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Russian President Putin once again creates facts on the ground while America dithers. Obama is a man of words, never action. The world knows his words mean nothing.
Act II. Tuesday, Sept. 29th, at the UN in New York. Obama continues appealing to the collective. He convenes a "Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent extremism." In his opening remarks, he welcomes the "representatives from more than 100 nations, more than 20 multilateral institutions, some 120 civil society groups from around the world, and partners from the private sector." He reminds them that a year ago he gave them some homework: he challenged countries to return to the General Assembly this year "with concrete steps that we can take together." This year he is convinced that "what we have here today is the emergence of a global movement that is united by the mission of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL." Together, he tells them, "we're pursuing a comprehensive strategy... ." He repeats his desire for a new leader in Syria, "an inclusive government... . This is going to be a complex process." Part way through the meeting Obama turns over the chair to Vice President Joe Biden.
Putin does not attend this summit at which scores of leaders are talking about the complex process. He has left the UN to return to Moscow.
Act III. Wednesday, Sept. 30. In the Middle East, Russia makes its move. In Baghdad a Russian general delivers a demarche to the U.S. embassy, informing the U.S. that Russian planes are about to begin air strikes in Syria. Russia's message is not one of cooperation with the U.S., nor is it seeking the permission of Tuesday's UN-conferencing multitude of envoys, civil society groups and so forth. Russia, which has been moving troops and military equipment into Syria, is asking U.S. war planes to get out of its way.
To put it more accurately, Russia is telling the U.S. -- not asking. In Syria, that same day, Russian war planes carry out strikes, not against ISIS, but against areas which The Wall Street Journal reports are "primarily held by rebel forces backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services."
I've been pretty engaged with the events in Afghanistan since America invaded after 9/11, but the extent of the child sexual abuse described in this article is shocking to me. How could American soldiers be expected to tolerate this evil?
Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally "boy play," and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene -- in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.
The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages -- and doing little when they began abusing children. ...
The policy of instructing soldiers to ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies is coming under new scrutiny, particularly as it emerges that service members like Captain Quinn have faced discipline, even career ruin, for disobeying it.
Russia proposed an opportunity for Syria's dictator to step down in 2012 and President Obama refused.
Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.
But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.
The American Interest puts the blame on Obama.
f true, this was a staggering missed opportunity. The President's string of misjudgments on the Middle East--on the peace process, Erdogan, withdrawal from Iraq, Libya, ISIS as the "J.V. team", and Syria--is one of the most striking examples of serial failure in the annals of American foreign policy.
Generally speaking, what the President seems worst at is estimating the direction in which events are flowing. He thought Erdogan was taking Turkey in one direction; Erdogan was going somewhere else. He thought there was a transition to democracy in Egypt; there never was a prospect of that. He has repeatedly been caught flatfooted by events in Syria. And Putin keeps running rings around him.
Worst President Ever.
Reason captures a collection of reactions in the Arab press to the ongoing wave of migration into Europe from the Middle East. There's no doubt that the migration will forever change the host countries, but perhaps the countries-of-origin will change also?
Adnan Hussein, writing in Iraq's Al-Mada, condemned the Middle East by praising the West's values (choosing to overlook, for example, the anti-refugee rhetoric and actions in Hungary, to say nothing of the ethnic- and religion-based Balkan conflicts of a generation ago, much less Europe's appalling 20th century). "The lofty [value of] human sentiment is rooted in cultured societies from Japan to the US," he wrote on September 4. "In Europe and other civilized countries a sharp sense of humanity is inculcated from early childhood...
"We too could be like them and our countries could be like their countries, which do not persecute the citizens and do open their arms to the victims of natural and political disasters. Yes, we could be like them if we thoroughly examined our barbaric political regime, our backwards social order, our obsolete curricula, our media that operates without professional norms, and our religious establishment that interprets the texts in a barbaric fashion, inciting to hatred and to abuse of the other, even members of the Islamic faith! This situation clearly mandates a velvet revolution that the educated [sector] must launch."
More reactions collected and translated by MEMRI.
Saudi journalist 'Ali Sa'd Al-Moussa in his column for the government Saudi daily Al-Watan leveled scathing criticism at the Arab and Muslim nation: "Let us analyze things as clearly and transparently as possible. After the criminal terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, on the train [system] in Madrid, and on the London Underground, it took a long time for some [Muslim] religious institutions to issue confused and sheepish condemnations of these crimes. [And] let me state clearly and honestly: were it not for the pressure exerted by the political [echelon], the religious [establishment] would not have issued [even] these condemnations. Conversely, [only] hours after the tragic incident in Hungary in which 70 immigrants were killed in a truck, the Pope appeared and said: 'This is a crime against morality that contravenes the human values of compassion, tolerance and coexistence, and Europe must apologize and feel shame over this disaster...'
"Without a moment of hesitation, let me say... that we are a primitive nation that has lost its sense of humanity. Consider the following image: Syrian immigrants flee their land in order to save the lives of their children from the mass killings perpetrated by ISIS, [Jabhat] Al-Nusra, Liwa Al-Tawhid, Jabhat Al-Sham, and Hizbullah. We are a nauseating nation that kills people for their opinions or affiliation. Compare [this] to the parallel image: in the central train station in Munich, dozens of German citizens gather to welcome the first train arriving from Budapest carrying hundreds of immigrants...
UK Home Secretary Theresa May and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve write a joint piece about the importance and difficulty of controlling what they call a "global migration crisis". They explicitly oppose illegal immigration motivated by the prospect of economic gain.
What we are currently facing is a global migration crisis. This situation cannot be seen as an issue just for our two countries. It is a priority at both a European and international level. Many of those in Calais and attempting to cross the Channel have made their way there through Italy, Greece or other countries. That is why we are pushing other member states - and the whole of the EU - to address this problem at root.
The nations of Europe will always provide protection for those genuinely fleeing conflict or persecution. However, we must break the link between crossing the Mediterranean and achieving settlement in Europe for economic reasons. Together, we are currently returning 200 migrants every month who have no right to asylum. ...
Ultimately, the long-term answer to this problem lies in reducing the number of migrants who are crossing into Europe from Africa. Many see Europe, and particularly Britain, as somewhere that offers the prospect of financial gain. This is not the case - our streets are not paved with gold.
Does anyone believe that the new Greek deadline is for real? We've heard about "deadlines" for five years. There are no such things as real deadlines in international politics. (Daily Mail, as always, has the best pictures illustrating the ongoing unraveling of Greece.) Greece is a mess. I'd love to hear the various presidential candidates describe what Greek policies -- not negotiating tactics -- have led to this sorry state of affairs.
The International Monetary Fund called last week for European states to accept longer repayment periods and lower interest rates on their loans to Greece. Many economists say that Greece's debt burden, at almost 180% of annual GDP, is unsustainable for a country its size.
Greece has been granted two bailout programmes worth a total of €240 billion euros (£172 billion) in loans from other eurozone countries and the IMF.
But the spending cuts and tax increases demanded as a condition for the loans have hit growth, sending the country into a six-year recession and pushing unemployment to 25%.
As talks broke down between the Eurozone countries and Greece in Brussels last night, European Council president Donald Tusk said: 'I have no doubt that this is the most critical moment in the history of the EU.
'The stark reality is that we only have five days left to find the ultimate agreement.
'Until now I have avoided talking about deadlines, but tonight I have to say it loud and clear that the final deadline ends this week.'
The Islamic State has conquered Ramadi in a stunning blow to American and allied forces. If we want to gift-wrap Iraq for Iran why don't we just say so and save some lives and money? What's the strategy? I don't understand what we're trying to accomplish, but it certainly doesn't look like victory.
Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, "is not symbolic in any way.... I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of a campaign should it fall."
We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey--who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear--will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to "degrade" and ultimately to "destroy" ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.
There is no doubt that US bombing has succeeded in slightly degrading ISIS--Central Command helpfully puts out a long laundry list of all the buildings and vehicles its aircraft have blown up. But there is scant sign that ISIS is on the path to destruction. True, its offensive toward Baghdad has been blunted and it lost control of Tikrit. But the fact that the assault on Tikrit was led by Shiite militiamen under the effective control of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, indicates the self-defeating nature of this offensive. Sunnis will never turn on ISIS, as they turned on AQI in 2007, if by doing so they will open themselves to domination by Shiite militias.
Congrats to the UK for awarding an outright majority to the Conservatives. I wonder if this stunning landslide makes American Democrats nervous? Prime Minister David Cameron had previously led a coalition government because the Conservatives didn't hold a majority of Parliament, but now he can form a majority government and lead much more freely.
Free and peaceful elections seem so routine to those of us in the West, but let's not forget how astounding they are.
David Cameron today vowed to make Great Britain 'greater still' as he set out how he will use his shock outright Tory majority to ensure the 'good life is in reach for everyone who's willing to work and do the right thing'.
The Prime Minister used a statement outside Number 10 to pay tribute to both Labour's Ed Miliband and his former Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg who have both resigned after suffering heavy losses in one of the most unpredictable election results for a generation. ...
Mr Cameron had earlier walked out the doors of Number 10 to declare he was forming a majority Tory government after routing Labour and the Lib Dems in the biggest electoral shock in living memory.
It appears that some prominent scientists and researchers have been hired by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to look into the adjusted surface temperature records for the last 150 years or so. The GWPF is generally skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, but hopefully the inquiry will be rigorous and transparent enough that its conclusions, whatever they are, will be above reproach.
Their inquiry's central aim will be to establish a comprehensive view of just how far the original data has been "adjusted" by the three main surface records: those published by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss), the US National Climate Data Center and Hadcrut, that compiled by the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (Cru), in conjunction with the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction. All of them are run by committed believers in man-made global warming. ...
For this the GWPF panel is initially inviting input from all those analysts across the world who have already shown their expertise in comparing the originally recorded data with that finally published. In particular, they will be wanting to establish a full and accurate picture of just how much of the published record has been adjusted in a way which gives the impression that temperatures have been rising faster and further than was indicated by the raw measured data.
Happy Monday! If you're looking for some encouragement, check out this bullish article about imminent American energy dominance. We've got the right combination of geography and culture to harness oil and natural gas resources that no one else in the world can touch.
"We're just fifteen years into a 150-year process," said Steve Mueller, head of Southwestern Energy, the fourth biggest producer of gas in the US.
Our buddy Putin in Russia is worried.
Russian president Vladimir Putin warned at the St Petersburg economic summit last year that US shale gas was abruptly changing the international order, with serious implications for his country. The early effects have forced down global LNG prices, creating a rival source of gas supply in Europe.
Any future American cargoes would further erode Gazprom's pricing power in Europe, and erode the Kremlin's political leverage. The EU already has a large network of import terminals for LNG.
Lithuania has just finished its "Independence" terminal, opening up the Baltic states to LNG. Poland's new terminal should be ready this year.
Russia has the gepgraphy, but not the know-how or culture to support fracking.
Lukoil analysts say Russian extraction costs for shale are four times higher that those of US wildcat drillers. Sanctions currently prevent the Russians importing the know-how and technology to tap its vast Bazhenov basin at a viable cost.
John Hess, the founder of Hess Corporation, said it takes a unique confluence of circumstances to pull off a fracking revolution: landowner rights over sub-soil minerals, a pipeline infrastructure, the right taxes and regulations, and good rock. "We haven't seen those stars align yet," he said.
Above all it requires the acquiescence of the people. "It takes a thousand trucks going in and out to launch a (drilling) spud. Not every neighbourhood wants that," he said.
Certainly not in Sussex, Burgundy, or Bavaria.
The 21st Century will be another American Century.
The New York Times builds on Peter Schweizer's book, "Clinton Cash", with an investigation into Russian nuclear giant Rosatom's purchase of American owned uranium supplies around the world. It's hard to summarize the details, because transactions like this are inherently complicated, so read the whole article if you want to really understand it. Conflicts of interest abound, but it doesn't look like there's a smoking gun quid pro quo. The appearance is bad enough.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One's chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company's assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
It's inconceivable to me that Hillary Clinton could win the presidency with a history like she has, but then I was shocked when Obama won re-election.
North African refugees frequently attempt to flee to Italy from Libya by boat. The crossing is extremely dangerous and hundreds to thousands of people seem to die each year making the journey. It's worse than it sounds though: apparently Muslim refugees are throwing Christians overboard to their deaths.
Italian police said Thursday that 15 African Muslim migrants have been arrested after witnesses said the refugees threw 12 Christians into the Mediterranean following a brawl. ...
During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana -- believed to be Christians -- were threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
Eventually the threat was carried out and 12 were pushed overboard. The statement said the motive was that the victims "professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim."
The surviving Christians, the statement said, only managed to stay on board by forming a "human chain" to resist the assault.
Is this an isolated crime? Or do Muslim refugees commonly murder Christians at sea? Hopefully the investigation will look deeper than this single incident.
Update: President Obama has nothing to say about the persecution of Christians.
(HT: Stephen Green.)
Austin Bay rattles off a list of reasons that people don't trust President Obama -- using a weaving metaphor! What's not clear is whether the President intentionally or unintentionally over-promises and under-delivers.
Obama's "historic understanding" has the sad woof and warp of so many of his administration's domestic and international policy efforts: glowing, inspirational, dramatic rhetoric disguising episodic, hodge-podge, ill-considered, poorly planned and often hastily organized operations. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" is a domestic example. When Obamacare arrived, many Americans learned they could not keep their preferred doctor. Obama said Americans would eventually love the health care law. A substantial majority despises the legislative monstrosity. Now a foreign policy example: Obama's promise to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations. For Vladimir Putin, Obama's reset was a setup. Putin's Russia is now a neo-Fascist expansionary nuclear power slowing carving and digesting Ukraine. Obama's "red line" threat to punish Syria's Assad regime if it used chemical weapons against civilians, and his failure to do so when the Syrians used nerve gas, is another example.
Obama has an enormous trust problem; the man does not keep his word. But his obedient, word-mongering national media corps consistently fails to call him on this grand malfeasance.
Maybe American Millennials could get some tips from Kataguiri, Brazil's new libertarian superstar, who in turn seems to have been inspired by the older American Tea Partiers.
"What Lula and Dilma have done shouldn't just result in their being banned from politics. It should result in them being in jail!" Kim Kataguiri yelled, denouncing Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The March 15 demonstration was the largest Sao Paulo had seen in more than three decades, since 1984 protests demanding democratic elections after a long dictatorship.
But more surprising than the crowd of more than 200,000, according to the Datafolha polling and statistics agency, was the fact it was being led by Kataguiri, a skinny, 19-year-old college dropout, and other young Brazilian activists inspired by libertarianism and conservative free-market ideals.
It's encouraging that it's not only the far-left that can use modern technology to organize and publicize.
This is a very small unit, but if it signals a trend then we are witnessing a significant challenge to the Westphalian nation-state system we've enjoyed since 1648. Up till now only Muslims have been organizing for violence outside the control of a recognized nation, but now Christians are getting into the game. We get so comfortable with the lines on the map that we're apt to forget that the lines are human constructs with no inherent meaning.
An eight-strong team of former British Army soldiers is preparing to leave Britain to join the fight against Islamic State in Syria, the Standard can reveal.
The team are training to fight as a single volunteer unit alongside the Kurdish militias on the front line in northern Syria.
Images on social media show members of the group posing in combat fatigues and clutching high powered assault rifles on a training exercise in Europe.
The caption to one image of a soldier with a machine gun reads: "Bad news delivery system, if you're ISIS!"
The former soldiers are believed to include a number who have Special Forces training.
James Taranto thoroughly mocks John Kerry and Hillary Clinton for their flip-floppery on their support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and makes a keen observation:
Meanwhile, look at the list of prospective GOP presidential candidates (based on the polls we cited in yesterday's column): Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Not one of them was in Congress in 2002. That means there is a very strong likelihood the 2016 presidential election will pit a Democrat who voted to authorize the Iraq war against a Republican who didn't. The joke would be perfect if only the Democrat were John Kerry.
Graeme Wood has produced a masterful dissection of how the Islamic State's religious devotion drives its strategy and tactics. It's a long piece, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in understanding what ISIS wants and how it views itself in the world.
Here is one small passage that describes how ISIS is forbidden from engaging diplomatically with anyone:
Choudary's colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State's propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.
One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. "This is not permitted," Abu Baraa said. "To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God's." This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means--for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate--is shirk.
There's a lot more, and a lot to think about.
The Islamic State's branding and media operations are critical for their recruitment and survival, and America is struggling to compete.
It's been less than a year since IS burst onto the stage, seizing large amounts of territory and shocking the world with its brutally violent tactics. During that time, the group has evolved into a highly sophisticated multimedia organization, boasting slick social media strategies that could give major corporate marketing teams a run for their money. IS knows how to package its extremist ideology in the form of well-produced videos, attractive graphics, polished magazines and strategic online posts. It's also strikingly savvy at spreading them online, tailoring their presentation and message to media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Vine. The messages are hypercustomized in language, tone and content to reach as many people possible and ultimately go viral. As Marshall Sella recently wrote in Matter, IS is "an entire brand family, the equivalents of the Apple logo's glow ... terrorism's Coca-Cola." There's no need to hold an IS-stamped watch or baseball hat in your hands to face the truth: IS is a powerful and terrifying brand that we were not prepared to reckon with. ...
"These videos of people killing themselves and joining terrorist groups around the world, they're conveying a narrative of authenticity," [Oren Segal, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism] said. "When we're trying to come up with something that opposes that, how do we capture an authentic counternarrative that doesn't look like 'Say no to drugs'? We need something meaningful. At the end of the day, it's a battle for hearts and minds."
The lack of such philosophical/moral/religious focus is a weakness of the Western secular system. We hope our strengths can make up for it: wealth, size, technology, liberty. For the past couple of centuries our system has managed to beat our more ideologically-cohesive opponents.
Chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University Thomas F. Madden explains that the Crusades were defensive wars by Christians against centuries of Muslim aggression, and that Muslims ultimately won. It wasn't until World War I that the Muslim Ottoman Empire was dismantled. If anything, modern Muslims should brag about their ancestors' victories rather than playing the victim whenever the word "crusade" is uttered.
So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already by said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression -- an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity -- and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion -- has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.