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Luke Coffey (Al Jazeera) — Gagauzia, a tiny autonomous region in Moldova, checks most of the boxes for Russian meddling. It is ethnically Turkic, religiously Christian Orthodox, and the main language spoken is Russian. The region is a byproduct of imperial rivalry between the Ottoman and Russian empires typically found in the Black Sea basin in the 19th century.
Like Crimea, it was taken by Russia from the Ottoman Empire. In this case, Russia acquired Gagauzia after the Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812) as part of the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest.
Today, it is the poorest region of Moldova and Gagauzians blame the westward orientation of the central government for many of their problems. Local politicians regularly use separatists and pro-Russian slogans to drum up local support. Events in eastern Ukraine have only encouraged this.
Bobby Ghosh (Quartz) — Many in the West will take heart from the news that Egypt’s dictator, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is calling for a joint Arab military force to take on Islamist extremism in the region.
Coming shortly after his air force carried out bombing runs in Libya against groups that have pledged fealty to ISIL, it is tempting to take Sisi’s proclamation as a call to arms against the monstrous terrorist organization that calls itself the Islamic State.
It raises the prospect of Arab boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq, taking on‚ with the help of Western planes and drones—ISIL.
David Ignatius (Washington Post) — Gen. John Allen, the retired Marine who is coordinating the campaign against the Islamic State, gave an upbeat briefing to Congress last week. He said that because of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition, the group has “lost half of its Iraq-based leadership and thousands of hardened fighters.”
“Decapitation” is the graphic term for this strategy of killing leaders of terrorist groups. The United States adopted this approach against al-Qaeda, most dramatically in the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, and many American analysts have assumed that it worked. President Obama made that argument a centerpiece of his 2012 reelection campaign.
But a skeptical caution about the efficacy of targeting top leaders comes from Jenna Jordan, an assistant professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She first distilled her critique in a 2009 article in Security Studies titled, “When Heads Roll: Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Decapitation.”
Alexander Golts (The Moscow Times) — To be honest, I do not believe that a military conflict like the one that has continued for almost a year in Ukraine can be halted through exhortations, persuasion or international agreements. Russian President Vladimir Putin would only agree to a settlement in order to end the rapid depletion of Russia's financial resources as it fights a so-called "hybrid war."
But the problem goes beyond money: Several years ago Moscow reorganized its armed forces such that it is now extremely difficult to fight a protracted military conflict of the ordinary type.
Ekho Moskvy radio recently cited Tajik media in reporting that about 3,000 Russian soldiers at the 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan would be deployed to the Ukrainian border, with additional troops to come from the Tajik population.
Marcy Kreiter (International Business Times) — Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen says the Islamic State group is at an "entirely different level" than al Qaeda and the United States should take its threats very seriously.
In an exclusive interview broadcast on ABC's "This Week," Allen said the video released last week showing Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned to death in a cage could be considered a tipping point in the battle against the terrorist Islamist group.
"ISIS at an entirely different level [than al Qaeda]. It's better organized, has better situational awareness," Allen said, but insisted the coalition has adapted its approach and is making decisive inroads. "The coalition [against ISIS] is strengthening daily," Allen said, adding ISIS' actions have "redefined barbarity."