Recently in International Affairs Category
Brits vote today on whether to Leave or Remain in the European Union. I really have no idea which would be better for the UK, the EU, or America -- but my mischievous side hopes that Leave wins, just to watch the smug bureaucrats who run the EU suffer.
A lot of the focus today is on the weather:
Millions of Britons have defied the wet weather to queue in torrential rain and even wade through deep water to vote in today's historic EU referendum as a final poll revealed the result is on a knife edge.
Several polling stations were closed in London because of floods as Britain was finally having its say on whether to stay in the EU or cut our ties with Brussels after a gruelling 10-week campaign.
Thundery showers caused chaos across London and the south of England overnight and could potentially push the result towards a Brexit because polling data is clear that Leave voters are less likely to be put off by the bad weather than Remain voters.
Whatever the result, I wish the absolute best for our friends and allies in the UK.
With all the news about "improved" screenings for passengers, it's shocking to read about haphazard security measures for airport employees.
EgyptAir made stops in Tunisia and Eritrea before picking up passengers in Paris. Planes are swept by security at each stop, but former CIA Director James Woolsey told CNN it was "far more likely that someone who worked in one of those airports was able to get something into the plane."
Woolsey called the subcontracting at airports, in areas such as janitorial and maintenance, a "real vulnerability."
"We have to make sure that people are vetted extremely carefully... we haven't paid much attention to this," he said.
(Emphasis mine.) Seems like an obvious vulnerability, no?
The recently leaked Panama Papers reflect pretty well on America and "global capitalism". It's the corrupt, kleptocratic countries that look bad, but that's nothing new.
Consider the big names that have shown up so far on the list. With the notable exception of Iceland, these are not countries I would describe as "capitalist": Russia, Pakistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt. They're countries where kleptocratic government officials amass money not through commerce, but through quasi-legal extortion, or siphoning off the till. This is an activity that has gone on long before capitalism, and probably before there was money. Presenting this as an indictment of global capitalism is like presenting Romeo and Juliet as an after school special on the dangers of playing with knives.
Since there are so few Americans named in the leak, some people have wondered if the American government is behind it. Who knows?
Putin continues to dominate world events despite his weak hand. Read the whole thing for a long analysis, but here's the nut. Don't forget: all this began under Hillary Clinton's watch as Secretary of State.
Already, Vladimir Putin looks to be one of the conflict's winners. When it comes to the war in Syria, he is now in control. Without his bombers, military advisors and special forces, the weakened Syrian army wouldn't be able to make any advances at all. Indeed, it was the looming defeat of Assad that pushed Putin to intervene at the end of September in the first place. At the time, Putin was still claiming that his goal was that of defeating IS -- and many Western governments hoped naively that perhaps Russia could finally impose order in Syria.
Since then, though, it has become clear that the opposite is true: In four-and-a-half months, Putin has reversed the momentum in the Syrian civil war in favor of dictator Assad and has increased the chaos -- all while largely ignoring Islamic State. What's more, Moscow has targeted exactly those rebels that the West had hoped would fight IS. Putin has embarrassed the US superpower, discredited the UN and transformed Russia into an influential power in the Middle East.
In addition, his brutal operation has driven tens of thousands of people to take flight, thus intensifying the conflict between the EU and Turkey, dividing Europe even further and propelling the Continent's right-wing populist parties to unprecedented heights. Those are all desired side-effects that conform to Moscow's calculus: Everything that hurts Europe makes Russia stronger.
Berlin, too, has become convinced that Putin's involvement in Syria is about more than merely providing support for his ally Assad -- and about more than just the Middle East. For Putin, it's about Europe, about ending the sanctions and about recognition of Russia's zone of influence. "Putin is intentionally aggravating the refugee crisis in order to destabilize the EU. That is part of Russia's hybrid war," says German parliamentarian Niels Annen, foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats (SPD).
It has become increasingly clear that Russia is not a partner in the fight against Islamic State, as some in Europe had hoped. Rather, Russia is an adversary that is willing to achieve its goals by way of violence if necessary.
The analysis writes itself. Filmmakers robbed by refugees they're advocating for.
Two Dutch, pro-immigration filmmakers published a video Saturday of themselves getting brutally robbed at a refugee camp in Calais, France, known as "The Jungle."
Journalist Maaike Engels and photographer Teun Voeten were attacked at knife point while obtaining footage for their documentary "Calais: Welcome to "The Jungle." The video shows Voeten getting tackled down by three masked men, before one man threatens Engels with a knife.
Nina Shea writes of the thousands of Christians being murdered in the Middle East by ISIS. Pray for these martyrs, and pray that the Gospel of Christ will work powerfully in the region for the salvation of millions. Pray that the rest of the world will wake up to this genocide and put an end to it.
On October 1, the grim details emerged of twelve other Christians murdered, this time explicitly for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. Christian Aid Mission of Charlottesville, Va., received eyewitness reports from relatives of the victims that, outside Aleppo on August 28, ISIS militants crucified a twelve-year old Christian boy and his Syrian missionary father, along with two other men with the ministry. "All were badly brutalized and then crucified," the Protestant ministry director said. The boy had his fingertips cut off, in an attempt to force his father to convert to Islam. Their bodies were left hanging on the crosses for two days, under signs reading "infidels."
In a separate incident on the same day, ISIS militants publicly raped two Christian women, ages 29 and 33, in front of a crowd summoned by the jihadis, and then beheaded them, along with six men, when they refused to convert to Islam. "Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord's prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus," the ministry director, who had baptized some of the victims, said. According to the witnesses, "One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, 'Jesus!'" Their bodies were then crucified.
Here's a sad tale about how anti-ISIS activists in the group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) view America under President Obama.
The members of R.B.S.S. are utterly frustrated with the efforts of the West to defeat both Assad, who has fended off the opposition so far, and ISIS, which has suffered recent losses in Iraq and Syria, but which has proved capable of exacting suffering from Sinai to Beirut to Paris.
"The problem the Syrian people have with the United States is that we are suffering for five years with barrel bombs," one R.B.S.S. journalist said. "Assad has killed so many innocents, and many people have lost hope. After Assad's chemical attack, when he crossed the so-called 'red line,' the U.S. just took the weapons. It made America look like a liar and weak.
We look that way because of President Obama.
President Obama wants more restrictions on gun ownership, and apparently he's willing to deceive people to get his way. He says that America has more mass shootings than other developed countries, but he completely neglects to account for our vastly larger population.
Let's look at mass public shootings from 2009 to the middle of June this year. To compare fairly with American shootings, I excluded attacks that might be better classified as struggles over sovereignty. For instance, I did not count the 22 people killed in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo last month.
Norway had the highest annual death rate, with two mass public shooting fatalities per million people. Macedonia had a rate of 0.38, Serbia 0.28, Slovakia 0.20, Finland 0.14, Belgium 0.14 and the Czech Republic 0.13. The U.S. comes in eighth with 0.095 mass public shooting fatalities per million people. Austria and Switzerland are close behind.
In terms of the frequency of attacks, the U.S. ranks ninth, with 0.09 attacks per million people. Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium and the Czech Republic all had higher rates.
It's not politically correct to say it, but Christians are the most persecuted group in the world. Kudos to European Parliament President Martin Schulz for calling attention to the plight of Christians around the world.
In Wednesday's meeting, EP President Martin Schulz said that the persecution of Christians is "undervalued" and does not receive enough attention, which has also meant that it "hasn't been properly addressed."
Schulz's concerns were echoed by EP Vice President Antonio Tajani, who warned that Europe sometimes "falls into the temptation of thinking we can ignore this task," referring to the protection Christians throughout the world who suffer persecution.
Speakers cited the work of Open Doors, a human rights organization that monitors the persecution of Christians, noting that 150 million Christians worldwide suffer torture, rape and arbitrary imprisonment. Christians in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria are among those hardest hit.
Jesus faced persecution to the point of death, and warned that his followers would also. Pray for safety and grace for persecuted believers, and pray that the gospel will be advanced by their suffering.
18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'"
Daniel Greenfield writes that President Obama is more interested in changing American than defeating ISIS. I hope our next president is less nuanced.
When reporters ask Obama how he plans to win the war, he smirks tiredly at them and launches into another condescending explanation about how the situation is far too complicated for anything as simple as bombs to work. Underneath that explanation is the belief that wars are unwinnable.
Obama knows that Americans won't accept "war just doesn't work" as an answer to Islamic terrorism. So he demonstrates to them that wars don't work by fighting wars that are meant to fail.
So who are Obama's enemies? Well, he doesn't seem to like America that much.
Obama responded to ISIS by denying it's a threat. Once that stopped being a viable strategy, he began to stall for time. And he's still stalling for time, not to beat ISIS, but to wait until ISIS falls out of the headlines. That has been his approach to all his scandals from ObamaCare to the IRS to the VA.
Lie like crazy and wait for people to forget about it and turn their attention to something else.
This is a containment strategy, but not for ISIS. It's a containment strategy for America. Obama isn't trying to bottle up ISIS except as a means of bottling up America. He doesn't see the Caliph of the Islamic State as the real threat, but the average American who watches the latest beheading on the news and wonders why his government doesn't do something about it. To the left it isn't the Caliph of ISIS who starts the wars we ought to worry about, but Joe in Tennessee, Bill in California or Pete in Minnesota.
That is why Obama sounds bored when talking about beating ISIS, but heats up when the conversation turns to fighting Republicans. It's why Hillary Clinton named Republicans, not ISIS, as her enemy.
The left is not interested in making war on ISIS. It is too busy making war on America.
Walter Russell Mead eviscerates President Obama's moral posturing on Syria. Obama calls opponents of his plans to bring tens of thousands of Syrians to America as racist zenophobes, but he's one of the people most responsible for the crisis in the first place!
To think that conspicuous moral posturing and holy posing over a symbolic refugee quota could turn President Obama from the goat to the hero of the Syrian crisis is absurd. Wringing your hands while Syria turns into a hell on earth, and then taking a token number of refugees, can be called many things, but decent and wise are not among them. You don't have to be a xenophobe or a racist or even a Republican to reject this President's leadership on Syria policy. All you need for that is common sense and a moral compass. ...
For no one, other than the Butcher Assad and the unspeakable al-Baghdadi, is as responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria as is President Obama. No one has committed more sins of omission, no one has so ruthlessly sacrificed the well-being of Syria's people for his own ends, as the man in the White House. In all the world, only President Obama had the ability to do anything significant to prevent this catastrophe; in all the world no one turned his back so coldly and resolutely on the suffering Syrians as the man who sits in the White House today--a man who is now lecturing his fellow citizens on what he insists is their moral inferiority before his own high self-esteem.
Let's stop pretending the Palestinians want peace. All the pleas for peace are made by outsiders to the Israelis because everyone knows two things: Israel is the vastly more powerful party, and Israel is the vastly more rational party. No one begs the Palestinians for peace or denigrates them when they launch yet another attack -- the world basically treats the Palestinians as children. It somehow offends global sensibilities that Israel is both right and powerful.
(Not that Israel is unambiguously "good" or without fault, of course.)
Back in the real world, Daniel Polisar, the Provost and Executive Vice President of Shalem College in Jerusalem, has written an important essay in which he lays out in detail polling data on Palestinian attitudes about Israel and Jews over the past two decades. The data is appalling. Palestinians blame Israel for all their problems, view the Jewish state as an illegitimate colonial presence on their land, believe that violence against Israelis is justified and even laudable, believe that Jews are bloodthirsty and dishonest, and are predisposed to take at face value even the most absurd accusations against these uniquely evil enemies. Read through the essay and ask yourself how anyone could be expected to make peace with such people.
So here is the unfortunate truth: the Palestinians do not want and are not prepared to make peace with Israelis. That's not my opinion. It's theirs. All I did was listen to them. Unless and until that fact changes, there is no peace to be had.
It's hard to read this without laughing, but apparently Obama can denounce Iranian perfidy while still proclaiming their trustworthiness. How gullible is President Obama?
"In contrast to the repeated violations of the U.N. Security Council resolution that pertains to their ballistic missile activities, we've seen that Iran over the last couple of years has demonstrated a track record of abiding by the commitments that they made in the context of the nuclear talks," [White House press secretary Josh] Earnest said.
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.