Syria

Is ISIS crazy?

Featured image ISIS’s capture of Palmyra has aroused fears that the terrorists will smash the archaeological treasures of this ancient Semitic city. The fears are justified, given ISIS’s conduct in places like Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Mosul. But according to Nicolas Pelham, writing in the New York Review of Books, even as ISIS forces made a great show of destroying some antiquities on display in the museum in Mosul, the leadership was planning »

ISIS loses a bigwig, gains Ramadi

Featured image There are two big stories about ISIS this weekend. U.S. forces have killed an ISIS leader in Syria and ISIS has taken control of Ramadi, just 80 miles from Baghdad. The first story seems to be getting most of the press; it’s the headline story in today’s Washington Post. But the second strikes me as more significant. In my view, the most notable thing about the killing of Abu Sayyaf, »

The other side of vanity

Featured image I wrote about President Obama’s press conference following his meeting with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David this week in “An uncertain kazoo, cont’d” and John followed up in “Obama’s revisionist history on Syria.” The White House transcript of the entire press conference is posted here. I want to pause briefly over the question Obama took on Syria and the preface to his substantive, extremely misleading response. »

Obama’s Revisionist History on Syria

Featured image Scott wrote earlier this morning on President Obama’s just-concluded summit with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and his press conference yesterday. One topic that came up in the press conference deserves special mention. President Obama’s “red line” on Syria is one of his administration’s historic failures. In 2012, Obama said that “a red line for us is” if Assad’s regime starts using chemical weapons; that “would change my calculus” »

Tide turns against Assad in Syria

Featured image The Assad regime has suffered a series of setbacks in its fight against rebel forces to the point that its ability to retain power appears to be in jeopardy, the Washington Post reports. Walter Russell Mead concurs. Both the Post and Mead cite Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. He says “we may be seeing signs of the beginning of the end.” The most important signs are on »

The red line revisited (or not)

Featured image Four years ago President Obama declared that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had to go. As Assad held on, Obama elaborated on his thinking at a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, drawing his infamous red line: I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns »

Not bashing Bashar

Featured image Charlie Rose interviewed Bashar al-Assad last week. 60 Minutes broadcast a portion of the interview last night (video below, transcript here). Rose reported that the interview was conducted “under the conditions that we use Syrian TV technicians and cameras.” Assad inherited the Syrian regime from his father, who took it over via a coup in 1971. Syria is of course engaged in a bloody civil war that has become a »

Assad crosses Obama’s imaginary red line

Featured image Don’t look now, but the Assad regime is once again using chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. Reports are that it has dropped chlorine gas on civilians in recent days. Readers will recall that President Obama, working with Vladimir Putin, negotiated a deal to strip Assad of his chemical weapons. Unfortunately, chlorine was not part of the deal. This is odd because, as Max Boot reminds us, chlorine is »

Obama-Kerry magical thinking, then and now

Featured image Secretary of State John Kerry says he’s willing to talk with Syrian president Assad in the hope of reaching an agreement to end Syria’s civil war. “We have to negotiate in the end,” said Kerry. “What we’re pushing for is to get him to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds.” Kerry is always in favor of negotiating, and »

Israel: more alone than ever

Featured image President Obama’s decision, now essentially official*, to appease Iran by doing nothing to help thwart the Assad regime has dire consequences for Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians will continue to be slaughtered, many of them by barrel bombs dropped by planes the U.S. could have stopped from flying. Samatha ( “A Problem From Hell”) Power, call your office. On second thought, don’t waste your time. Israel also faces serious »

The Kobane victory and the hard work Obama is unwilling to do

Featured image ISIS apparently has been defeated in the town of Kobane, Syria to which it laid siege months ago. The Obama administration hopes that this defeat will discourage potential recruits from joining ISIS. According to a senior State Department spokesman, the lesson for those considering enlistment is: You’re not going to be a part of something great, you’re not going to have a house, you’re not going to have a female »

Turkey takes a dim view of Obama’s Syria policy

Featured image In an interview with Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offers a devastating critique of President Obama’s Syria policy. Turkey, of course, has its own interests, and on some matters they diverge sharply from America’s. However, Turkey has a strong interest in (1) a stable Syria, or at least a Syria whose refugees don’t pour into Turkey by the tens of thousands, (2) a Syria »

Obama whispers “bang-bang” to terrorists

Featured image According to the Washington Post, weapons and ammunition are in such short supply at the centers where Iraqi army units receive training to fight ISIS that the trainees are yelling “bang-bang” instead of shooting. Last August, when President Obama announced that the U.S. would undertake a mostly proxy war against ISIS, I would have said that yelling “bang-bang” is the perfect metaphor for his anti-terrorism campaign. Today, whispering “bang-bang” is »

Assad and ISIS are 2014′s biggest winners, thanks in part to Obama

Featured image During the next few days, pundits will be designating their “winners and losers” of 2014. There can be little doubt about the year’s two biggest winners. Clearly, they are Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. Third place goes to Iran, which finds itself in greatly improved economic shape and within striking distance of becoming a nuclear power. But that’s nothing compared to Assad’s remarkable, turnaround year. As Seth Mandel, quoting NPR, reminds »

What’s the common thread in Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign? Acquiescence to Iran

Featured image How goes the Obama administration’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Badly, according to Max Boot. In Iraq, there have been a few modest successes. But Obama refuses to provide direct support to Sunnis in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, and the Iraqi government, still strongly influenced by Iran, will not supply arms and equipment either. The folly of Obama’s policy in Iraq is self-evident. He relies on proxy forces to »

Obama brings second knife to gunfight

Featured image Yesterday, President Obama authorized the dispatch of 1,500 more troops to Iraq. They will join the 1,400 already there. U.S. troops will be authorized to go beyond Baghdad and Erbil, but they still will not be allowed to go into combat. Notwithstanding the dispatch of the additional troops, Obama’s response to ISIS remains woefully inadequate. Max Boot explains: Most credible estimates suggest that [Obama] will need to dispatch at least »

Obama’s syrian proxies routed

Featured image The Free Syrian Army and Harakat Hazm were formed with the intention of fighting the Assad regime. President Obama hoped to convert them into forces that could help degrade ISIS. But over the weekend, both groups found themselves in combat against neither Assad nor ISIS. Instead, they fought Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. It did not go well. Both groups were routed. Many fighters surrendered. Many more scattered. »