4:01PM

There is something going on that I may not have told you about.

It is really a matter of semantics, but it has turned out to be rather significant. You may have noticed the multiplicity of English translations for ISIS, the extremist Sunni group that has been terrorizing Syria and especially Iraq in recent weeks. The varied translations exist because the Arabic name—الدولة الاسلامية في العراق و الشام—contains a word, "the Sham," that only roughly translates into English. It refers to a geographic area that has not existed since the Ottoman era, but which includes all the land we now call Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.

This helps to explain the worrying scope of ISIS's ambition. Evidence of this was reported by Reuters:

The al Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades had urged Lebanese Sunni Muslims to attack the Iranian-backed Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah a day before Wednesday's suicide bombing in central Beirut.

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Ukraine Moves West

By on 6.25.14 | 5:05PM

The Associated Press reports that Ukrainian lawmakers will sign the European Union agreement that sparked February’s revolution on Friday. The trade deal requires a number of modernization and reform efforts with regards to Ukrainian economic policy, and Ukrainians hope it will spur growth and bring the country to economic par with other former Soviet bloc nations. Risks abound, however. While the Russian parliament has revoked Vladimir Putin’s right to intervene militarily on behalf of Russian-speaking rebels in eastern Ukraine, many remain concerned by the potential Russian backlash over Friday’s deal signing. Russia has repeatedly threatened to slap tariffs on Ukrainian goods.

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The Middle East Doesn’t Want America in Iraq

By on 6.23.14 | 3:32PM

It's official. Iraq is having a party for all the sects in the Middle East, and we're not invited.

Our Gulf allies were surprised to hear that we ever thought we were coming.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the awkward phone call, when the leaders of the Sunni Arab world met Secretary of State John Kerry with "expressions of bewilderment" about his plans to fight ISIS on behalf of the Iraqi government.

One diplomat said the United States may have misunderstood the purpose of the events in Iraq. "We felt the Americans were greatly misinformed," the diplomat said. "The insurgency isn't just about ISIS, but Sunnis fighting back against injustice."

The leaders from the Gulf states, Egypt, and Jordan felt that since the United States had decided not to come to Syria at the last minute, they should not expect to be welcomed by Sunnis in Iraq.

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The War on Terror Spectator

Cancel Aid to Egypt

By 6.23.14

Much about the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been an embarrassment. Some of its failures, such as Iraq, must be shared with its predecessor. In Egypt President Barack Obama and especially Secretary of State John Kerry incompetently followed in the footsteps of several administrations.

Three years ago Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship ingloriously collapsed. Although student-led protests in Cairo triggered the regime’s demise, it was Mubarak's plan to move from military rule to family rule that led the generals to abandon him. The Obama administration was constantly following events, first embracing Mubarak, then calling for a negotiated transition, and finally endorsing his overthrow. The Egyptian people ignored Washington at every turn.

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The War on Terror Spectator

America’s Dilemma in Iraq

By 6.20.14

To think of mass graves is to think backwards in history—Babi Yar in Ukraine or the one million Jews still being unearthed from the Treblinka death camp. To see similar images today, shown in vivid color photos right down to the grains of sand in the makeshift ditch, is startling. Yet that’s exactly what the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has provided us, along with boasts that the dead are 1,700 Shias from the Iraqi army.

The country that once concealed Saddam Hussein’s mass graves is once again the site of anachronistic brutality, but this time with a modern twist. ISIS has proven savvy at using social media to broadcast its destruction across the world. Earlier this year they released photos of two men in neighboring Syria suspected of being spies, covered in blood and crucified on crosses.

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The War on Terror Spectator

In Search of a Strongman

By 6.19.14

A Middle Eastern proverb tells of a Bedouin chief who believed that consumption of fowl would increase his masculine dignity and bought a turkey. One morning, he found his turkey was gone from its usual place outside his tent. The chief called his sons together and told them that his turkey had been stolen by bandits. "Find my turkey!" he told them in rage, but they laughed and departed.

The next morning, the chief awoke to find that his camel had been stolen. His sons came to his tent of their own accord to make a plan for its recovery, but the chief just told them, "Find my turkey."

The next day, the leader's daughter was raped, and his sons descended upon his tent in rage. "How could this have happened?" they asked. He replied, "None of this would have happened if you had found my turkey."

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Lessons for Iraq Hawks Upon the Anniversary of the Raid on Medway

By on 6.18.14 | 11:45AM

In June of 1667, the British suffered the worst defeat in the history of the Royal Navy. The Dutch—then rivals to Britannia’s rule upon the waves—wreaked terror on the Thames Valley, burning capital ships and claiming prize. The loss of the Royal Charles, the British flagship, was particularly demoralizing. Her metal stern bearing the Crown’s coat of arms now hangs in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Two hundred years later, Rudyard Kipling memorialized the defeat in his poem The Dutch at Medway. The elegy opens:

If wars were won by feasting,

Or victory by song,

Or safety found, by sleeping sound

How England would be strong!

It’s a fitting reminder that wars aren’t won by talking tough. Those who would send other men to fight their battles for them do no service for their state.

Kipling goes on to bemoan the extravagant spending at Whitehall, and the threat of debt to defense:

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