Focal Points Blog

Patience Not a Virtue with the Islamic State

Georgians seek to earn extra money for retirement by peddling uranium. (Photo: Sputnik News)

Georgians seek to earn extra money for retirement by peddling uranium. (Photo: Sputnik News)

In the last six months, two different incidents of the smuggling of nuclear material have been intercepted in Georgia. In the most recent, a group of three Georgians and three Armenians attempted to sell a small amount of uranium, estimated at $27 a pound for the fanciful price of two million dollars. At the Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova explains how poor Georgians and Armenians are.

According to the World Bank, up to 27 percent of the Georgian population and up to 37 percent of Armenians live below the poverty line. The Caucasus are full of men desperate to make money, even if that involves the risk of imprisonment.

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Security Council’s Failure to Condemn Assad Betrays Its Reason for Being

Russia and China hold back the UN Security Council like the Republicans do Congress. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Russia and China hold back the UN Security Council like the Republicans do Congress. (Photo: the Telegraph)

This is my third and final post about a paper written March 2015 titled Failure to Protect: Syria and the UN Security Council by Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies of the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Let me begin by acknowledging that the United States bears a lion’s share of the blame for the state of Syria today because its invasion of Iraq turned the whole Middle East upside down.
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Westerners Forget – or Don’t Care – That Most Victims of Islamic Extremist Attacks Are Muslim

When the Islamic State attacks Muslim citizens, it’s counting on Western apathy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

When the Islamic State attacks Muslim citizens, it’s counting on Western apathy. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Recent attacks by Islamist extremists in Istanbul, Iraq, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have been staggering: over 300 dead. Westerners always complain that Muslims don’t speak out enough about atrocities that impact the West. We forget, though, that the vast majority of the victims of Islamic extremists attacks are Muslim noncombatants. Sympathy for them from the West is decidedly lacking.

At the New York Times, Anne Barnard writes:

By Tuesday, Michel Kilo, a Syrian dissident, was leaning wearily over his coffee at a Left Bank cafe, wondering: Where was the global outrage? Where was the outpouring that came after the same terrorist groups unleashed horror in Brussels and here in Paris? In a supposedly globalized world, do nonwhites, non-Christians and non-Westerners count as fully human?

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How Assad Declared Open Season on the People of Syria

Syria’s prime enemy of the state is the government. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria’s prime enemy of the state is the government. (Photo: Wikipedia)

I have twice posted about a paper I am reading from March 2015 titled Failure to Protect: Syria and the UN Security Council by Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies of the Graduate Center, City University of New York. True, the United States bears a lion’s share of the blame for the state of Syria today because its invasion of Iraq turned the whole Middle East upside down.
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The Past Comes Back to Haunt Us — Or Should

Historical amnesia is the hallmark of those who favor military action. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Historical amnesia is the hallmark of those who favor military action. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The month-long operation to oust the Islamic State (ISIS) from the city of Fallujah ended in victory for Iraqi troops in late June when with the help of U.S. air strikes, the Iraqi army was able to advance into the center of the city and take control of the government. Fallujah was “fully liberated,” the Iraqi army commander said. That victory, like most military victories, came at a heavy cost. On the same day, the United Nations reported that 85,000 residents of Fallujah had been forced to flee their homes during the fighting, tens of thousands of them ending up in a sprawling desert tent camp where food and water are scarce and daylight temperatures can reach 120 degrees. A government spokesman said, “The large number of displaced people and the quick movement has made it very hard to meet their needs.”

A similar flight from Fallujah took place twelve years ago, when an estimated one-third of the population left Fallujah to escape invading American Marines. In April 2004 the Marines fought Iraqi defense forces block by block as F-16 warplanes dropped 2,000-pound bombs on the city. More than 600 Iraqis and 27 Americans were killed in the fighting. The city was left in ruins, most of its buildings turned into hollowed out shells.
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UN Security Council Vetoes Gave Assad License to Attack Syrians

Security Council stalemate condemned many Syrians to death. (Photo: CNN)

Security Council stalemate condemned many Syrians to death. (Photo: CNN)

It is easy to impute the worst motives to those advising increased intervention in Syria, such as the 51 diplomats who called for “a more muscular military posture” against Syria in a State Department memorandum shared with the New York Times. Sure, they may be trying to pave the way for the Hillary Clinton regime and her preference for a firm American footprint in the Middle East and elsewhere. But those who advocate that the United States taking more into its own hands and attempt to shut down the Assad regime deserve some benefit of the doubt for humanitarian motives. Who can sit by and watch both Bashar al Assad and the Islamic State ravage that country?
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U.S. Intervention in Syria Wouldn’t Be an Issue if the UN Security Council Did Its Job

If the UN Security Council didn’t shirk its duty, we wouldn’t be debating U.S. intervention in Syria. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

If the UN Security Council didn’t shirk its duty, we wouldn’t be debating U.S. intervention in Syria. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

The horror that is Syria makes the heart sick. Syrians are stuck between not only a rock and a hard place – the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front (aka al-Qaeda in Syria) – but, deadliest of all, a roof crushing them – the Assad regime.

Seldom has the horror that is Syria been better conveyed than in a New Yorker piece by Ben Taub titled Shadow Doctors. It chronicles the Assad regime’s war on doctors who help the victims of its attacks. Taub writes:

In the past five years, the Syrian government has assassinated, bombed, and tortured to death almost seven hundred medical personnel, according to Physicians for Human Rights, an organization that documents attacks on medical care in war zones. (Non-state actors, including isis, have killed twenty-seven.) Recent headlines announced the death of the last pediatrician in Aleppo, the last cardiologist in Hama. A United Nations commission concluded that “government forces deliberately target medical personnel to gain military advantage,” denying treatment to wounded fighters and civilians “as a matter of policy.”
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Libya’s Downward Spiral, Part 2

Syria’s new UN-approved government is little more than a loose alliance of militias loose alliance thrown together to provide Libya with a semblance of progress. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Syria’s new UN-approved government is little more than a loose alliance of militias loose alliance thrown together to provide Libya with a semblance of progress. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank. Read part 1.

3.

On July 1, 2011, in the midst of the NATO bombing campaign a huge rally opposing the bombing and in support of Gaddafi took place in the center of Tripoli and other Libyan cities. Nationwide, it is estimated that two million people braved the bombs to show their sympathy, solidarity with the Libyan leader and his “Jamahiriya” government. In spite of that support, playing on the contradictions that still remained inside Libya, the United States and its allies were able to engineer the overthrow of Gaddafi.

While the C.I.A., among other things was busy recruiting Libyans to fight in Syria, the devastating consequences of the Libyan invasion, referred to by NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen as “the most successful mission in NATO history”, went largely unreported, unnoticed. During the seven months of its air campaign, NATO flew 26,500 bombing sorties over Libyamore often than not targeting civilian and infrastructural facilities as it did previously in Iraq. In the U.S. media, the usual blackout conditions continued with virtually no reporting of horrors unfolding on the ground, and certainly no formal acknowledgment that the United States contributed to the destruction and collapse of yet another country (Iraq, Syria).
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Libya’s Downward Spiral, Part 1

Behind the veil of NATO, the U.S. contributed heavily to the wholesale destruction of Libya. (Photo: Carsten ten Brink / Flickr Commons)

Behind the veil of NATO, the U.S. contributed heavily to the wholesale destruction of Libya. (Photo: Carsten ten Brink / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s me
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

What has happened in Libya since 2011 is heartbreaking. Its denials aside, the Obama Administration bears the lion’s share of the responsibility. Worse, nobody  cares – or hardly anyone – here in the United States. As far as the current American political discussion goes, the Libyan crisis is on the back burner. For the political class, the media, the ethical dimension of destroying a nation with the goal of getting cheaper and more plentiful oil is nonexistent. As an example of how far off the deep end the country’s leaders could go in defending the indefensible, the Libyan invasion, Democratic Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton referred to it as “smart power at its best.” “Smart power at its best” or imperial power at its most arrogant?
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Jihad Often More an Excuse Than a Cause

The flag of jihad provides cover for a multitude of sins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The flag of jihad provides cover for a multitude of sins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Down through history, ideology has often provided an excuse for the use of violence to even scores. Those who commit murder may have had troubled upbringings – from either the lack of a father or too much fathering (authoritarian) to child abuse. Or they may be bipolar or suffer from borderline personality disorder. Beyond that what actually triggers an attack can be even more intensely personal.

The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, may be an example of that. In an unsubstantiated report on June 10, a man who claimed to have had sex with him told Univsion, we zero in on a possible trigger.

“He adored Latinos, gay Latinos, with brown skin – but he felt rejected. He felt used by them – there were moments in the Pulse nightclub that made him feel really bad. Guys used him.”
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