The Conversation

Foreign Affairs: What's going on around the world.

ISIS 'JV Team' Leader Designated 3rd Most Wanted Terrorist in 2011

Sep 30, 2014 9:58 AM PT

Earlier this year the President referred to ISIS as the "JV team" during an interview, but that designation is at odds with the placement of ISIS' leader near the top of the State Department's designated terrorist list in 2011.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has numerous aliases including Abu Du'a. In October 2011, months before U.S. troops left Iraq, al-Baghdadi was added to Diplomatic Security's list of designated terrorists. A reward of up to $10 million was offered for information leading to his capture by the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program.

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Crazy kit-bashed fighting vehicles of the Kurdish peshmerga

Sep 29, 2014 11:15 AM PT

There aren't many silver linings to the dark cloud of ISIS, but one of them is newfound Western appreciation for the Kurds, a remarkable people who got shoved off the stage of history during the 2000s, because American liberals were desperate to make the invasion of Iraq look like a total mistake.  Sympathetic people victimized by Saddam Hussein complicated that narrative.

But now the Kurds are critical to Obama's nebulous non-war plans to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the non-Islamic Islamic State, and the severe threat to the Kurdish capital of Irbil is one of the things that brought the Golfer-in-Chief off the links (along with the near-genocide of the Yazidis) so all the cool kids are paying attention to them.  The Kurds stand out as the only group that seems willing and able to go toe-to-toe with ISIS, and their fighting spirit is matched by a sincere desire among Iraqi Kurds to improve their autonomous (and maybe soon, fully independent) government.  

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Army Threat Integration Center: ISIS Issues Direct Threat To Military Personnel And Families In U.S.

Sep 29, 2014 7:47 AM PT

An Army Threat Integration Center (ARTIC) special assessment on potential threats by the ISLAMIC State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) says that the terrorist organization is urging its supporters to use seek out residences of U.S. service members and “show up [at their homes] and slaughter them.” The assessment advises military members and their families how to appropriately protect themselves in their homes and online.

While ARTIC states that the intel community has not found “any corroborative or definitive extremists plots” focused against U.S. military members, civilians, and their families, ARTIC is concerned that ISIL’s rhetoric on social media platforms like Twitter and FaceBook may trigger an attack.   

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A Wannabe Radical Slanders Israel in the New York Times

Sep 28, 2014 3:55 AM PT

My family and I passed Mairav Zonszein's awful New York Times op-ed around the Sabbath table yesterday afternoon, alternately outraged and bemused. (One family member suggested boycotting the newspaper in response: another shrugged, noting that an anti-Israel op-ed from the Times is not exactly new or significant.)

Zonszein herself seems curiously proud of the piece, "How Israel Silences Dissent." Curious, because she has blasted the Times editorial page in the past for not being anti-Israel enough. In 2013, ironically, she ripped the Times's for publishing an op-ed defending Israel. (To borrow her terms, she tried to "silence" the author.)

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In U.N. Speech Obama Drops Claim 'ISIL is Not Islamic'

Sep 24, 2014 11:04 AM PT

Today President Obama gave a speech at the U.N. which was, in part, a revised version of his prime time address to the nation about ISIS. This 2nd draft was a big improvement over the first and seemed to drop one of the most contentious claims the President made two weeks ago, i.e. that ISIS is not Islamic.

Two weeks ago President Obama gave a speech which seemed motivated more by domestic political concerns than anything else. Just days after his tan-suited-flub about not having a strategy for dealing with ISIS, the President commanded an audience to reassure us he did in fact have a strategy.

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China Emits More Carbon Per Capita Than U.S. and EU Combined

Sep 23, 2014 4:37 PM PT

Just as world leaders--well, world leaders without China, India, and several other important fossil fuel-using countries--gathered at the UN Climate Summit in New York on Tuesday, a curious piece of news crossed the wires. The Financial Times reported that, for the first time, China's per capital emissions of carbon dioxide exceed those of the U.S. and European Union combined:

China is for the first time emitting more carbon pollution per person than the EU, birthplace of the industrial revolution. In a notable turning point for the world’s most populous nation, China produced 7.2 tonnes of planet-warming carbon dioxide a head last year, compared with 6.8 tonnes in the EU. Its total C02 emissions outstrip those of both the EU and the US combined, scientists reported. 

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Flashback: Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize citation

Sep 23, 2014 12:56 PM PT

As President Obama drops bombs on a record-breaking seventh country, let's look back to 2009 and remember what the Nobel committee said when it bestowed a Peace Prize upon him for simply existing.  You'll need a heart of stone to get through the second paragraph without laughing out loud.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

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Israel shoots down a Syrian warplane

Sep 23, 2014 12:42 PM PT

Just to add to the fun over in Syria - where the stated goal of taking down ISIS has already expanded into airstrikes against their al-Qaeda rivals, who might very well have been the more urgent target - a Syrian fighter jet penetrated Israeli airspace and was shot down over the Golan Heights, in an incident the bemused global media can't quite wrap its head around.  From CNN:

Israel's military said Tuesday it shot down a Syrian warplane over the Golan Heights amid what it described as growing tensions in the border area.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the plane "was identified while attempting to infiltrate Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights."

Israel used a Patriot anti-aircraft missile to bring it down, the IDF said.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the aircraft shot down was a Russian-made Sukhoi-24 and that both the pilot and co-pilot ejected into Syria.

The plane penetrated roughly a kilometer (more than half a mile) into Israeli airspace, he said.

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