While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama waits backstage before participating in a panel discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, March 29 (White House/Pete Souza)

While Donald Trump was hectoring the man he hopes to succeed next year for supposedly falling short in the fight against Islamic terrorism, President Barack Obama reminded Americans on Tuesday that his administration is gradually eradicating the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It’s unclear to what extent the group was involved in the shooting at a Florida gay nightclub this weekend that killed nearly fifty people. It rather looks like the shooter, Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan descent, was motivated by anti-gay bigotry more than anything else and only professed his allegiance to the Islamic State at the last minute.

Whatever the Islamic State’s role, Obama is determined to root it out. But — and this is what separates him from many Republicans, including Trump — he is not losing his mind and pretending that a ragtag band of jihadists in the desert of the Middle East poses an existential threat to the United States. Read more “While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State”

Looking for Solutions After the Orlando Shooting

Fifty people were killed this weekend at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people, who were partying and socializing in a place that is supposed to be safe for LGBTs. Who were no threat to anyone. Who were targeted because of who and where they were.

We don’t need to speculate about the killer’s motives to understand what this was. Whether Omar Mateen was motivated by religious fanaticism or anti-gay bigotry; this was a hate crime.

Events like these inspire fear and anger. We’re afraid it might happen to us next. We’re angry that it could happen in the first place. We are emotional and we all want to make sure it never happens again.

Some will argue now is not a time for politics. But what’s the point if we don’t learn from the massacre of fifty innocent people to reduce the chances of more people being killed? Read more “Looking for Solutions After the Orlando Shooting”

Why Saudi Arabia Doesn’t Want 28 Pages Declassified

Saud bin Faisal Al Saud Barack Obama
Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud bin Faisal Al Saud speaks with American president Barack Obama in New York, September 23, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

The answer, it may seem, is simple: yet another cover-up, yet another scandal brushed under the rug, more nasty men in the halls of power getting away with the terrible things they do.

Such a narrative gives us a simple good versus bad tale of morality, with evil Saudi princes laughing behind closed doors. As always, that simplicity belies the complicated nature of the entire situation. Read more “Why Saudi Arabia Doesn’t Want 28 Pages Declassified”

Bombs Explode at Brussels Airport, Metro Station

Two men detonated explosives on themselves at Brussels Airport on Tuesday, killing at least ten people, while twenty commuters died in a blast on a metro train near the headquarters of the European Union.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State, a fanatical Islamist group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Public transport in the Belgian capital was shut down for much of the day, as was international train service to and from London and Paris. Incoming flights were diverted to Brussels Charleroi and Amsterdam Schiphol. Residents of the city were advised to stay indoors.

The lockdown was eased in the early evening when police carried out searches and arrests across Brussels. Read more “Bombs Explode at Brussels Airport, Metro Station”

Hamas Celebrates Stabbings, Shootings Across Israel

The Palestinian militant group Hamas praised a series of attacks in Israel on Tuesday that wounded fourteen and left an American tourist dead.

“Hamas celebrates the martyrs that have ascended through these operations,” a spokesman for the organization said, “and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the intifada.” Read more “Hamas Celebrates Stabbings, Shootings Across Israel”

Turkey Blames Syrian Kurds, Russia for Ankara Bombing

Turkey blamed a Kurdish rebel group on Thursday for a bomb attack in its capital that killed 28 people and warned its rival Russia against supporting the Kurds.

“If these terror attacks continue, they will be as responsible as the YPG,” the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, said about the Russians.

The YGP, or People’s Protection Units, are a Kurdish militia in northern Syria that the Turks consider a terrorist group.

But they are backed by Russia and the West — if for different reasons. Read more “Turkey Blames Syrian Kurds, Russia for Ankara Bombing”

Obama, Republicans See Terror Threat Differently

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama talks with his advisors in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington DC, December 5 (White House/Pete Souza)

While Republicans have ramped up their war rhetoric in the wake of recent Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks in America and France, President Barack Obama insists his incremental strategy is the right one and working.

The reason the two sides are calling for such different courses of action, Peter Beinart argues at The Atlantic, is that they see the militant Islamist threat in fundamentally different terms.

Since George W. Bush, the majority of Republicans have thought of the War on Terror as something of a Third World War. Nine days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Bush described the perpetrators as “the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the twentieth century.”

Most of the Republicans who seek to replace Obama in 2016 still see the fight against Islamic terror in such epic terms, if not more so. Read more “Obama, Republicans See Terror Threat Differently”

Belgium Lowers Terror Threat, Keeps Soldiers in Streets

Brussels Belgium police
Police and soldiers guard the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, November 23 (Antonio Ponte)

Belgium dialed back security measures in the capital, Brussels, on Thursday after Prime Minister Charles Michel announced a reduction in the city’s threat level.

“We are no longer in a situation where the threat is very close,” he said.

Schools and shopping malls were due to reopen on Friday and public transportation would resume.

But Michel kept hundreds of extra police officers and soldiers in the streets and said the situation was still “serious.”

He did not give any details. Read more “Belgium Lowers Terror Threat, Keeps Soldiers in Streets”

Sixteen Arrested, Belgium on High Terror Alert

Brussels Town Hall Belgium
Police outside the Town Hall of Brussels, Belgium at night, November 23 (Antonio Ponte)

Belgian authorities said on Sunday they would keep the country’s terror alert at its highest level going into Monday, citing a “serious and imminent” threat to the capital, Brussels.

Sixteen arrests were carried out in Brussels and the city of Charleroi, closer to the border with France, after parts of the capital were evacuated by police on Sunday night. The federal prosector’s office said after midnight that nearly two dozen houses had been searched, but no explosives or weapons were found.

Prime Minister Charles Michel announced earlier in the day that schools and subways were to remain shut. “We fear an attack like in Paris, with several individuals, perhaps in several places,” he said.

Officials recommended that sports competitions and other public activities be canceled.

Synagogues were advised to close their doors as well. A few decided to stay open anyway for Shabbat prayer services. Read more “Sixteen Arrested, Belgium on High Terror Alert”

Labour’s Corbyn Paralyzed in Face of Terror

Even last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, where more than 130 people were killed by radicalized young Muslims, do not appear to have convinced Britain’s Labour Party leader that sometimes more is needed in the face of evil than protests and talk.

Jeremy Corbyn, an unrepentant Marxist and peacenik who was elected Labour leader in September, rightly cautions against stigmatizing all Muslims for violence that is carried out in their name. But when it comes to actually doing something to stop the terrorists, he has no policy. Read more “Labour’s Corbyn Paralyzed in Face of Terror”