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In Depth

ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: Jihadism’s Global Civil War

in In Depth

Feisal Omar/NATO // Al Shabaab recruits marching through Somalia.Daniel Byman and Jennifer Williams (The National Interest) — Almost overnight, the Islamic State sent its enemies reeling—and turned U.S. policy in the Middle East upside down.

Islamic State forces carved out a haven in Syria and, in June 2014, routed the Iraqi army, capturing large swathes of territory and prompting the Obama administration to overcome its long-standing aversion to a bigger U.S. military role in Iraq and Syria.

Even in many Arab countries where the Islamic State does not have a strong presence, its rise is radicalizing those countries’ populations, fomenting sectarianism and making a bad region even worse.

In Depth: Rethinking Operation Protective Edge

in In Depth

Flash90 // Israeli soldiers inspect rocket damage to a house in the southern city of Beersheba on Thursday, July 10, 2014.Eitan Shamir (Middle East Quarterly) — On July 8, 2014, in response to a barrage of rockets and missiles on its population centers from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched heavy air and artillery strikes against the Islamist terror group Hamas that had ruled the area since 2007.

As these failed to stop the attacks, on July 17, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded the Strip in strength. After three weeks of heavy fighting, the IDF withdrew to the international border and sustained the air campaign until a cease-fire came into effect on August 26.

Operation Protective Edge, as the campaign was codenamed, was Israel's third war against Hamas in five years, and, unlike the previous two encounters, its outcome has been far from conclusive.

In Depth: Her Majesty’s Jihadists

in In Depth

Photo illustration by Idris Khan // More British Muslims have joined Islamist militant groups than serve in the country’s armed forces.Mary Anne Weaver (The New York Times Magazine) — He was a dreamer, with Che Guevara looks — a jet-black beard and eyes — who built a new persona online, as a Muslim warrior riding into battle in the back of an open-bed truck, dressed in black, his long hair blowing in the breeze, with an AK-47 hanging from his shoulder, strapped to his back.

He had just turned 22 — the product of British private schools, a computer aficionado working in customer service at Sky News — when he decided to turn his dream into reality.

In May 2013, Ifthekar Jaman left his comfortable home in Portsmouth, England, explaining to his parents, who emigrated years earlier from Bangladesh, that he wanted to learn Arabic in the Middle East. Instead, he booked a one-way ticket to Turkey.

In Depth: Restoring American Supremacy

in In Depth

US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey // A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, flies near Guam, Feb. 16, 2010.Dov S. Zakheim (The National Interest) — President Barack Obama rounded the bend into his final lap in office with the clear objective of subordinating foreign affairs to his domestic legacy.

Given what he can only view as favorable developments—a drop in oil prices, jobs growth and low inflation—Obama will be even less inclined to allow foreign concerns to impinge on his agenda over the next two years. This approach is understandable, convenient—and unfortunate.

Obama’s approach is rooted in a defensive crouch that sees Afghanistan and Iraq as the new lodestars of American foreign policy. Things certainly went badly wrong in both countries. But what went awry does not carry the implication that America should casually emasculate itself, substituting passivity for overreach.

Ukraine: Inside the Deadlock

in In Depth

Brendan Hoffman/The New York Times // An empty hallway leading to a closed pharmacy at a clinic in Zimogorye.Tim Judah (The New York Review of Books) — Last September, a few weeks before Ukraine’s general election, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, then as now prime minister, issued a pamphlet listing his aims. One was stark: “To get through the winter.” Given that rebel soldiers in the eastern part of the country paint “To Kiev!” on their tanks, that Ukraine relies on Russia for much of its energy, and that its economy is in dire straits, it is nonetheless safe to say that he has succeeded.

The rebels, despite inflicting two major recent defeats on the government forces, have not advanced significantly. Winter power cuts in regions unaffected by the war were short and survivable.

Also, while the current cease-fire, agreed to on February 12, is not expected to last, Ukraine and its government have not collapsed, nor do they show any signs of being on the brink of doing so, as some of the Russian media keep saying hopefully.

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