The Conversation

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

Rand Paul on Arming Syrian Rebels: 'No One Knows Where All These Arms Are Going To Wind Up'

Sep 18, 2014 1:54 PM PT

In a 47 minute speech on the Senate floor, Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blasted fellow senators for attaching the vote on arming Syrian rebels onto a spending bill, rather than a free-standing bill, accusing them of shirking their constitutional duty. 

Paul also expressed his strong opposition to the president's plan to arm and train the so-called moderate rebels out of concerns the weapons could be turned on US troops and our allies. "No one really knows where all these arms are going to wind up," he said.

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Dems Stymie Cruz Effort To Strip Citizenship From ISIS Defectors

Sep 18, 2014 10:41 AM PT

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked for unanimous consent to pass his previously introduced Expatriate Terrorist Act which makes "'providing support to or fighting for a terrorist group targeting the U.S. “an affirmative renunciation of American citizenship.'” The Cruz effort was rebuffed by Democrats, despite their previously having supported a similar effort aimed at Al Qaeda.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, objected, saying the bill has not been brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee and it affects “fundamental constitutional rights, which should be given the full deliberation of the Senate.”

“Legislation that grants the government the ability to strip citizenship from Americans is a serious matter, raising significant constitutional issues,” she said.

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Sam Harris: Obama is Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon

Sep 17, 2014 2:32 PM PT

Sam Harris had some harsh words for President Obama after his speech last week, the one in which he declared, "ISIL is not Islamic." Harris, one of the outspoken new atheists, wonders when, if ever, the truth about Islam will be spoken by our leaders.

As an atheist, I cannot help wondering when this scrim of pretense and delusion will be finally burned away—either by the clear light of reason or by a surfeit of horror meted out to innocents by the parties of God. Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder? It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

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Sotloff Spokesman: Obama White House 'Bullied And Hectored' Family (Video)

Sep 17, 2014 11:36 AM PT

In an appearance on CBS This Morning, Wednesday, spokesman for the family of slain journalist Steven Sotloff repeated the charge that his parents were threatened by the Obama administration as they looked for ways to free their son from the Islamic State's grip. Specifically, Barak Barfi the Sotloff spokesman said that they were “bullied and hectored” by a member of the White House Security Council.

Last week, members of the Foley and Sotloff families went to the media to complain about the shabby way they say they were treated by the Obama administration while their loved ones were being held by ISIS.

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NY Times' Thomas Friedman Quietly Rebuts Obama's Claim That ISIS is Not Islamic

Sep 17, 2014 10:40 AM PT

During his address to the nation last week President Obama said that ISIS "is not Islamic." Yesterday NY Times' columnist Thomas Friedman undercut the President's claim, albeit without ever pointing out that Obama got it wrong.

Friedman's piece is titled "Take a Deep Breath." It makes the case for the U.S. doing as little as possible about ISIS, arguing that states closer to the action have more at stake. Part of the reason Friedman thinks a minimal response is appropriate is his answer to a fundamental question about the conflict: "What's this war really about?" Here is Friedman's answer:

“This is a war over the soul of Islam — that is what differentiates this moment from all others,” argues Ahmad Khalidi, a Palestinian scholar associated with St. Antony’s College, Oxford. Here is why: For decades, Saudi Arabia has been the top funder of the mosques and schools throughout the Muslim world that promote the most puritanical version of Islam, known as Salafism, which is hostile to modernity, women and religious pluralism, or even Islamic pluralism.

Saudi financing for these groups is a byproduct of the ruling bargain there between the al-Saud family and its Salafist religious establishment, known as the Wahhabis. The al-Sauds get to rule and live how they like behind walls, and the Wahhabis get to propagate Salafist Islam both inside Saudi Arabia and across the Muslim world, using Saudi oil wealth. Saudi Arabia is, in effect, helping to fund both the war against ISIS and the Islamist ideology that creates ISIS members (some 1,000 Saudis are believed to be fighting with jihadist groups in Syria), through Salafist mosques in Europe, Pakistan, Central Asia and the Arab world.

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ISIS and the unsteady trumpet

Sep 17, 2014 7:37 AM PT

In response to Muslims Will Support Muslims Over Infidel-Led Mission Against ISIS:

As it happens, this morning the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, just made a big show of announcing that Iraq doesn't want or need foreign troops to fight ISIS.  Of course, you're not going to see him shooing the Iranians out, and he's probably not going to refuse close American support of the special-forces variety.  But as you said, they don't want this to look like an infidel-led mission... which means ISIS isn't going anywhere.

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First U.S. degrade-and-destroy attack on ISIS lands... near Baghdad

Sep 16, 2014 7:44 AM PT

I guess the first step toward persuading ISIS that they're a pack of doomed losers staggering around on the "wrong side of history" is to prevent them from wiping out what's left of the Iraqi government.  

According to the BBC, the first American "degrade and ultimately destroy" airstrike took out "an Islamic State fighting position near Baghdad."  How near?  Oh, about "25km (15 miles) southwest of Baghdad."

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