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Opinion: Iraq Is Finished

in Opinion

Khalid Mohammed/AP // A member of the Iraqi security forces runs to plant the national flag as they surround Tikrit during clashes to regain the city from Islamic State militants.Emma Sky (The Atlantic) — One afternoon this March, during a visit to Jordan, I sat on the banks of the Dead Sea with my Iraqi friend, Azzam Alwash. As we stared across the salt lake and watched the sun disappear behind the rocky crags of Israel, I recounted a trip I had taken to Jordan 20 years earlier to conduct field research on Palestinian refugees, as part of a Middle East peace effort designed to ensure that within a decade nobody in the region considered himself a refugee.

No one had an inkling back then that the numbers of refugees in the region would increase exponentially, with millions of Iraqis and Syrians displaced from their homes by international intervention and civil war.

Nor had I imagined at the time that I would find myself in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, initially as a British representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority—the international transitional government that ran the country for about a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein—and then as the political advisor to U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno when he commanded U.S. forces in the country.

Opinion: Boko Haram Might Be Worse Than Taliban

in Opinion

Jane Hahn/Washington Post // A Nigerian military helicopter flies over northern Nigeria.Kevin Sieff (The Washington Post) — Flying into northeastern Nigeria, I thought about southeastern Afghanistan.

I was in an MI-24 helicopter last week traveling with the Nigerian army toward Boko Haram’s former headquarters, trying to imagine what the insurgents had left behind after they were forced to flee in the face of a major military operation.

One of the complications of covering insurgencies is that you can typically visit the militants’ strongholds only once they’ve left. And so we assess what we can based on what those groups have left behind. It’s not a comprehensive indicator, but it’s a glimpse into the way militants use their power.

Opinion: American Bombing Campaign in Iran Unnecessary

in Opinion

Carolyn Kaster/AP // Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. arrives to pose for photographers in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2015.Matt Pelak (Defense One) — The junior senator from Arkansas and GOP foreign policy strategist apparent Tom Cotton proposed on Wednesday that “several days of air and naval bombing” would be sufficient to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

For his inspiration, Cotton draws on 1998’s Operation Desert Fox, the four-day campaign by the Clinton administration that bombarded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with 415 cruise missiles and 600 laser-guided bombs.

The problem with this analogy is that Desert Fox hardly stopped Republican calls for further intervention in Iraq. Only days after the operation, the Project for a New American Century, headed by Cotton’s mentor Bill Kristol, released a memo that made their position abundantly clear: “Now that the dust has settled from the 70-hour aerial attack on Iraq, it has become clear that the only solution for the threat Iraq poses is to remove Saddam.”

Opinion: Was the Middle East Better Off With Its Dictators?

in Opinion

President Saleh Website // President Ali Abdullah Saleh with a number of African leaders at the 2010 Arab-African summit held in Sirte, Libya.Lina Khatib (CNN Opinion) — Was the Middle East better off under dictatorships? It is certainly tempting to think so when one looks at conflicts in the region today, from Yemen to Libya to Syria.

Those three countries have followed different trajectories since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, but what they have in common now is instability that is not likely to be overcome in the short term.

While this instability is making the West—particularly the United States—uncomfortable, it is also a direct result of the West’s own stance towards dictatorships in the region prior to and during the Arab Spring. The West’s shortsightedness in handling the Middle East throughout its modern history has directly contributed to its current devastation.

Opinion: Are We Overreacting to the Threat of Terrorism?

in Opinion

Reuters/Blair Gable // Police officers stand guard near the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa October 23, 2014.Sean Richmond (Canadian International Council) — The recent shootings in Ottawa and Sydney – and the question of whether they are terrorism-related – have sparked renewed debate about the expanded national security laws and practices of these and other democratic countries.

However, in this debate, leaders have yet to adequately explain why terrorism is more important than other challenges that pose an existential threat to life on earth or that harm more people.

With the political dialogue framed in terms of finding a balance between national security and the rights of citizens, we are at risk of neglecting the bigger picture. The world faces many challenges and threats, of which terrorism is but one.

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