Britain Cannot “Outsource” War: Cameron

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Barack Obama David Cameron
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom observe a moment of silence during the G20 summit in Antalya, November 15 (White House/Pete Souza)

British prime minister David Cameron made his case for airstrikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Syria on Thursday. He called the Islamist group a “serious and undeniable” threat and argued that the United Kingdom cannot “outsource” its security to allies.

American and French warplanes are already striking Islamic State targets in Syria. Britain only bombs in Iraq at the invitation of the government in Baghdad.

Cameron has urged more expansive British action against the group, which controls territory in both Middle Eastern countries, for months.

But he did not immediately call for a vote in the House of Commons, saying he wanted to be assured of a “clear majority” in advance. Another defeat, he said, would be a “publicity coup” for the Islamic State. Read more “Britain Cannot “Outsource” War: Cameron”

First French Jets Launch from Aircraft Carrier Near Syria

French jets fly in formation over the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
French jets fly in formation over the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (Marine nationale)

French Rafale fighter jets carried out their first strikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on Monday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The airstrikes come a little more than a week after the group claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in the French capital that left more than 130 people dead.

The carrier, the only one in France’s navy, was deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean before the attacks in Paris.

It carries 26 fighters, tripling France’s capacity in the fight against the fanatical Islamist group. Read more “First French Jets Launch from Aircraft Carrier Near Syria”

Modest Proposal to End Syria’s Civil War, Destroy Islamic State

Barack Obama Vladimir Putin
Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet at the latter’s dacha outside Moscow, July 7, 2009 (White House/Pete Souza)

And modest, of course, it will be, involving cooperation on a scale not seen since World War II. But to genuinely destroy the Islamic State and end the regional crisis that fuels it, one must think big.

Diplomacy has been tried in the past, but diplomacy tends to fail when equally matched powers are unwilling to give ground. For all intents and purposes, every force within the Middle East is capable only of influencing and protecting portions of the region; even the United States has proven unable to impose a solution. This has produced a stalemate and between the partitioned spheres of influence these outside forces have left no man’s lands. Within those no man’s lands, predictably, the madmen are king.

Now, in the wake of Paris and the downing of a Russian airliner, geopolitical forces are converging that may well make international cooperation possible. Read more “Modest Proposal to End Syria’s Civil War, Destroy Islamic State”

Why Turkey Doesn’t Do More to Defeat Islamic State

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom observe a moment of silence during the G20 summit in Antalya, November 15
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, President Barack Obama of the United States and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom observe a moment of silence during the G20 summit in Antalya, November 15 (White House/Pete Souza)

David Graeber argues in The Guardian newspaper that all that’s standing in the way of defeating the Islamic State is Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is distracting Kurdish militants from fighting the fanatical Islamist organization.

If only it were that simple.

First, Graeber sidesteps the fact that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) itself resumed conflict with the Turkish state. It is still considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its NATO allies, barring the West from supporting it no matter how effective it may be against the self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

There is little doubt that Erdoğan has seized on the PKK’s resurgence for political reasons. It helped him persuade Turks in an election earlier this month to give his Justice and Development Party another majority.

But it would be a stretch to claim, as Graeber does, that the Kurds have “completely shifted strategy, renouncing separatism and adopting a strict policy of never harming civilians.” Neither Erdoğan nor the PKK is free from blame here.

Second, it may be overly optimistic to think that the Kurds can defeat the Islamic State on their own. Their priority is defending their territory. They should hesitate before moving into the Sunni-inhabited areas of Iraq and Syria once the Islamists have been driven out of Kurdistan. Read more “Why Turkey Doesn’t Do More to Defeat Islamic State”

After Paris, Obama Stays the Course Against Islamic State

American president Barack Obama confers with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, while talking on the phone in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 6, 2013
American president Barack Obama confers with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, while talking on the phone in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 6, 2013 (White House/Pete Souza)

While presidential candidates from both sides want him to do more to defeat the self-declared Islamic State, Barack Obama is sticking with a strategy that is slowly pushing the fanatics back.

Virtually all the Republicans in the race to replace him next year want America to declare all-out war.

Even the two Floridians considered most worldly and more likely to win the nomination than the bombastic property tycoon Donald Trump — who is currently ahead in the polls — have taken a hard line.

The state’s former governor, Jeb Bush — who is also the brother of the last Republican president — said the Islamic State “declared war on Western civilization” when it claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and shootings in the French capital last Friday that left more than 130 dead. He proposed this week to deploy more American troops to Iraq and Syria to support the coalition effort against the radical Islamist group there.

Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, vows to do “whatever it takes” to destroy the organization.

Unlike some of his less sophisticated counterparts — like Trump — Rubio recognizes that the Islamic State cannot be defeated if Bashar Assad is allowed to remain in power. The Alawite leader deliberately radicalized the largely Sunni opposition against his regime, hoping that the rest of the world would ultimately consider him the lesser evil. As long as he sits in Damascus, there is a reason for the Islamic State to exist. Read more “After Paris, Obama Stays the Course Against Islamic State”

Russia Retaliates Against Islamic State in Syria

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin observes a military exercise in Kaliningrad, September 26, 2013 (Kremlin)

Russia expanded its airstrikes in Syria on Tuesday after investigators said the self-declared Islamic State in the country was responsible for the crash of a Russian airliner in the Sinai Peninsula last month that killed 224 passengers and crew.

Russian jet have so far mostly attacked the less fanatical opponents of Syrian president Bashar Assad.

Military commanders told President Vladimir Putin that the Russian air force had carried out some 2,300 sorties in Syria since it started bombing there two months ago.

In an earlier meeting, Putin vowed Russia would find those responsible for downing the airliner and punish them. Read more “Russia Retaliates Against Islamic State in Syria”

Why the Hell Would ISIS Attack Paris? Geopolitics of Terrorism

Paris France
View of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France (Unsplash/Rodrigo Kugnharski)

It was not, of course, just Paris this weekend: Beirut also felt the murderous strategy of militant Islam. For those who are attuned to ignoring the developing world, the attacks in Paris were shocking, confusing and subject to simplistic explanation: they hate us, they hate freedom, they want Sharia, etc., etc.

But when it comes to organizations training, supplying and directing acts of terrorism, hate and religion are not the explanations we seek. Organizations, like nation states, are neither suicidal nor nihilistic: they seek to empower themselves and gain security through whatever means are available to them.

And understanding this need goes a long way towards understanding what happened this weekend. Read more “Why the Hell Would ISIS Attack Paris? Geopolitics of Terrorism”

French Warplanes Strike Islamic State Base in Syria

France stepped up its war against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Sunday after the group had claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Paris two days earlier that left more than 130 dead.

The French Ministry of Defense said ten fighters jet, flying from bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, attacked a command center, munitions depot and training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa which the Islamic State claims as its headquarters.

French president François Hollande said on Saturday the attacks in Paris were “an act of war.” Read more “French Warplanes Strike Islamic State Base in Syria”

Obama Claims Steady Progress Against Islamists

President Barack Obama has said that the United States contained the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but now allies in the region must do more to defeat it.

In an interview with ABC News’ This Week that was broadcast on Sunday, the president disputed that the radical Islamist organization had gained ground.

“From the start our goal has been first to contain,” he said, “and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq. And in Syria, they’ll come in, they’ll leave.”

But the group has claimed responsibility for a string of terrorist attacks this year, most recently in Lebanon and France. Read more “Obama Claims Steady Progress Against Islamists”